In 2017 350 U.S. began a transformational process centered on racial equity and inclusion. We see this as essential to our mission and an enabling condition for the creation of a multiracial movement to fight climate. 

The process began with staff of color, who, with support from the Operations Department and our executive director, May Boeve, looked to operationalize our view that the fight for climate justice is indeed a fight for racial justice. 

We knew that to fulfill our vision of a just, equitable, and fossil free world we would need to directly confront racial inequity as it shows up at 350.org. And we saw this as an investment in our long term work and partnerships and as a opportunity in the work of building and supporting the larger movement. 

We started with the development of new skills amongst our staff, as well as working to shift our organizational cultureand make different choices around our leadership and ways of working. Piloting new experiments and internal policies helped bring our racial equity lens into focus. 

As a part of our learning we hired the Center for Equity and Inclusion (CEI) to lead us in a year-long transformational process to center racial equity in the US. 

At its inception in 2009, 350 U.S. staff and leadership were majority white-identifying and operated in the context of a largely white-led climate offshoot of the environmental movement. Now, ten years later, 350 U.S. is majority Black, Indigenous and people of color at all levels, including leadership.

Now, ten years later, 350 U.S. is majority Black, Indigenous and people of color at all levels, including leadership.

Apart from hiring and retention policy transformation, we’ve also cemented our commitment in an Equity Statement which includes transforming our external work, as well as internal: “Amidst and against climate change, we dedicate ourselves and our organization learning and acting in equitable, just and inclusive ways because we recognize that we cannot make progress combatting the harms caused by climate change without responding to these interconnected and systemic injustices.”


How did we achieve this transformation? A new process and new practices:

1. Buy-in & Training

A 3-day all US staff retreat was organized by CEI to help us to set a foundation for our work and establish affinity groups. We also gathered to create internal support from staff and leadership to embark on this journey.

2. Equity Team

This process requires dedicated capacity, so following the training we built an equity team (E-team) to help support and lead the work within the organization. The team consists of fourteen staff from across the organization as volunteers screened for existing racial equity competencies and willingness to advance racial equity within the organization. 

This team has continued to meet monthly over the last 2 years to help spread our policies and practices towards justice and equity across teams and departments, campaigns, organizing and mobilizing efforts.

3. Teams and Communities of Practice 

Today’s E-Team has developed an equity statement and an equity filter for the organization (U.S.) as a whole to help guide our work, as well as developing a lexicon of shared language to express what vision for the work of the equity, diversity and inclusion will look like throughout the organization. 

The E-Team’s purpose is to advance equity and inclusion at 350 U.S.; integrating equity into all aspects of our work and connecting it to our mission. 

4. Justice & Equity Department

In April of 2018 we established the Justice and Equity Department. The goal of this department was to ensure that there was a body responsible for the realization of racial equity process to be integrated into our work and work plans. After all, equity is everyone’s job but it can easily become no one’s activity without leadership on strategy or mechanisms for accountability.  

Natalia Cardona was hired as J&E manager, with an independent budget established in 2018-2019 fiscal year. An additional position, a J&E coordinator was added to the team. The J&E department established a 3 year strategy for 350 U.S. and along with our consultants at CEI, developed the E-Team’s work plan which connects to the J&E plan while also featuring its own distinct areas of work.  For example, the Justice & Equity Department leads internal work related to developing new alliances/partnerships, cross-movement work and when necessary working with Frontline partners. 

The E-Team is focused on guiding the internal work of centering equity in policy, culture and practice while the J&E department supports and holds the e-team accountable for that work and implements a large part of the internal work.

5. Tools for Centering Equity

To date we’re developing and or are finalizing development of the following tools to center equity internally.

  • E-Team: A consistently meeting team from across the organization, whose lens and analysis is organized to provide a responsive equity analysis to issues as they arise within an organization
  • Equity Statement: An internal and external commitment that defines what equity is and how it is lived within an organization — you can read it here.
  • Equity Filter: A set of questions that works to ensure an organization is using an equitable process that will lead to increasingly equitable outcomes
  • Equity Plan: A detailed strategic plan that outlines indicators, outcomes, and accountability measures to ensure an execution strategy
  • Equity in Hiring- Our hiring practice and operations includes a manual that explicitly guides staff through each  step in the process for centering equity in hiring

What’s Next

350 U.S. has incorporated racial equity as central to its strategic planning process.  We’ve done this by articulating a new objective for our 3 year plan:

350 U.S. works to build a multiracial organization in support of a powerful multiracial base to confront and isolate the fossil fuel industry. 

Becoming a multiracial organization that supports a multiracial base requires that we center racial equity in both the “how” of our work – the organizational culture and interpersonal components – as well as the “what” of our work – the programmatic content and strategies. 

To do this we need to continue to develop new internal skills, practices, culture, personnel, policies, campaigns, communication and digital strategies, advocacy work, organizing models and strategies, and affiliate groups. 

The future of the Justice & Equity work at 350 U.S.:

  • Evaluation of staff support for, and understanding of key racial equity concepts. 
  • Assessment of the ways staff are integrating racial equity into their work and interactions with colleagues and external partners; understanding how staff experienced 350 U.S.’s organizational and workplace culture.
  • Unlearning of deeply ingrained interpersonal and organizational norms, and the learning of new ones. 
  • Building the racial equity skills and practices of our staff to equip them to effectively tackle racism and center race in all of their work. 
  • Building and having a shared analysis of racism, in which we understand racism to be an impediment to genuine progress in achieving a just and equitable fossil free world and to mitigating climate change (climate justice is racial justice).
  • The development of new organizational systems, tools, policies, strategies and practices that center racial equity. 
  • The systematic elevation of the issue of race in all of our programmatic work.
  • Increasing our partnerships with organizations that are aligned with our racial equity values. 
  • Supporting existing local groups in their journey towards centering racial equity, ensuring new groups are centering racial equity from the onset and supporting them in that journey.
  • Giving enough time and money for this organizational transformation to take place.

As we pursue our mission to confront and isolate the fossil industry, we hold a racial equity lens at the center. We do this with a vastly more racially diverse staff and leadership team that shares a strong foundation of knowledge and skills for living out our racial equity values.  

As we pursue our mission to confront and isolate the fossil industry, we hold a racial equity lens at the center.

While we are centering racial equity in our work primarily, our continued learning includes readings and discussions on other identity groups so we can engage around issues of equity and inclusion of different ages, genders, class, etc..  

We also center racial equity with an understanding that we will develop tools, practices, programs, personnel and a culture that will help us address other inequities.   We will always be striving to be a well-functioning multiracial, just and equitable organization.


Lessons Learned:

  • Senior staff in the US must be linked and involved with the E-Team from the onset of this kind of process.
  • Senior staff in the US must be required to go through the year long curriculum so that they can develop racial equity competencies and begin applying them in strategic work planning processes. Though this has been successful to date, having the same training and language would have made it easier for staff.
  • A racial equity assessment must be carried out with all staff at the beginning of this type of process.
  • The J&E Department should have been established prior to the E-team, and an internal program established before the process began.
  • Managers must have competency around racial equity, including managing across differences. This should be built before hiring a more diverse pool of people.
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