I’ve often been called a dreamer, an idealist, and an optimist. The implications of these terms being that I’m being unrealistic and lacking in pragmatism. The privileges that I have been afforded in my life means that I possess the internal resources to hold an abundance of hope. Hope for a more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive world; hope for increased accessibility to services for those who need it most; and hope for those who are often dismissed or invisible, to become visible, loud, and proud.
Over the past couple of years, we have worked hard at The HERD Institute® to challenge the status quo of the equine facilitated industry by offering trainings, workshops, and conferences that center the needs of the marginalized populations that we serve, and by increasing awareness of the importance of cultural competency in the industry. Our virtual summits have focused on highlighting the incredible work that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and/or LGBTQIA folks are doing within the industry, while also encouraging conversations about how to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within our communities. These summits gathered leaders across our industry together to engage in some vulnerable, poignant, and brave dialogues to model what it means to courageously step into the unknown. I believe that these collaborations are critical to our industry and represent the beginnings of real, systemic change.
Within The HERD Institute®, I am incredibly proud of our team’s efforts in diversifying our HERD community. Our student demographics have shifted from being only 9% of BIPOC and/or openly LGBTQIA folks to almost 25% in 18 months. This significant increase represents the undeniable impact of centering diversity, equity, and inclusion in our enrollment strategy, and is a step towards honoring our vision of making our trainings accessible to those who are historically under-served. By offering a safer and more inclusive space for folks who have traditionally not felt welcomed into this space, we can support practitioners to serve their communities from within their cultural contexts.
I’ve talked a lot in various webinars, conferences, and podcasts recently about the importance of organizations making “more than a statement” on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’m often asked about how to implement strategies that increase diversity and belonging. I am not an expert in these matters. All I know is that by following my heart rather than worrying about the bottom line, we are making progress a small step at a time. Part of our next steps is through releasing our own statement, what we’re calling our Commitment of Belonging, that declares proudly and loudly to all those with whom we come into contact, the values that we hold as an organization. This commitment is now part of our organizational DNA.
In the process of creating the summits, workshops, and drafting this Commitment of Belonging, I have found myself repeatedly returning to the lyrics of the song, A Million Dreams, from the movie The Greatest Showman.
They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I’ve lost my mind
I don’t care, I don’t care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design
‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all its gonna take
Oh a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make
I am grateful for our team at The HERD and to all our community members who have stepped up to dream these dreams with me. This is just the beginning, and the next dream is already emerging, unfolding, and becoming more real, day by day. Watch this space!