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2nd Annual Diversity Caucus Report Board Response

by Lauren Moss

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

In the fall of 2019, the NESEA Board released a statement addressing recommendations from the NESEA Diversity Caucus for improving diversity and inclusion within the NESEA community. While the specific steps outlined in the statement were developed in response to the caucus, this was a continuation of the work we committed to when identifying broadening our diversity as a goal in our 2017 strategic plan. We also committed to an annual update on the progression of efforts in this arena.

In light of the national momentum of Black Lives Matter, it is clear that our commitment and the work of the board, staff, and community are more important than ever before. We are pleased to share these updates below and to announce that NESEA has submitted a Letter of Inquiry to a foundation pursuing funding to achieve some of the goals at the end of this post. We will continue to work closely with our community members as we strive to become more inclusive in terms of race, age, ability, gender identity and other identity markers. By keeping these aspirations as top priorities for the organization, we will achieve our strategic plan goal of being more representative of the community we serve.

With this update, the board honors its commitment to keeping the membership updated on NESEA’s progress towards these recommendations and other efforts towards diversity and inclusivity. We welcome your feedback, please direct it to Lauren Brust Moss at lmoss@noresco.com or post a comment below.

Thank you for supporting NESEA and a special thank you to the NESEA Staff for all of their hard work on issues that are critical to our membership and our mission.


Lauren Brust Moss
NESEA Board Chair; Director, NORESCO


Below is a list of recommendations from the Diversity Caucus Report, and the updated Board's response to the items.

Original Recommendation October 2020 Update
Consider demographics and representation as a factor when evaluating which proposals are selected for future conference sessions. Establish goals around the balance of sessions dedicated to people, planet, profit. BuildingEnergy Boston and BuildingEnergy NYC 2020 chairs requested information about demographics of the presenters for the final sessions under consideration. We plan to establish a list of standard questions that address demographics of the proposer and presenters in the BuildingEnergy Boston 2021 RFP this fall.
Prioritize having at least one conference session annually that touches on themes of diversity or inclusion.  The Board supports this recommendation and staff will continue to work with conference leadership to achieve this goal. This year, we were able to offer an encore presentation of the BuildingEnergy Boston session “Climate Justice is Social Justice: How We Win” to BuildingEnergy NYC attendees and to offer free access to this session for individuals who found the price of the conference not easily within their means.
Provide the option for businesses or sponsors to subsidize the cost of attending NESEA programming. We continued to offer this through our BE the Future scholarship program. This was also part of the grant funding we recently applied for (discussed below).
Create more relationships/partnerships between trade schools, community colleges, and unions represented in disadvantaged communities and NESEA Member businesses. NESEA offers an Academic Membership level to increase student, staff, and faculty participation in our community. We have also applied for grant funding (discussed below).
Commit to creating space for a Diversity Caucus at every future BuildingEnergy conference provided there are folks willing to organize and participate in it. Institutionalize this as part of the BuildingEnergy programming rather than it needing to be a session that is voted on by the Content Committee.
The Board and NESEA staff have committed to always provide space at BuildingEnergy conferences if there is a group of members to organize.
Space was offered for a Diversity Caucus at BuildingEnergy Boston 2020. NESEA staff worked with the conveners of the original Diversity Caucus to offer an info session at BuildingEnergy NYC 2020. During this session, the conveners talked about the history, development, and outcomes of the caucus to encourage others in the community to continue to build upon this work. 
Gather demographic data as part of the registration process for all future NESEA conferences and events in order to track current statistics and progress. We collected this data as part of registration for the 2020 conferences and will continue to incorporate optional demographics questions on registration forms for future events. We will be releasing this information as an infographic later this fall in BuildingEnergy magazine.
Survey demographics of NESEA leadership and set demographic diversity goals to work towards. Survey of demographic diversity of the board of directors was completed in 2020.  Nominating considered demographic diversity and overall board composition when recruiting applications and selecting the slate for the upcoming board election.
Ensure that gender-neutral bathrooms are available at future NESEA conferences and events. We had intended to implement this beginning with BuildingEnergy Boston 2020; when NESEA returns to running in-person events, this request will be made at all major venues.
Add pronouns to all name tags. We intended to implement this beginning with BuildingEnergy Boston 2020 by offering a kiosk to educate people about gender identity and add a pronoun to their badge. We will return to this when in-person programming returns, and are considering how to add it to profiles in other major digital events.
Continue to develop the work with emerging professionals and include language about the Diversity Caucus in EP programming. NESEA staff performed direct outreach to emerging professionals and students inviting them to the “Climate Justice is Social Justice: How We Win” session and the Diversity Caucus Info session, free of charge. 
Bring in a keynote speaker who can address issues of intersectionality and climate justice. Evaluate who has access to the BuildingEnergy conferences and NESEA programming in general. NESEA was proud to welcome Rev. Mariama White-Hammond  to deliver the BuildingEnergy Boston keynote. Her presentation provided social and historical context to the built environment in which we do our work.
Formalize a relationship of accountability with the Diversity Caucus and/or create a separate anti-bias working group with whom to consult on related topics.
Members of the Bottom Lines program, including board members Kate Stephenson and Andrew Webster, have organized the Anti-Racist Action Group of program participants. The group has been convening biweekly. We intend to expand this work in our wider community (more below).
Provide anti-bias, anti-racism, inclusion training for NESEA Board, Staff, conference leadership and BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines facilitators.  NESEA staff has secured funding for the initial training of staff, board, and conference leadership and are working with members of the Anti-Racism Action Group to identify and schedule the training opportunity that best meets our needs as an organization. 

