SCAPE’s Ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commitments to Action

Sep 23, 2022

In Summer 2020, reflecting on the nationwide movement for racial justice brought into sharp clarity by the deaths of countless Black Americans at the hands of police, SCAPE formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) to expand pathways for diversity within the field of landscape architecture—as well as through our own office, practice, and work.

Following a series of initial workshops with outside consultants and with firm staff at our annual retreats in 2020, 2021, and 2022, the Committee developed a number of publicly-stated commitments to guide the firm’s path forward in an action-oriented way. Below are these commitments, updated to reflect minor changes and progress as of 2022:

Foreground design justice in project selection and publicly-facing materials.

SCAPE will publicly state its ongoing commitment to racial and environmental justice in a manner that keeps the firm accountable to these values. The firm will continue to pursue work, clients, and projects that directly align with these goals, working with BIPOC project partners and collaborators to develop public-facing materials that amplify related project narratives and advocate for design-driven action in underserved communities where we live and work.

Strengthen engagement with majority Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.

SCAPE commits to sustaining, building, and strengthening long-term partnerships with organizations that foreground initiatives related to racial and environmental justice—expanding the range of minority-owned businesses and BIPOC collaborators with which SCAPE works. The firm will continue to expand its range of projects where community leaders, organizations, and participants are compensated for their time through stipends or other funds, incorporating standard proposal language for these feeds into scope proposals where possible.

The firm has also begun the early stages of developing a more formalized Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to evaluate the social and equity outcomes of key projects, building on a methodology developed by the U.S. Forest Service and City Parks Alliance.

The firm also commits to create more space for internal project team reflection on equitable planning, design, and engagement practices across all project types, including through informal group conversations and firm-wide Thursday lunch-and-learn sessions. The DEIC also partnered with SCAPE’s Engagement Committee to expand in-house resources for equitable engagement, leading group presentations and updating prompts in the firm’s Operations Manual (while acknowledging the firm’s limits and encouraging collaboration with other trained professionals).

Allocate financial resources to support causes related to DEIC goals.

SCAPE is continuing to expand direct financial support, volunteering, and pro-bono services for BIPOC-owned organizations—setting aside committee staffing and financial resources to support these efforts.

Develop professional pathways for Black and Indigenous youth and youth of color.

SCAPE is continuing to dedicate staff time to participate in established middle and high school mentorship programs that focus on the architecture, design, and construction industries with the goal of expanding pathways to longer-term careers in these fields.

In 2021, SCAPE launched the pilot year of a new Externship Program, organizing a week-long curriculum in landscape architecture and urban design to several students from The Launch School—a public charter school in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, with which SCAPE is collaborating on a visioning project. To support this, SCAPErs developed a resource guide, workbook, site visits, and presentations on park, plaza, garden, and streetscape design, as well as climate adaptation and blue-green infrastructure.

In Summer 2022, the Externship Program will enter its second year with a new set of students and staff participants.

Build and sustain equitable operations and firm culture.

In 2020, DEIC initiated an annual Day of Action as an all-office volunteer day in each of the firm’s three cities, supporting collaborative pro-bono activities with organizations aligned with the firm’s social and environmental values.

During the 2022 Day of Action, SCAPE’s New York City office volunteered with long-time partner Gowanus Canal Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group in nearby Brooklyn; the New Orleans office volunteered with Broad Community Connections, a local non-profit community development organization; and the San Francisco office volunteered with the Wild Oyster Project and San Francisco Port. Members of the firm have also organized group volunteer events with other groups including the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) in New Orleans and others. In 2021, Day of Action partners included GrowNYC (New York), Loop NOLA, and Dancing Grounds (both in New Orleans). The San Francisco office was formed in 2022.

Other DEIC projects within the firm have included: partnering with the Mentorship Committee to support mentorship and professional development opportunities; holding ‘Team Teas’ and lunchtime sessions for staff to discuss DEIC-related topics; and developing an internal report on office diversity for tracking and accountability.