Our values shape how we make decisions and show up in the world. But identifying core values and sharing them on a website is one thing; living them is another. This year has been a test of our values, and the resilience of our organization itself. And I’m proud of how we have found ways to live into our core values even as the world profoundly changed around us.
We put relationships at the heart of our work.
We care deeply about people and relationships. This showed up in a variety of ways this year.
Our primary responsibility and goal throughout the pandemic has been to ensure the safety and well-being of our team, our participants, our partners, and our communities. We stopped all our in-person events, closed our offices and ensured that our staff was supported to work from home. We recognized the collective strain on everyone, and reduced and balanced expectations of ourselves and our partners.
This didn’t mean that our programs stopped though – we rapidly pivoted to do our work virtually. In 2020, we held 23 virtual science communication workshops and launched two Leadership Program cohorts (the 2020 Scientist Sentinels and the inaugural cohort of the Leaders for Sea Change) as well as opening applications for the Wilburforce Leaders in Conservation Science.
We also expanded our efforts to support scientists to be their whole selves through sponsoring community events like the #BlackinSciComm and #BlackinMarineScience weeks, and by offering up our platforms and amplifying the voices of scientists who have historically been marginalized, excluded and oppressed. We will continue to highlight the diversity in our community and the work being done across science, environment, policy, and public discourse to build a society that is inclusive, just, diverse and equitable.
We strive to continuously learn and improve.
We learned so much this year, and worked hard to put it into practice.
Our first virtual training, for the Switzer Fellows, was done with just a few days notice. Our team took everything we know about how to create world-class strategic science communication trainings, and adapted it all for virtual spaces. In our leadership programs we pushed ourselves to find virtual ways to build meaningful relationships and inclusive communities. It means so much to hear that, in the midst of a challenging and tumultuous year, these leaders felt “heard and seen and held” in ways they never imagined were possible on Zoom.
We also deepened our commitments to antiracism, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice as an organization. This is a way of being, not a deliverable, and we are continuing to identify and work toward ways to model a new culture for science, where science reflects the diversity of society as a whole and all scientists are safe and supported in bringing their whole selves to their work. I am grateful for the support, accountability, and partnership that so many of you share with us along the way.
We recognize that science inspires hope and possibility.
The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were distributed this week. As I write this, I have hope for a future, not too far off, where we can hug again and share meals and conversations while breathing the same air. Scientists working tirelessly around the world, collaborating across institutions and governments and identities, have given me this hope. They have achieved something that seemed impossible at the outset of the pandemic: a safe and effective vaccine, in under a year.
There are still many challenges before we’re on the other side of the pandemic, and as with anything involving people making decisions, there are many factors that come into play, not just science. But science, and scientists, have expanded the possibilities and options yet again.
We’ve always been inspired by what scientists can accomplish when they work together, and we’ve spent twenty years creating collaborations to address environmental issues. Sometimes it’s felt like people didn’t see the value in working together across their differences, even as we demonstrated it time and again. But now the world has seen the benefits of bringing diverse scientific expertise together to address a shared problem. I’m looking forward to partnering with others to apply this momentum to the global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.
So much of this year has been reactive, as we tried to field everything that was thrown at us. But there have also been many moments for reflection. One thing that I keep coming back to is my gratitude for the generosity, kindness, and courage I’ve felt every day from my team and from all of you.
We exist because you share our vision of a future where people and nature thrive together, and where scientists work in equitable partnerships with community leaders and policymakers. Thank you for working with us to build that future. We couldn’t do it without you.
If you believe that our work would help others too, please support us to expand our reach by making a year-end donation to our programs, and sign up for our newsletter to learn more about what we’re taking on in 2021. May we all close out the year 2020 safe, healthy, and hopeful.