Earlier this summer when protests started in Philadelphia and across the country expressing outrage at the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, POBS – like many other organizations – took to social media to show our support for #BlackLivesMatter and to announce our hope to help end structural and systemic racism.
Our staff and board believe that these expressions of solidarity are important. We also believe that words are not enough.
POBS was founded nearly 30 years ago to serve Philadelphia youth, the vast majority of whom are Black or People of Color. When students are on a POBS course, we strive to create safe environments that fulfill our organizational values of compassion, integrity, excellence, and diversity and inclusion, and we help students internalize these values as their own as part of their Outward Bound experience.
Last year, POBS staff and board participated in a months-long strategic planning process. We created five areas of focus for our work in 2020-2022, one of which is to improve our organizational culture to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. In the current environment, we are more committed than ever to meeting this goal.
At its board meeting this month, POBS’s Board of Trustees made a commitment to take specific actions. While this is only the beginning, we will:
1. Take a deep look at our practices
- Release funds to hire a consultant to help us identify our weaknesses and conduct an audit to assess internal and external experiences of inclusion
- Listen and learn from partners and peers who are achieving success
- Provide a process of ongoing Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI) training for all staff and board
2. With our consultant, implement strategies to further diversify our staff and board to better reflect our students
- Hire more Black, Indigenous and People of Color for leadership, administrative and instructor roles
- Create programs and pathways to employment for our students at POBS or in experiential outdoor education, including new opportunities for high school graduates under 21
- Continue to diversify the Board of Trustees, including POBS alumni
- Assess employee compensation to make sure POBS is a viable career choice
3. Make changes to ensure POBS is welcoming, inclusive and equitable
- Revise scholarship processes for equitable access by Black, Indigenous and People of Color students
- Increase public access programming for neighbors in The Discovery Center
- Commit to hiring local vendors who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color
- Update our curriculum and marketing materials to prioritize voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color and include indigenous people’s history for the lands our students explore on expedition
As we start this process now, and with our consultant’s help, we will set clear goals to measure our progress. We will continue to update you quarterly on what this critical work will look like at POBS and commit to making our actions transparent and accountable.