The following recommendations will require additional funding to explore and/or implement. Please see below for a summary of the Letter of Inquiry that the NESEA Development committee has submitted for a grant to support this work.

  • Conduct a survey of existing NESEA Members including questions about demographics in order to track current statistics and progress
  • Consider sliding scale conference fees and/or a scholarship program for minority-owned businesses and workers.
  • Offer a sliding scale/scholarship for minority businesses to participate in BuildingEnergy Bottom Lines.
  • Develop a relationship with a local minority-run climate justice, housing or trades-related organization and provide them with a free table and conference passes for BuildingEnergy conferences as a way of raising awareness about their work, thereby increasing access to NESEA’s educational opportunities and reaching more diverse populations.

A Letter of Inquiry, with an associated grant request, was submitted by the NESEA Development Committee led by Andrew Webster and NESEA’s Executive Director, Miriam Aylward. An excerpt from the request is:

NESEA is requesting this grant funding to accelerate our transformation into a truly inclusive organization. With this grant, we will establish a baseline against which we will gather information to track our progress, and hold ourselves accountable. We will better integrate diversity and inclusion in our decision-making structure, and ensure that our educational opportunities, programs and events are more accessible to communities currently under-represented in the NESEA base. With this funding, we will:

  • Conduct a comprehensive survey of our community demographics -- to establish a baseline against which we can establish metrics and track future progress in the diversity of our membership. 
  • Provide anti-bias, anti-racism, inclusion training for our leadership and community -- including NESEA Board, Staff, Conference Leaders and Bottom Lines Facilitators, and eventually our larger community
  • Establish and facilitate an anti-bias working group to create a mechanism of accountability around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Establish Reduced Fees for Black, Indigenous, People Of Color-owned (BIPOC) Business participation in NESEA conferences and events. Our goal: establish an event fee sliding scale based on national pay gap data to include race and gender. For instance: Black women would pay 63% of the fee white men do, to reflect the most recent earnings disparity data. 
  • Create a BIPOC Business Peer Group --  to understand the barriers to entry for BIPOC  Businesses to join our highly regarded "Bottom Lines" Peer Network. Work to develop solutions.
  • Establish formal partnerships with regional minority-run climate justice, housing trades-related organizations, and universities. 
  • Hire a staff member -- to manage the data collection and analysis, the working groups, and establish partnerships and Learning Exchanges.

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Our Mission

NESEA advances the adoption of sustainable energy practices in the built environment by cultivating a community where practitioners share, collaborate and learn.

Lauren Brust Moss is the program director of the NORESCO Sustainability Services New York City office Lauren joined NORESCO after seven years with another New York City-based energy and sustainability consulting firm. As program director of commercial building energy services, Lauren managed a team that provided commissioning energy audit services on more than thirty million square feet of commercial space for both new construction and existing buildings.

Lauren is also a part of the Urban Green Council speakers bureau (an active resource of New York City's U.S. Green Building...

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