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Founded by Teresa Baker, José González, and Pattie Gonia in 2022, the Outdoorist Oath was inspired by conversations with outdoor industry companies and conservation organizations. After the group identified an interest from “everyday individuals” about environmentalism and diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging work, the Oath was conceived.
“They wanted to get the community to take action for the planet, inclusion, and adventure in a way that was not just a commitment but also an educational tool for everybody to feel empowered to take action as individuals and then turn that into a broader, collective impact,” said Gabaccia Moreno, Outdoorist Oath’s executive director.
The organization is a 1% for the Planet* Environmental Partner and was recently featured as a LGBTQIA-led organization rooted in inclusion and advocacy.
Giving Compass interviewed Moreno and Administrative Manager Maya Sullivan to learn more about the work they are doing and how donors can help.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q. Briefly tell us what The Outdoorist Oath team is working on right now.
Sullivan: As we get closer to the end of our second year, we are on target to complete six public-facing online workshops. We are also working on providing “Stretch Sessions,” which are smaller, 60-minute sessions that we call “yoga for your brain.” It’s a build-on of our classic 90-minute workshop. In those workshops, we discuss native land acknowledgments, deep dives into wayfinding – which is one section of nature-informed action or being – and we'll maybe have one more this year and then a couple more next year that we're very excited about.
We also had our first in-person events this year. One was in Bend, Ore., and that was a Gear-Fix workshop and community celebration. At another event in April, we were able to help facilitate bringing together many local community organizations who hosted their own version of small workshops. It was really cool to see the intersectional groups – everyone was involved in the outdoors in some way, but some people were from community groups, some were local community colleges, just a really wide variety showed up and facilitated workshops.
Q. What is the Oath Workshop, and what skills do participants gain? What results have you seen from hosting the workshop?
Sullivan: The workshop is a tangible toolkit and educational resource for people to feel empowered to take intersectional action in three main areas:
- The planet: Sustainability and environmentalism
- Inclusion: DEIJ work
- Adventure: How people enjoy time outside
We purposely define “adventure” very loosely so that we’re not confined to using a limited definition of what being “outdoorsy” means. Our workshops are informed by experts in various educational fields. We walk all of our workshop attendees through what it means to take an intersectional approach to this work and then introduce people to what we call an action compass, which gives them a tangible, comprehensible way to see the impact they can have in the unique communities they are a part of. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by big issues like climate change, we help break it down to show them what they can do.
We round this out by taking the Outdoorist Oath at the end. Individuals can choose to opt in to take the oath and it reiterates their commitment to show up in the spaces that we talked about with them during the workshop. Our hope is that people leave the workshop with a feeling of empowerment, capability, and community.
Moreno: When individuals are in our workshop, they aren’t precisely building a skill, but a practice. We're providing the tools to build a practice of reflection that will inspire action and activism.
In terms of the results, we did a call-out last year to learn about how people have been taking action post-workshop. We have seen anything from more engagement in local communities through volunteering to founding organizations to support local efforts in conservation. On top of that, the positive feedback we've received is that people leave energized. My favorite feedback is,”I've never left a Zoom call more energized than when I arrived until I took the Oath.”
An unexpected result was that people are interested globally. I think that was a beautiful result – that this work is needed beyond the original geographical space that we intended to reach.
Q. What efforts are you most proud of? What are your biggest challenges?
Moreno: I'm really proud of our in-person events this year. That was really a leap of faith for us and a big investment. But based on people's feedback, there was a huge sense of community created through those in-person connections which is really invaluable. Some of the feedback that we got from our Boulder event was that people got to connect with local leaders and organizations that they were not aware even existed in their community. Now we serve as an additional space of connection in that capacity and it’s amazing to be able to say that we can facilitate joyful time spent in nature while learning and unlearning together.
Sullivan: I am really proud of the growth of the organization and how well we have transitioned from doing all virtual events to diversifying the programming and adapting the workshops we offer to different audiences, from individuals to people in the professional outdoor industry or companies.
Q. And what about some of the challenges?
Moreno: As a nonprofit, finding sustainable funding is always a challenge. It’s still an unknown if we’re going to be able to do this for the next five years because we’re fairly new. Another challenge is reaching beyond the audience already ready to do this work and thinking through how we can best approach folks that could benefit from what we're doing, but don't know it yet or are not searching for it.
Sullivan: As we offer more programming, particularly with the stretch sessions, there's always a desire from our community to learn more and to offer more of a deep dive into a lot of different topics. Since we are so young, capacity constraints are there and it’s harder to figure out programming focuses – how wide of a net do we want to cast?
Q. The Outdoorist Oath is focused on inclusion and allyship for the planet and outdoor adventure. How will this approach help advance environmental justice?
Moreno: A lot of our people come in contact with us through adventure and through their relationship with nature, whether that's backyard barbecues or backpacking … specifically, recreation. So, environmental justice may be a newer concept for many of these folks. What we've created through these workshops is a very approachable model to engage in environmental justice work. It comes down to the idea that actions as an individual have a ripple effect into the community. And what can start as individual action can also become collective and community-based action through organizing. So we hope we're creating those sparks in many communities.
Sullivan: You can’t successfully advance environmental justice without including Indigenous knowledge. There are so many community groups that are more severely impacted by the effects of climate change. You need those voices and that knowledge to successfully, sustainably, and equitably move environmental work forward. That’s why we have so much focus on inclusion and allyship in our work. It's a critical element of environmental justice.
Q. What advice would you give donors who are interested in supporting environmental action or environmental justice?
Moreno: Resources are great, but also engage in action in whatever ways are available beyond just the capital resource.
Sullivan: First, we are always happy to engage with donors. Second, when possible, I would encourage donors to seek out opportunities to invest in their communities. There's a lot of unique knowledge and investment that is important to make at the community-level or at the state level.
*1% for the Planet is a global organization that exists to ensure our planet and future generations thrive. It acts as an accountability partner for businesses supporting environmental partners through annual membership. 1% for the Planet makes environmental giving easy and effective through partnership advising, impact storytelling, and third-party certification.