Request for Proposals

The Vermont Wilderness School seeks consultant for Equity, Decolonization, Anti-Racism work

Proposals will be accepted until September 30, 2019. 

See accompanying Background statement.

The Vermont Wilderness School (VWS) is seeking a consultant who will collaborate with staff and board to re-envision our organizational mission and practices through a lens of equity, decolonization, and anti-racism. We want to become a more conscious and collaborative partner in decolonization and anti-white supremacy efforts, and we hope that our experience with mentoring people in nature connection is something valuable we can contribute to those efforts.

We look forward to connecting with the vision of our consultant. From our current vantage point, we foresee this possibly including:

  • Organizational assessment: holding interviews and/or focus groups with key stakeholders inside and outside the organization, observing programs, and reviewing materials, policies, procedures, and curricula.
  • Mission and Vision Realignment: supporting our ongoing process of revising these statements to better reflect our commitments and direction.
  • Setting the Course: working closely with VWS staff and board to identify needed changes in: 
    • Accessibility & inclusivity
    • Leadership & shifting power and resources
    • Curriculum & practices in programs
    • Practices in management, administration, & policies
  • Training & Facilitation: of staff, board, and volunteers. The scope, size, and timing of these are not set in stone, and we will work with the consultant’s preferred approach and available hours.  Training and facilitations could potentially include:
    • A daylong training for up to 35 VWS field staff, board, in early 2020.
    • Facilitation of monthly meetings of our core team and our annual board/staff daylong retreat (March 2020).
    • If, after working together for a few months, we agree it is the appropriate step, VWS is prepared to host a five-day staff & volunteer training and program redesign event for up to 100 people in mid-2020. We are pursuing additional grant funding to make this possible.

The consultant would work most closely with a committee of 7-10 board and staff.  Focus groups and/or interviews could be conducted to hear from other people, including: field staff (15), contract staff (15), volunteers (50), and key stakeholders outside the organization (10 – 20).

Timeline

The work would happen in two phases. The first contract would be Oct 2019 through Mar 2020 (six months), and the consultant would be paid a total of $5000.

The second contract would ideally be Apr 2020- Dec 2020 (nine months), but it won’t begin until we have secured full funding for it.  The consultant would be paid a total of $10,000 for the second phase.

Prospective consultants are invited to attend the Art of Mentoring, our largest program, during the last week of August 2019 in central Vermont. This is not required. However, we highly encourage coming, if possible. We think that visiting this program (for one day or potentially longer) could help you get a sense of the organization before deciding whether you want to enter into a partnership with us. This event is only once a year, so having attended it could also provide helpful insights for the consulting work. 

If you would like to attend, please contact us to discuss the details. There is no cost to attend. 

 

BACKGROUND 

Our Mission

The Vermont Wilderness School is dedicated to restoring our relationships with nature, ourselves, and each other.

We envision a world where every person is able to cultivate a deep personal connection with the natural world. In fact, we believe it is essential to the long-term thriving of human cultures on this planet.

We believe this will only be possible by enabling the replacement of globally dominant systems of colonization, oppression, and extraction with equity, justice, and liberation. We ground our work in support of larger global movements that are bringing forth this shift.

 

What We Do

Since 2000 we have offered nature-based mentoring programs for people of all ages, in southern Vermont and beyond. 

We also work regionally to promote the spread of nature-based mentoring. This includes training individuals and institutions in our approach, the development of a regional Nature Connection Network, and lending our support to local projects and campaigns, particularly those led by Native people and other communities of color. 

Vermont Wilderness School programs are designed to stoke curiosity and forge a deeper connection to place, community, history, and self. Our youth programs provide immersive experiences in the natural world and build confidence, self-sufficiency, and aliveness in each child. Our adult programs train students experientially in nature awareness, wilderness skills, local human and ecological history, mentoring, and program design.

 

Where We Are Now

In 2015, VWS began to articulate new goals related to equity, decolonization, and anti-racism. Our organizational leaders are aware of our privileged position in the colonial systems which have led to so many of the deep problems we now seek to heal.  We are a school located in an area of vast-majority white settlers, on unceded Abenaki land. 

We hope that our experience with helping people connect to nature, self, and others can be of value to a larger collaborative effort led by those who have been most affected by colonization. 

We have been engaged in dialogue on these issues throughout our twenty year existence. In the past five years, the leadership of the organization has been in a period of listening and learning, participating in a number of trainings and convening in a variety of configurations. We are now ready to hire an experienced consultant to support our organizational change process.

Past work has included workshops on cultural appropriation with Barry Moses (Spokane) (2015), on diversity and inclusion with Mohammed Chakaki & Aviva Argote (2016), on decolonization with David Vanderhoop (Aquinnah Waumpanoag), Saskia Vanderhoop, Kawisente McGregor (Tehanakarine), and Robert HawkStorm Bergin (Schaghticoke) (2019), and on equity with Shela Linton & Angela Berkfield (2019). 

 

The Partnership We’re Looking For

We are looking to partner with someone who has facility with both decolonization and anti-racism frameworks, as well as other aspects of inequity such as gender identity, sexual orientation, class, age, ability, and more. We would also welcome a team of two people, so that more identities and perspectives were being brought to the leadership of this process.

Our ideal partner would have:

  • An understanding of nonprofit organizations and how to best navigate structural  hierarchies and power dynamics
  • An ability to collaborate with staff, board and community members 
  • Familiarity with the field of outdoor nature-connection education
  • Small group facilitation skills and the ability to lead (or bring in another person to lead) large group trainings
  • Experience guiding organizations in communicating about this process publicly 

 

TIMELINE 

Phase 1

    • August 24 – 31 – Optional visit by consultant to VWS’s Art of Mentoring workshop in central VT. The visit could range from one to seven days, at your discretion. This visit is preferred but not required.
    • September 15, 2019 – Proposals deadline
    • October 1, 2019 – Contract begins
    • Early 2020 – Potential daylong training for 35 staff and board
    • Contract ends: March 31, 2020

Phase 2 (pending funding)

    • April 1, 2020 – Contract begins
    • Summer 2020 – Potential five-day staff & volunteer training and program redesign event for up to 100 people.
    • Contract ends: December 31, 2020

 

PROPOSALS

Please email your proposal by September 15, 2019.

Call or email with any questions: Sam Stegeman, Executive Director: sam@vermontwildernessschool.org, 413-367-6010.

Format: Proposal can describe your experience, a description of the approach you would take, and resumes or biographies of individuals who would be involved in this project, but we invite you to use whatever proposal format you prefer.