It's Time to Act

Updated: Jun 15

By Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children & Nature Network

The Children & Nature Network is listening, reflecting, and asking ourselves what new actions we can take to address the systems of injustice that exist within our organization, in communities where work, and across our movement. The impact of systemic racism shows up in who has regular access to the benefits of nature; in how parks and green spaces have been designed, distributed and programmed; and in policies that discourage use and create safety concerns for Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other People of Color. It shows up in the lack of diversity in the nature connection, environmental, and outdoor recreation fields. Our team is recommitting to dismantling the personal and organizational barriers that prevent our work from being truly equitable and inclusive. As a primarily white-led organization, we invite you to join us as we work harder to uncover and understand the systems and practices that contribute to predominantly white executive staff and board positions across our field– and a persistent lack of diversity both in outdoor participation and career opportunities. The resources included at the bottom of this email have influenced our thinking and action over the past week. We hope you find them valuable as well. 

Action. We know that young people are leading incredible change in our communities right now. We want to focus on their efforts as our nation and the world grapple with identifying and rethinking systems of inequity. As a demonstration of our commitment, we are redirecting $25,000 of existing funding to a new Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership grant program to support young leaders working to improve equitable access to nature and the well-being of children, youth and families. Outdoor industry leader Vasque Footwear is also contributing $10,000 of additional kick-starter funds.

Support. The Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership fund will support young leaders working to increase equitable access to the benefits of nature, environmental and climate justice, and community health and wellbeing. Grantmaking decisions will be made by a youth-led committee. Help us raise an additional $40,000 to reach our $75,000 goal before July 31 by donating today. (Note: By donating to his fund, you become an official member of the Children & Nature Network, or upgrade your current membership!)

Commitment. Like many of you, we’ve been on a journey to become an anti-racist organization for the past several years. We recognize that we need to do more. We will conduct an audit of our policies and decision making practices to determine where we need to make changes. We will establish accountability measures for hiring, board development and other systems. We will increase the focus of our regular news features on listening to and lifting up the perspectives and leadership of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and People of Color from both inside our organization and across our network. We will support the work of diverse young leaders working to create a more equitable world, and align with organizations committed to this work. 

Please let us know if there are other ways that you’d like to see C&NN step up— or step back. We welcome your partnership, ideas and input.

About the Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership Fund by C&NN

Juan Martinez and his colleagues founded the Natural Leaders Network in 2009, using the outdoors as a platform to elevate youth voice and action. Since that time, C&NN has been supporting young leaders on the front lines of positive change, racial equity and justice in communities across the U.S. They need our support now more than ever.

Support young leaders today!  Donations to the Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership Fund will support young leaders working to increase equitable access to the benefits of nature, environmental and climate justice, and community health and wellbeing. Grant making decisions will be made by a youth-led committee. We’re kick-starting this fund with $25,000 and our partner Vasque Footwear is contributing another $10,000 in start-up funds. Help us raise an additional $40,000 to reach our $75,000 goal by July 31.


The Youth Outdoor Equity Leadership fund will provide:

GRANTS: Mini-grants of $500 will be awarded to young leaders ages 18 to 30. Examples of projects could include: online outdoor education sessions; creating gardens that employ young people and provide fresh food; providing outdoor gear to remove barriers to outdoor recreation; legislative action training to advance policies that increase equitable access to nature. All young leaders are encouraged to apply. Priority consideration will be given to those who have participated in our Legacy Camps and Fresh Tracks trainings, and young leaders from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, other People of Color, those who identify as LGBTQ, and those with disabilities.


TRAINING: Young leaders are invited to join peers from across the country in online learning opportunities. Click on the session topic to register. 

We are leading a global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children– and natural places–can thrive.​ ​We ​do this ​by investing in leadership and communities through sharing evidence-based resources, scaling innovative solutions and driving policy change.

© 2020 Children & Nature Network