Council Practice and Social Equity
In the wake of the 2017 Thomas Fire, The Ojai Foundation (TOF) entered a time of tremendous change. One key element of this change was fire recovery; another was reimagining the work, practices, and ways of TOF—instigating changes to move ever deeper into alignment with our mission, our values, and our changing world. With the changes and the deep commitment to inquiry came a desire for continuity and for honoring of the best of what was.
In 2020, after the murder of George Floyd inspired an international wave of social uprisings in support of justice, we announced our commitment to justice, equity and diversity. In it, we articulated actions in line with our commitment as an organization. Some were already ongoing; others were newly undertaken. These have included switching banks from Chase Bank to Beneficial State Bank, which invests in local communities and communities of color, is incorporated as a social benefit B Corp corporation, and does not invest in ways that contradict our values.
Other changes have included closing the sweatlodge—with great gratitude for the many gifts received and shared—and engaging long-term partners in a process called Reimagining Rites of Passage, acknowledging that sweatlodge is not our ceremony to offer in this way, for a variety of reasons, including deepened understanding around cultural appropriation. (Last year, our reimagined rites of passage programs began on the land and have continued, deepening and growing as restrictions from COVID-19 have lessened.)
Other changes have included increasing funding for scholarships and access to the land for people and communities that have not traditionally had access, including through The FIRE Fellowship. They have included diversifying who the decision-makers were at The Ojai Foundation, on the Board of Directors, and on staff. And, as part of this path, we have also been in a deep examination of the practice of council toward increased access, equity, and relational healing across class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other social positions. The Council & Social Equity Project was born for this purpose.
The primary aim of the Council & Social Equity Project is to engage an inquiry process at the intersection of council practice and social equity, and to explore pathways toward the continued evolution of the practice. A working group of six council trainers and practitioners hosted this process of inquiry, engaging with the general public, focus groups, council trainers, the co-creators of the TOF council lineage, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) consultants, and many others. When we started this process, we did not know how it would unfold; we only knew that it needed to be done. Thankfully, there has been much to take in. With so much input, we have listened deeply for what to share back with this widening community.
As Phase I of this inquiry has come to a close, we have created a report, outlining some of our findings, some of the many open questions, and some recommended next steps. We offer our sincere gratitude to every person who has contributed to this process, to the lands that have informed our learning and being, and to the many teachers and carriers of circle ways, worldwide. Thank you also to all those who have stepped in to help us navigate the pathway toward greater justice and equity, offering guidance and support along the way.
The Council and Social Equity Project Phase I Report
The Council and Social Equity Project Phase I Report is the culmination of Phase I of the project, which took place over roughly one year. The photo-rich, 200-page report covers the methodology of the overall inquiry process, the findings from a survey of 184 council participants and trainers from 16 different nations, council trainer focus groups, intergenerational conversations, and more. We hope that this work supports practitioners and council practice(s), and offers a foundation upon which to deepen and continue the inquiry and the growth.
Click below to download the Council & Social Equity Report and/or join us for a presentation on the process and findings.
The Council and Social Equity Project Phase I Report Presentation Sessions
Saturday, May 21, 10-11am (Pacific Time) – In person at the Land Sanctuary.*
*Note: This session is part of the weekend-long event hosted by the Trainer’s Mentoring Circle. To register, follow the link below.
Monday, May 23, 6:30–8pm (Pacific Time) – Zoom
Thursday, May 26, 10–11:30am (Pacific Time) – Zoom