POC-Led Nature Organisations Spearheading Diversity in the Outdoors Struggle to Get Funding

POC-Led Nature Organisations Spearheading Diversity in the Outdoors Struggle to Get Funding

Published on 25/06/24

POC-led nature organisations are at the forefront of driving diversity and inclusion initiatives in outdoor spaces, yet many of these groups continue to face significant challenges in securing funding. These organisations, dedicated to promoting underrepresented voices and creating safe and welcoming outdoor environments for all, play a crucial role in expanding access to nature for marginalised communities.

A collective of six POC-led nature/outdoors organisations met for their first conference during Wild in the City’s woodland festival, on 15th June 2024, to discuss the shared challenges they face as leaders of colour, operating in the environmental and outdoors sector, where traditionally they have not been seen as belonging. Together they lead a membership of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in hiking, natural history, geography, bushcraft and ecotherapy programmes.

Some key concerns discussed at the conference;

  • POC-led organisations are often approached by larger well-funded environmental/outdoors organisations with an extractive expectation that POC organisations should work for free to provide consultancy and to deliver the engagement elements of the larger organisations projects, without remuneration
  •  POC-led organisations are often not seen as ‘peer’ organisations by larger ‘mainstream’ environmental/outdoors organisations, we are viewed as being outside of the sector
  • Larger ‘mainstream’ organisations often are awarded funds to do diversification work they don’t have the community connections to pull off, they approach POC led organisations asking us to do the engagement work for free. POC-led organisations struggle to access the same funds – when we have both the community connections and environmental/outdoors subject specialism
  • The membership of the POC organisation have voiced that POC modelling leadership raises self-esteem, inspires possibility and increases feelings of belonging
  • Progress on engaging a more diverse participation in the outdoors could be made more effectively, more quickly, reaching large numbers of communities of colour, if POC-led organisation were properly funded
  • As stakeholders within increasing diversity, funders could reflect more on how they can support marginalised groups and organisations to lead and deliver within the environmental field

Despite their valuable contributions, POC-led nature organisations often struggle to access the financial resources needed to sustain and expand their important work. Limited funding opportunities, systemic barriers, and a lack of representation in traditional conservation and outdoor funding circles are some of the factors contributing to the funding challenges these organisations encounter.

The absence of adequate financial support not only hinders the growth and impact of POC-led nature organisations but also perpetuates inequities in the outdoor sector. Without sufficient funding, these organisations are constrained in their ability to offer programming to young people and adults, facilitate outreach efforts, and provide essential resources to their communities, ultimately hindering progress towards a more inclusive outdoor space for all.

Efforts to address the funding disparities faced by POC-led nature organisations are critical in ensuring a more equitable and diverse outdoor sector. Increased support from government entities, private foundations, corporations, and individual donors can empower these organisations to amplify their impact, reach more individuals, and cultivate a culture of diversity and inclusion in the outdoors.

As conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion in outdoor spaces gain momentum, it is essential to recognize the vital role that POC-led nature organisations play in driving meaningful change. By advocating for increased funding and resources for these organisations, stakeholders can foster a more inclusive outdoor community where everyone feels welcome and represented.

Dominique DeLeon, Director of Ebony Hikers said: “At Ebony Hikers, we’ve seen how hiking can transform lives. However, the lack of consistent funding remains a significant barrier to expanding our reach and impact. To date, funding has been project specific, meaning we often secure funding for a short period, which isn’t sustainable. Consistent funding would allow us to have a consistent offer where finances aren’t a barrier. We’ve been very fortunate in that we work alongside larger organisations, and although we appreciate their efforts and offers to support our community, very few organisations have offered a budget, which can be a barrier to us engaging in certain activities. Increased financial support would allow us to organise more events, pay our walk leaders what they deserve, upskill our team, increase our offering, and ultimately introduce more people from diverse backgrounds to the joys and benefits of the outdoors

Beth Collier, Director of Wild in the City said: “POC led organisations are excelling in attracting diverse communities into nature activities, yet are struggling for crucial funds to sustain core in demand programmes and are rarely included in schemes developed by larger organisations and funders to improve diversity.  There is a dismissiveness in treating POC led organisations as hobbyists or being less knowledgeable.

With better funding Wild in the City could engage thousands of people of colour who do not currently spend time in nature, increase visible representation by training more POC people as Nature Guides and provide entry level and specialist jobs. We have the community engagement, the skills and knowledge, we just lack the funds to be able to scale.”

Cherelle Harding, Director of Steppers UK said: “With adequate funding, our work could thrive significantly. We are already engaging our communities effectively, we know what our barriers are and how to address them and we are already driving positive change in our communities, but it’s unfortunate that our efforts are limited due to financial and time constraints. Many of us run our organisations alongside full time jobs due to lack of financial support. I am always grateful for opportunities that support Steppers UK and our participants. What we truly need now is long-term, sustainable funding to elevate our work and impact.”

