Protecting and restoring fresh water requires all of us

Freshwater recently renewed our organizational commitment to embrace our mission—to empower people to value and conserve fresh water—by thoughtfully considering the details and meaning of “people.” Whom do we mean when we say empowering people? Our board and staff realize, of course, that our mission is for all people, knowing that individually and collectively, all people need to share in protecting and conserving water.

We recognize our history as an organization grown out of the passion of our dedicated founders and decades of Freshwater leaders, board members, staff, and members who reflected the Twin Cities community. Over 53 years, this community has evolved and with that in mind, Freshwater is renewing our focus to dig deeper into what it means and what is required of us as we become an organization that values diversity, equity and inclusion as stated in our 2020–2025 Strategic Plan. Over the past two years, we have incorporated diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI, for short) into our strategic plan, naming DEI as a value alongside science, bipartisanship, and sustainability, to name a few.

How will DEI work further our mission?

As we commence on this journey, deepening our DEI engagement, I want to explain why investing in learning and strengthening our DEI capacity will complement our work to advance research, policy, education, and systems change and enable Freshwater to better meet our mission and fulfill our values:

  • People make decisions that affect water—favorably or not. Freshwater will be a much stronger organization able to drive greater impact for protecting and restoring water as we improve our competency to engage people from all backgrounds and communities.
  • Having a better understanding of how DEI supports our mission of empowering people will help us do a better job of responding to community needs and water-related interests and concerns from a broader understanding of all people and communities.
  • Freshwater will learn to recognize structures and systems based in racial injustice, and doing so will help us develop more equitable water programs and initiatives.
  • The Clean Water Fund, one of Minnesota’s most treasured gifts for protecting and restoring freshwater, expires in just over 10 years. To continue this funding, a majority of all voting Minnesotans will need to support its continuation (through a Constitutional amendment). Building meaningful, inclusive relationships with more diverse communities will support this important future for Minnesota’s freshwater.

We have retained a local small consulting firm, Chrysalis Consulting Collaborative, to assist and support Freshwater’s DEI work during 2022. Through facilitated learning, internal dialogue and development of a plan to continue to expand our DEI capacities, Freshwater’s board and staff will build a shared understanding of our organizational future. Our goal in doing this—to embrace the challenge of empowering all people to take action for clean and safe water for all.