Going Deeper: 3 Ways LCOs Can Continue to Foster Inclusivity

Categories: LCO 101

Inclusion is an intentional, sustained, and specific effort to make people in your organization and community feel welcomed, valued, heard, and respected. If you've already tackled the exercises in 4 Ways LCOs Can Make the Climbing Community More Inclusive, this post will help you go deeper into your organizational structure and education of your community.

4 Ways LCOs Can Make the Climbing Community More Inclusive

If you haven't already tackled the exercises outlined in the first part of this series, then please do that first. The journey toward inclusion starts with listening and learning. Don't skip these important first steps.
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1. Educate Your Membership on JEDI

Your membership may have varying levels of awareness about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). Some may be uncomfortable with it, some may even oppose it, and others may simply feel it is unnecessary and brings up issues that aren’t relevant to climbing. Many people take for granted that they feel physically safe and emotionally comfortable at the crag—but this is simply not the case for everyone. And it is ultimately the day-to-day interactions out at the crag or on the trail that will make folks feel like they are, or are not, a part of a community. Your LCO has a powerful role to play in creating a culture of inclusivity, and by taking the lead on educating your membership, you set the tone. Education can take many forms—from highlighting JEDI at your annual event to a land acknowledgment at your next Adopt a Crag to a blog post, a social media story, or newsletter content.

Case Studies & Resources

Access Fund has put out a variety of educational materials on JEDI issues (linked below) as well as hosted discussions on JEDI topics at our in-person events. LCOs can absolutely do the same. You don’t have to be an expert on social justice issues to share useful resources on anti-racism or elevate the voices of your underrepresented members at your next event.

2. Create Robust Organizational Guidelines

Formalize your commitment to JEDI principles by establishing codes of conduct for both the board and general membership, values statements that highlight inclusion, and anti-discrimination policies. It’s important to codify these sorts of standards to make it abundantly clear where your organization stands on issues of unfair treatment, bias, and discrimination. Even if you are confident in the ethics of your board and membership, having clear guidelines sends a message to people outside your organization that you are taking these issues seriously.

Case Studies & Resources

  • The In Solidarity Project Outdoor CEO Pledge is one example of a very specific set of standards for implementing JEDI principles for both businesses and nonprofits. Although not all of the components may be relevant for LCOs, the general idea —committing to tangible goals specific to JEDI— is broadly applicable, as is the more values-oriented part of the Pledge.
  • Access Fund’s JEDI vision statement (as well as a complete list of our JEDI projects) can be found here.
  • Many LCOs have recently issued statements on racial and social justice or otherwise codified their organizational stances on JEDI issues. Here are some examples from the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (including an excellent and detailed resource page), Mid Atlantic Climbers, and the Minnesota Climbers Association.

3. Build Inclusion into Your Organizational Structure, and Seek Out Gaps

True inclusion comes when people from vastly different backgrounds can all come together to work toward a common goal, on equal footing and with power shared equitably between them. Inviting folks to participate in your community is a crucial early step. Willingly and enthusiastically sharing power with them is the logical progression. Is your board obviously lacking representation from a particular group? Recruit candidates, and empower them. Want to liaise with a community you haven’t traditionally engaged with? Create a new board position, and fund or otherwise enable it. Without giving real authority and resources to the folks you bring in, inclusion efforts can fall dangerously close to tokenism. But by integrating people from a true diversity of backgrounds throughout your organization, top to bottom, you can build inclusion into the architecture of everything you do.

Case Studies & Resources

  • Upon forming, the Bishop Area Climbers Coalition created a board position specifically to liaise with the local Paiute tribe, held by a tribal member. Similarly, other LCOs have worked intentionally both to recruit members from backgrounds not represented by their existing boards and to devote board time and energy to specific, local JEDI issues.
  • Access Fund created the Native Lands Coordinator and JEDI Fellow positions to address specific JEDI needs within the organization and the climbing community.

What Did We Miss?

These tactics will give you a solid start, but there are many more not listed here. We would love to get feedback from the climbing community—what strategies have you used to further inclusion in climbing and your LCO? What case studies of great inclusion work have you seen that would benefit your peers, whether it comes from climbing or beyond? What questions do you have about the tactics discussed here, or what did we get wrong? We’d love to hear back from you. Please reach out to [email protected] and [email protected] with thoughts.