Donovan Grant, coordinator of Walking Men’s Group said: “Securing support from funders has been a mixed bag for us. While TFL has shown genuine interest and understanding of our mission to foster diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces, many others still have a long way to go. We often find ourselves jumping through hoops to prove our value and the impact of our initiatives, which can be disheartening.

One thing for sure is there is a perception barrier that we’re trying to break through – that our voices and perspectives are just as valuable in shaping outdoor narratives.

With adequate funding, the possibilities for the Walking Men Group are vast. We could expand our outreach programs, develop more educational initiatives, and create inclusive outdoor experiences tailored to marginalised communities. Proper funding would empower us to increase our impact and bridge the gaps in access to nature, ensuring everyone feels welcome in outdoor spaces.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Wild in the City Festival was held 15th to 16th June 2024, in Croydon woodland at Pinewood Scout Centre, Shirley.  The festival brought together a nature loving community of people of colour. Over 2 days and 1 night of camping, the festival celebrated people of colour in nature, stepping closer to decolonising the environmental field, through a programme of talks, walks, fireside conversation, natural history, bushcraft, and yoga.
  2. The POC led organisations welcome other groups in joining them as part of a collective, advancing organisational needs and challenging sector barriers in increasing access to nature and the outdoors
  3. The Race Report shows that environmental charities in the UK are significantly behind other sectors in representation of Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups in their workforce and engagement activities; 1 in 20 staff in the environmental sector identify as POC, compared to 1 in 8 in general workforce https://www.race-report.uk/
  4. People of colour make up just 1% of visitors to national parks https://www.cpre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-2021_Access-to-nature-in-the-English-countryside_research-overview.pdf
  5. Reasons for less presence in nature include fear of discrimination, experiences of feeling unwelcome, financial barriers, lack of personal transport and lack of confidence and knowledge of where to go and what to do https://theecologist.org/2019/oct/10/black-absence-green-spaces
  6. Less access means that people of colour miss out on the health benefits of being in nature https://www.runnymedetrust.org/blog/the-race-factor-in-access-to-green-space
  7. For further details and media opportunities email beth@wildinthecity.org.uk

About POC led Nature/Outdoor Organisations Conference, 15th June

The conference was held on the first day of the Wild in the City Festival. A collective of POC led nature/outdoor organisations co-hosted a conference, to discuss the politics of leading whilst POC in the sector, why our work matters, the challenges and opportunities.  This was a unique opportunity for POC communities to hear from pioneers opening up activities and engagement in a space which has traditionally not seen people of colour as belonging.

About Wild in the City

Wild in the City is a national organisation, established in 2013, supporting well-being through relationship with nature. They support people of colour in finding their place in the natural world in the UK. Wild in the City work from natural settings offering experiences in hiking, woodland living skills, natural history and ecotherapy; using the skills of the ancestors to develop a closer relationship with the natural world and a sense of belonging to communities past and present. Wild in the City creates a secure base for people of colour in nature, inspiring cultural change within attitudes to spending time in nature and creating leadership opportunities for people of colour as trained Nature Guides.

Wild in the City are a leading organisation in researching and facilitating forums about race and nature. Their ethnographic research about people of colour’s relationships with nature in the UK has lead national conversations about histories and attitudes that affect who does and doesn’t feel that they don’t belong in nature and the countryside.

About Black Geographers

In April 2020, Francisca founded Black Geographers, an online network supporting the next generation of black geographers and geoscientists. The network has grown to a community of 13k+ individuals and has collaborated with a wide range of organisations from Earth Minutes, Delta Simons, Esri UK, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Hudl Youth Development Agency, Natural Environment Research Council to Birmingham University, and The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

About Steppers UK

Steppers UK is an outdoors organisation that aims to promote diversity outdoors and support Black, Asian & Ethnic minorities to build positive relationships with the outdoors through participating in outdoor activities.

About Ebony Hikers

Ebony Hikers organise a variety of guided hikes throughout the West Midlands and beyond, carefully selecting routes that showcase natural wonders and hidden gems. Our knowledgeable hike leaders ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all participants.

About NYCE

Nature Youth Connections and Education (NYCE) are a collective of educators, skilled professionals, creatives, nature enthusiasts and community activists. Each project they work on is different because the people they work with are different. They co-create from the very first meeting with an individual, community or organisation. They have a firm belief that by empowering young people with a deeper connection to nature, they can begin to correct the imbalances in their lives brought about by a world that is far removed from this connection.  They are passionate about sharing knowledge of the natural world and useful real-world skills as a way of improving these young people’s current and future lives.

About Walking Men’s Group

The Walking Men Group (WMG) is a vibrant community dedicated to fostering meaningful connections and personal growth among men in South London. Through their regular walk and talk sessions, they provide a supportive environment where members can share their challenges, triumphs, and aspirations. With a focus on holistic well-being, they empower individuals to embrace self-discovery, cultivate resilience, and build lasting friendships. Ultimately, they journey together towards a more fulfilling and enriching life.

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