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Annual Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Update from NESEA Board Chair

by Rachel White

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Dear NESEA Community,

Each year, the NESEA Board of Directors provides the community with an update on our progress towards efforts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). These updates began as a response to recommendations generated by a member-driven event — the 2019 Diversity Caucus at BuildingEnergy Boston — and have evolved into an important inflexion point as we examine what we’ve accomplished and the work still ahead.

In 2021, we continued to make our community more supportive and welcoming and to further our DEI work. We developed more inclusive policies and language. We explored the intersections between the built environment and social and environmental justice at our BuildingEnergy conferences. We strived to make our content and resources more accessible and to mitigate barriers to participation. We offered anti-oppression training and workshops to our community, staff, and leadership. And we laid the groundwork for new workforce development and mentorship programs, with a long term goal of welcoming more historically underrepresented people into the industry and our organization.

We’re enormously proud of the progress NESEA has made (see the list below of 2021 highlights). But we must also honestly acknowledge how far we still have to go. Racism and other forms of oppression persist in our community, as they do in our society more broadly.  We’ve encountered setbacks, including a particularly disheartening incident during the virtual BuildingEnergy Boston 2021 conference, during the most recent Diversity Caucus. And we’ve fielded some criticism of our focus on DEI, indicating that we still have work to do to communicate how vitally important this work is to NESEA’s mission and future.

As we enter 2022, we are rededicating ourselves to DEI. To demonstrate the board’s resolve, we are instituting a board DEI liaison, Andrea Mancino, who will work closely with Florence MacGregor, the equivalent staff point-person, to build on our progress. In this role, Andrea will act as a resource, a sounding board, and an advocate. I am also pleased to announce that we have created a resource page on nesea.org to keep our community informed of NESEA’s programs and initiatives related to DEI all year long.

Thank you for being part of the NESEA community and working with us to create a more sustainable built environment and a more just and inclusive community.

Best,

Rachel White
NESEA Board Chair

News Since Last Year’s Update

This list reflects work connected to diversity, equity, and inclusion across NESEA programs over the last year. Items that were originally suggested in the 2019 Diversity Caucus report appear in bold.

In 2021:

  • Members organized a Diversity Caucus during BuildingEnergy Boston.
  • We held a community event, Crafting a Diversity Caucus for BuildingEnergy NYC 2022, to solicit ideas for creating an equivalent event at next year’s NYC conference.
  • Staff worked with AORTA, the Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance, to organize trainings for program participants, NESEA leadership, and our general audience:
    • Two workshops tailored to participants in our Bottom Lines business development program
    • A webinar on Anti-Racist Practices in Businesses & Organizations for our general community
    • A workshop for our staff, board members, Bottom Lines facilitators, and the members who make up our conference leadership teams to take a closer look at how these concepts apply to our particular roles within NESEA.
  • The keynote at BuildingEnergy Boston, Light + Justice, made equity a highly-visible part of the conference.
  • Several sessions at both conferences touched on themes of social and environmental justice, including engaging diverse team members and featuring case studies of projects connecting to community social justice goals.
  • We standardized asking participants in our virtual meetings to add their pronouns to their display name.
  • We've adopted an anti-harassment policy to support the experience of our community.
  • We introduced scholarships for Bottom Lines, our business development program, to BIPOC-owned businesses.*
  • A group of Bottom Lines participants, the Anti-Racist Action Group, which formed in 2020, continued to meet regularly to strategize about combating racism in the industry and more broadly.
  • The 2021 Pro Tour RFP specifically requested projects that touched on themes of diversity and social and environmental justice.
  • We promoted the 2022 Pro Tour RFP to contacts of organizations primarily serving underrepresented professionals in an effort to diversify the submission pool.
  • We offered a discount for women and BIPOC-owned businesses interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at our conferences.
  • We continued to build relationships with trade schools, community colleges, and other academic partners as we laid the groundwork for new workforce development and mentorship programs.

*Please contact Florence MacGregor at fmacgregor@nesea.org if you are interested in accessing this scholarship.

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Our Mission

NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.

Rachel White is CEO of Byggmeister Design/Build, a nearly 40 year-old residential remodeling company that is striving to serve as an exemplary steward of homes and to prepare them to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Rachel has been affiliated with Byggmeister since 2008, when she hired the firm to renovate her house. What started as an effort to reduce the energy and carbon footprint of her own home became her life’s work. Prior to joining Byggmeister Rachel taught modern Jewish history to adult learners. She holds a PhD in Religious Studies from Brown University and a BA in...

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