Cultural competence is a process of examining organizational behaviors, policies, systems, barriers, staffing, partnerships and training to ensure that an organization is being inclusive and understanding in regards to variety of cultures, ethnicities, genders, ages and other differences. It also involves addressing cultural barriers, inequities and access to programs and services within communities and understanding the societal systems that create some of these issues. With a focus on providing equitable benefits for all Californians – regardless of race or socioeconomic status – land conservation will remain relevant and a vital priority for Californians well into the future.

We have identified four topic areas in cultural competency that can help organizations and individuals adapt to a changing, diverse California population in order to foster productive communication with all local communities and create culturally relevant programming.  The topic areas include: (1) power and privilege, (2) culture, (3) board and staff recruitment and retention, and (4) community engagement.





Overall, staff and board members of environmental conservation organizations do not reflect the demographic make-up of California. In order to remain relevant in conservation, and change the internal composition to reflect the communities they work in, organizations must diversify their staff and board members in terms of age, ethnicity, gender and background. Incorporating diversity into an organization is not about filling quotas, but rather integrating different cultures and perspectives. This allows for a deeper connection with local communities. Here is a comprehensive list of why diversity and inclusivity policies are beneficial to the employees, and the organization as a whole. These resources contain pointers on how to best bring in diversity to the staff and board members, as well as how to incorporate it into the long-term mission of the organization.

A. Staff

1. The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations


2. Environmental organizations lag behind the private sector on diversity


3. How Diversity Makes Us Smarter


4. What do leaders need to understand about diversity?


B. Board Members


1. Beyond Political Correctness: Building a Diverse Board

2. The Inclusive Nonprofit Boardroom: Leveraging the Transformative Potential of Diversity

3. Benefitting From Diversity

4. Does Your Board Foster Inclusivity


C. Diversity and Inclusivity Sample Policies


1. Sample from CCLT

2. Sample from Oxford Brookes University




There are many reasons that community engagement is essential for environmental organizations in the development of successful projects and programs. First, engaging the community will increase the likelihood that proposed projects will be accepted. When community members and stakeholders are involved – engaged – in development of programs, identifying issues, and coming up with solutions, there is a greater chance of support and success of projects. When you draw on opinions and input from the local community, you will get a variety of perspectives and solutions that may not have been considered from the staff or board of an organization. This will also allow an organization to make crucial connections with important and influential local people and community groups. Here is a list of articles that lay out the basics of community engagement with excellent stories, examples and lessons learned from organizations that have done this.

A. How to do it

1. Developing Effective Citizen Engagement: A How-To Guide for Community Leaders

2. Community Planning Toolkit


B. Difference Between Community Engagement and Outreach

1. Collective Impact in Neighborhood Revitalization Part 2: The Problem with “Community Outreach”


C. Asset Mapping: How to Guides 

1. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research: Asset Mapping

2. An Introduction to Community Asset Mapping




Today, the population of California is extremely ethnically diverse. California is the first state with a majority minority, and the diversity will only increase with each generation.  In order to engage with the communities in which land is conserved, there are a variety of ethnic, cultural and generational differences that should be taken into consideration. Different cultures interact differently with their environments and may face unequal barriers to access and use of natural lands and parks. If we are able to broaden our understanding of culture and look through a different lens, we can begin to focus on barriers we didn’t see before and incorporate multicultural uses of our preserved lands. Here is a list of resources and articles to create a deeper cultural understanding.

A. Ethnic Groups and Different Preferred Activities

1. The Danger of a Single Story, Chimamanda Adichie – Ted Talk

2. Racial/Ethnic Differences in Perceived Access, Environmental Barriers to Use, and Use of Community Parks

3. When Green is White: The Cultural Politics of Race, Nature and Social Exclusion in a Los Angeles Urban National Park

4. The Nations Latino Population is Defined by its Youth

5. Code Switch Podcast: Made for You and Me

6. The Hispanic Community and Outdoor Recreation

7. National Parks Try to Appeal to Minorities

8. Listening to Neglected Voices: Hmong and Public Lands in Minnesota and Wisconsin

9. Keeping Alive the Korean Love for Hiking, Thousands of Miles from Korea

B. Age (Millennials)

1. Millennials in Adulthood

2. Millennials Breaking Myths

3. Connecting America’s Youth to Nature




Understanding how our current system benefits some Americans and disproportionately constrains others is an important step in creating equity in the environmental movement. Historically, certain groups of people have been subject to unequal treatment under the law and in society, and the repercussions of that oppression is still present today. Until recently, environmental efforts have been primarily focused in communities that benefit upper-middle class and white populations, or in areas that are remote and restrict access to those who can afford to visit them. Often, in organizations that are homogenous, the lack of representative voices in the room make it difficult to understand who is being left out or underserved. Today, it is important to broaden the movement to include the groups of people who have been systemically left out. In order to continue conservation with future generations, it is important to understand our current system of power, privilege and racial inequalities.

Here is a list of resources and videos to start the conversation about power, privilege and racial inequalities in the United States. These are sensitive and uncomfortable conservations, but it is crucial to understand the barriers people face, the necessity of the environmental justice movement, and the importance of broader inclusion in the conservation movement.

A. White Privilege

1. Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

B. Importance of Understanding

1. 15+ Tools, Frameworks and Resources to Challenge Racism

2. Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism

3. The Faces of American Power, Nearly as White as the Oscar Nominees


C. Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice

1. Environmental Justice/ Environmental Racism

2. Racism in the Air You Breathe: When Where You Live Determines How Fast You Die

3. Native Americans: Where in Environmental Theory and Research?


D. Video Resources: TED Talks 

“Talks to help you understand racism in America: For black Americans, the far-reaching effects of racism are felt daily. From passionate pleas for reform to poetic turns of phrase, these speakers take an honest look at everyday realities and illuminate the way forward.”

View the entire video playlist

1. Color Blind Or Color Brave

2. How To Raise A Black Son In America

3. My Road Trip Through The Whitest Town In America

4. Does Racism Affect How You Vote?

5. How To Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them

6. The Little Problem I Had Renting A House

7. We Need To Talk About An Injustice

8. How We’re Priming Some Kids For College And Others For Prison

9. Black Men Ski