Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access (IDEA) at NHMLAC
A message from Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President & Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County.
The racial reckoning surrounding George Floyd’s murder in summer 2020 ignited a sense of urgency and intense focus on our Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access (IDEA) goals built within NHMLAC’s Strategic Framework (adopted in June 2017), with the intention that NHMLAC be a welcoming and engaging place for all Angelenos.
Establishing the IDEA Working Group
Recognizing that bold, institutional change requires ongoing, intentional work, beginning with, but not limited to, creating a truly participatory work environment where everyone is seen, heard, represented and respected, the IDEA Working Group (IWG) was launched in fall of 2020.
IWG is a multi-level and cross-departmental team of NHMLAC employees charged with developing and activating IDEA values. Each staff member diligently acted as stewards of this process. In an authentic and shared spirit of collaboration and genuine passion, and many months of challenging, yet inspiring dialogue, each member contributed to an IDEA Transformational Framework that we can all embrace. The work of adopting IDEA values across NHMLAC, and embedding them more fully into our strategic framework is critical to our organization, our staff and contract staff, our volunteers and the public we serve. I am deeply grateful to our co-leads and committee members for their commitment to this work, and their perseverance through many difficult conversations.
Evolution of NHMLAC’s Strategic Framework
The incredible work by the IWG advances the efforts I began when I became President & Director of NHMLAC in 2015. At that time, I conducted a series of listening sessions with staff to hear their aspirations for the Museums. Building upon the learnings from those conversations, we launched a strategic planning process that engaged staff members across the organization. The result was the creation of a Strategic Framework anchored by three goals which are both philosophical and actionable in nature and inspire the broadest public to become stewards of our planet.
First, as museums of, for, and with L.A., we strive to welcome, understand, reflect, and cultivate meaningful relationships with our local communities. We celebrate and illuminate L.A.'s rich natural and cultural history and diversity to serve as a civic hub for the community, and a partner for Los Angeles County. Second, we dedicate ourselves to being a global leader in the study of urban nature by researching and understanding the complex and ever-evolving relationship that lies at the intersection of nature, cities, and people. And third, we have strengthened our communication regarding our research and collections at every level, which includes devoting resources and expanding access to our vast collections and impressive scholarship with global and local communities.
With the Strategic Framework in place, we actively began to operationalize our value of inclusion and strategic goal to be museums “of, for and with Los Angeles.” Central to this process was the development of the Community Engagement Council (CEC), a cross-departmental initiative that focuses on the intersection of our internal culture with our public facing work, creating a mutually beneficial and empowering relationship in which both the Museum and community partners have the opportunity to learn and grow from one another.
Forging a bold path forward
I am immensely proud of the ongoing, impactful work NHMLAC has undertaken both as an internal and external community. There are many efforts to be proud of and build upon, including our incredible Being L.A. community engagement initiative, which celebrates history, heritage, and communities through stories and multimedia content with an IDEA lens. Our commitment to reflecting L.A.'s diverse communities through multilingual resources suffuses every part of our operations, including exhibitions, education, programs, marketing, communications, research and collections, and human resources. We have developed a new approach to acquiring and managing our collections. Led by our internal team, this transparent effort centers on values of sustainability, equity, fairness, and access to our formidable cultural and scientific scholarship. And we have piloted an innovative staff recruitment policy to further our equity and inclusion values during the hiring process. In all these efforts, we continue our consultation with both the local and global community. The IDEA Transformational Framework that follows encapsulates a vision for our long-term efforts. It sets the tone for all of the activity that will continue. I am excited for what we have done, and we have so much more work to do.
READ NHMLAC'S TRANSFORMATIONAL FRAMEWORK HERE.