This co-op I am working in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Huron River Watershed Council, a nonprofit coalition that coordinates programs and volunteer efforts aimed at helping restore the Huron River and maintaining a healthy environment around and within the Huron River Watershed, which spans over 900 square miles in Southwestern Michigan.
I am working on starting up a diversity and inclusion project for Huron River Watershed Council, which entails expanding the diversity of our volunteer base along with the workplace as a whole. I have set about doing this in multiple ways. Within the workplace, I reviewed all of the organization’s HR policies along with all contracts and literature that are shared with the general public to make sure that the language and procedures were all-inclusive. I have continued going through all of these files, making recommendations that will help foster a safe workplace for an increase in diversity. Additionally, I have been working with other nonprofits learning how they have increased diversity and inclusion through their paperwork.
The other angle we have been approaching the diversity and inclusion project with is education. To do this we are trying to teach more students the basics of what watersheds are and more about their local one in the hopes that we spark their interest enough to increase youth volunteer rates at our organization.
Working on a diversity and inclusion project has left me (ironically) rather isolated, so I am not truly a part of many of the social dynamics within the office. But overall the organization, with only 13 full-time staff members, is rather tight-knit with social groups forming within each office and outside of them. However, people get work completed at different paces and many members have different end goals in mind for the project which can cause clashes within the team.
Working on this project with only three other people has made this project a lot easier to manage because I don’t have to go through as many people for their approval, and we don’t have as many differences in opinions or visions of the project. But even so, there are still some disagreements and misunderstandings within the project planning group.
Thus far I have had a great co-op with the Huron River Watershed Council. I have enjoyed the experiences I have had while working here and I have learned so much about nonprofit policies, what it takes to run a nonprofit, how to reach out to potential volunteers, and much more. I am even attempting to create an internship opportunity with the Huron River Watershed Council for my old high school.
Photo credit: Marc Akemann