On February 23, 2016, Environmentalists of Color (EOC) and Foresight Design Initiative convened a mini-summit on Diversity and Equity in Sustainability. The two hour-long program focused on tackling the question: how can environmental grant makers and heads of area sustainability organizations identify barriers and craft proactive strategies for greater inclusivity in Chicago’s sustainability field? 

In search of an update since the mini-summit, EOC created a survey in the beginning of August 2016 for organizations who participated to share their growth and improvements in creating greater inclusivity. Listed below are the responses. 

For organizations who participated in the mini summit and want to share their updates, please fill out the survey here.


Chicago Community Trust (CCT)

  • Staff training in diversity and anti-racism. Inviting EOC and other allied groups to Trust hosted events, like the C40 gathering a couple weeks ago. We feel it is important to have POC voices engaged.

  • Race & Equity are at the center of our new strategic plan. All of our leading change initiatives will use this lens.

  • We've begun a Social Lab initiative as a new strategy to empower community stakeholders to prototype solutions that they develop.

  • Equitable Transit Orientated Development funding is being explored with a particular focus in weak markets on the West & South sides of Chicago.

Elevate Energy

Recruitment and Partner Diversity:

  • Begun a more focused effort to expand and diversify our network of contractors working on energy efficiency retrofit jobs by reaching out to workforce and utility partners.

  • Increased our partnership with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) to go in on a joint grant opportunity to recruit contractors from the Little Village community.

  • Posting positions in locations were diverse audiences are looking for opportunities. Elevate regularly posts job opportunities with organizations like Leave No Veteran Behind and Environmentalists of Color. For this recent round of openings, we reached out to the CHA Section 3 office and an increased number of community organizations.


  • Staff members participated as mentors in a STEM mentorship program launched by the Chicago chapter of Women’s Energy Network, a national professional association dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the energy industry. Elevate Energy is a founding member of the local chapter. Students were selected from Chicago Public Schools throughout the city.


Forest Preserves of Cook County

Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders in 2016:

  • Created a Youth Outdoor Ambassador Job Program that strives to address how young people become the next generation of advocates, stewards, and conservationists of the environment. Current 2016 Numbers: 18 participants (1 Latina/12 African American/5 Caucasian)

  • Helped hire 100+ people this summer in the Forest Preserve Experience Youth Jobs Program. Current 2016 Numbers: 95% African American; 4% Latino; 1% Caucasian)

  • Integrating Google Translate with our new website (to go live 1st quarter in 2017) which will allow users to read our materials in Spanish, Polish, and over 100 other languages.

Recruitment & Retention:

  • Workplace Diversity Statistics (2015): 36% people of color; 26% female

  • All Forest Preserve Internships are paid. Current 2016 Interns: 29

Relationship Building:

  • Continue to reach out to and develop new partnerships through faith based organizations, educational institutions, community organizations and municipalities across Cook County.

  • Developed a “Community Leadership Workshop” to inform and educate community leaders as to the resources and assets of the forest preserves.

  • Our Next Century Conservation Plan specifically outlines various methods to make the people of Cook County feel welcome and seek out the forest preserves for fun, discovery and renewal.

  • Translated signage on our properties. Maps have been updated and translated into Spanish.

  • Partnering with community organizations to hold cultural events such as the American Indian Pow Wow, Day of the Dead

  • Media ads in community ethnic newspapers and media.

Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

Fueled in part by the summit, staff has embarked on a more intentional path of exploration re: equity and access within our organization and across our grant making areas.