Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at River Network

All people have a right to abundant clean water that sustains life. To achieve this right for all communities, it is imperative to build a more diverse, equitable and inclusive movement for clean water. River Network is committed to being a catalyst and partner in this transformation.

Here, we humbly share our approach to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) within our organization, recognizing that this is one path – there is no “right way” to embark upon this journey or to approach this work. We share our story in the hope that it inspires and encourages others across the network to begin, renew, and accelerate efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive movement for our nation’s waters.

Want to start or continue equity, diversity, and inclusion work at your organization? Jump to our team’s recommended resources below or email Director of Leadership Development, Brenna Goggin, to learn more about how River Network can be a partner in this work.

This page details our efforts around organizational EDI and ensuring EDI is incorporated into all aspects of our work. For more on specific programmatic work that intersects with EDI, follow our blog and explore our current focus areas.

The Why

Our Principles for Equitable & Inclusive Work

We commit to holding ourselves accountable to the standards below, and to sharing, discussing, revising, and amending these standards over time with our water protection and river restoration community.

  1. We use equity as a lens through which we view our work and as a guiding principle for choosing the right action.
  2. We set a table for all.
  3. We practice what we preach.
  4. We value human and ecological needs.
  5. We partner with others who know more than us.
  6. We build and maintain relationships that outlast funding.
  7. We deploy our resources strategically.
  8. We commit to learn and grow.
  9. We are transparent about our capabilities and our progress.
  10. We hold ourselves accountable and welcome others to hold us accountable.

The full text of our Principles for Equitable and Inclusive Work can be found here.

Case Statement: Why Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Are the Foundation of Our Mission

Adopted by River Network’s Board of Directors in 2017.

“Water is sacred and necessary for all life. … River Network’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is not apart from our mission, but the path forward to achieving it. Addressing water disparities provides us with a moral and strategic opportunity to build a stronger river movement, aligning people of varied ages, races, economic conditions, and other identities…”


The How

Staff EDI Committee

2024 Cochairs: Shelby Cline & Ayana Harscoet

BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

Our Commitments in Action

Here’s how our internal staff EDI committee was established, and currently structures and operates. We are always learning, adapting, and staying open to our evolving needs. This committee builds on the work of River Network staff and board members who came before us, in all iterations of Board Committees.

Recent Initiatives & Projects

Here’s what our internal staff EDI committee has been working on recently, in collaboration with our entire staff.

Land Acknowledgments

Recognizing land acknowledgements as a first step, River Network includes them as a part of all external gatherings to respect native communities while creating an inclusive culture for our network.

Pronoun Usage

Our staff are encouraged to share their pronouns in meeting and email platforms. This creates a culture of inclusion and safety without making assumptions about an individual’s identity.

Internal Culture

We worked with the Avarna Group in 2020 and 2021 to unpack and address how white dominant culture shows up in our organization, how to address it, and how to have difficult conversations. We continue to revisit these at staff meetings and staff retreats on a regular basis.

Flow Funding

Through the Climate Justice Flow Fund Circle, River Network is exploring the privilege and power inherent in typical philanthropic efforts while funding projects that are typically outside of the traditional proposal-based grantmaking structures.

Evaluation & Indicators Dashboard

We track a variety of metrics, including the number/% of people of color on our staff and board, who are finalists for open positions, and who we support through trainings, reporting annually on our progress to our Board of Directors. We also share additional EDI related metrics annually through Guidestar and Green 2.0.

Equity Assessment Tool

We designed this tool to help operationalize our commitments to equity and inclusion through our programmatic work, with a focus on increasing equity on the bases of race/ethnicity and class/income. We use its guiding questions when we develop ideas for new programs, draft funding proposals, evaluate programs, and coordinate program implementation.

Compensating Partners for Their Expertise

River Network relies on the expertise of our partners and is committed to financially compensating individuals who share their experience with us and others via trainings, advisory groups, or publications. We are currently developing structures to ensure we do so equitably and consistently across the organization.

Inclusive Hiring Practices

Our new staff recruitment, hiring, and orientation process is ever-evolving, with an eye to helping us recruit and retain diverse talent. For example, most recently we have agreed to put a hold on any hiring process that does not result in at least one BIPOC candidate to advance to the formal interview stage, so we can take steps to broaden our finalist pool.

Virtual Event Accessibility

As regular hosts of online webinars, trainings, and peer calls, we have taken steps to make our virtual events more accessible to all members of our network, recognizing this is necessary to ensure we are fully inclusive of our network members and partners who may speak languages other than English, live with a disability, and/or are neurodiverse.

Our Journey

For more background, explore this exploration of River Network’s organizational history, through our commitment to EDI.