Equity and Inclusion at Oregon Humanities


Equity and inclusion are core parts of Oregon Humanities’ work toward the vision of an Oregon that invites diverse perspectives, explores challenging questions, and strives for just communities. This vision was adopted by Oregon Humanities in 2013 and continues to guide our work today, though our efforts to work on equity and inclusion long preceded the adoption of this vision and will continue long after the formal vision is next updated.

Our dedicated work toward fostering equity, inclusion, and accessibility is an ongoing effort to recognize and overcome barriers that hinder full participation and success. These barriers encompass dimensions such as race, culture, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, language, neurodiversity, and disability. We recognize the historical and enduring persistence of these kinds of barriers. Through our programs, publications, and internal practices, we strive to cultivate a more inclusive, participatory, and equitable environment within our work and the communities it reaches.

Our History and Where We Are Today

Oregon Humanities was founded in 1971 as one of fifty-six state humanities councils created by Congress through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The original purpose of these state humanities councils was to ensure that the humanities were available not only in academic contexts but also throughout the broader public. Since our founding, our council, like the larger network of state humanities councils and the NEH, has evolved in our approach to external work and internal culture and in how we have emphasized equity and inclusion.

One key moment in our organizational evolution was in 2017, when staff members published our first equity lens handbook. The development of that document was an important step among many—a clear and public declaration of our commitment to equity and inclusion and an outline of important questions and considerations to help guide our work.

Several years later, we recognized ongoing, dynamic shifts in the larger cultural landscape regarding equity and inclusion and the necessity for a revised, streamlined articulation of our approach. We anticipate that this revised document will serve as a valuable reference to inform our work, guide our decision-making processes, and direct a diverse range of actions. Our decisions and actions include, but are not limited to:

  • who leads and participates in our programs, grants, and fellowships, and how these opportunities are structured to ensure inclusivity and address diverse needs
  • who contributes to our publications and media, and how we ensure representation of diverse perspectives and topics that advance equity and inclusion
  • who we partner and contract with, and how we seek partnerships that align with our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, ensuring mutual respect and collaboration
  • how we engage with those who advise, support, and contribute to our work, prioritizing diverse expertise and perspectives, and how we compensate people for their contributions
  • how we recruit, support, retain, and advance staff and board members, prioritizing diversity and equity in our organizational practices and policies
  • how our employment practices and organizational culture foster an inclusive environment where all individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their best

This document is not meant to be a handbook or toolkit. It is intended to serve as an overview of our approach. It highlights the importance of reducing disparities in every decision and action we undertake. Overall, this document provides steps we can follow in order to continue improving our work on equity and inclusion. We anticipate this document will also be helpful to partners, funders, and others outside our organization, but the first intended audience is ourselves—the people who, on a daily basis, work toward equity and inclusion at Oregon Humanities.

Shared Responsibility and Accountability

There is not one single initiative, work group, or area in which our equity and inclusion efforts take place. We use formal channels, including structured work groups, targeted training, policy development, anonymous surveys, budget allocation, and strategic planning, as well as less formal channels, such as monthly equity discussions, peer support networks, and conversations within and across departments and reporting lines. We strive to create a work environment where everyone’s voice, knowledge, and lived experience is taken into account and where all staff members contribute to advancing our commitment to equity and inclusion and more fully embodying our core values of community, equity, and imagination.

We also strive to hold ourselves and the organization accountable through a wide range of structures and practices. Questions and concerns can be shared through any of the following interconnected channels:

  • weekly staff meetings, where staff members are encouraged to address internal and external equity questions, concerns, and ideas with everyone
  • optional attendance equity meetings, which are open to all staff members and provide a platform for discussing a range of topics. These meetings serve as spaces to explore ideas, pose questions, share solutions, address concerns, and celebrate successful experiences related to Oregon Humanities’ equity initiatives, as well as broader equity issues within our communities and worldwide
  • connecting with our human resources consultant, who is available for confidential communication and feedback
  • conversations with supervisors or the executive director, where questions and concerns may be discussed one-on-one
  • our anytime feedback form, where staff can share thoughts and questions anonymously with organizational leadership and other intended recipients
  • our annual culture and climate survey, where all staff are encouraged to provide feedback on their experience working at Oregon Humanities
  • our internal culture work group, a rotating staff group that focuses on projects that help shape culture, practices, and policy at Oregon Humanities

As Oregon Humanities’ programs and practices evolve in response to community needs and organizational capacity, channels such as these help ensure that our core values guide our work and that we continue to pursue equity, accessibility, and inclusion in all that we do.


Examples of External and Internal Efforts

Here are some current examples of how equity and inclusion show up in our external and internal work. These examples are intended to illustrate how we approach this work and inspire thinking about what more we can do.


Oregon Humanities’ external work primarily takes the form of community conversations, training, workshops and courses, grants and fellowships, and publications and media. The goals and methods specific to each of these efforts should be informed by detailed thinking about equity, inclusion, and accessibility. We strive to ensure that our external efforts are reflective and inclusive of the diverse array of individuals across Oregon.

  • In our grantmaking, we set clear goals for the percentage of grantee organizations led by or located within communities of color and rural communities. We have consistently met and occasionally exceeded these goals. Our application process has become increasingly welcoming, supportive, and broad. Our selection criteria place strong consideration on equity and inclusion, and review committees are intentionally composed of staff and community members who represent diverse backgrounds. Furthermore, our grant awards support the development of multilingual and accessible public programs.
  • In our conversation programs, we recruit and support leaders, presenters, and speakers from diverse backgrounds who address topics and questions related to justice and belonging. We also work closely with host organizations to ensure that potential participants understand the program space in advance and have a clear sense of how to identify and request needed accommodations.
  • In our workshops, courses, and trainings, we consider the diversity of both program leaders and program participants. Humanity in Perspective (HIP), for example, is a free course for adults with low incomes (less than two times the federal poverty guidelines). HIP student cohorts are generally racially and culturally diverse. Through childcare and transportation stipends, student-centered pedagogy, and other efforts, we strive to be as inclusive, supportive, and welcoming as possible. Efforts like these are present in our trainings and workshops as well.
  • In our publications and media, we uphold our core values of community, equity, and imagination by bringing people together to connect and learn from each other’s experiences and beliefs. We use our publications as a platform for people and communities to share stories that reflect their experiences, in their own words. In particular, we aim to center the experiences of those most impacted by systems of oppression and to amplify the voices of people who may not be offered opportunities to be heard elsewhere. We strive to create publication opportunities with reduced barriers to participation. Through our trauma-informed approach to editing and art direction, we aim to ensure we are presenting stories in accurate, nuanced, and nonexploitative ways.
  • We regularly solicit feedback on all of these programs and publications, and we share open calls to lead our programs, write for our publications, submit grant applications, and nominate community members for programming partnerships. We also have public advisory committees that bring diverse perspectives to the development and evaluation of our publications and programs.

These are some of the ways that our external work focuses on equity and inclusion. This focus helps us pursue our mission to connect people and communities through conversation, storytelling, and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change.


As we incorporate equity and inclusion into our work, we aim to ensure that the people who do this work—current and prospective staff and board members, advisory group members, contractors, and supporters—feel heard, acknowledged, included, and cared for as well as supported in growing their understanding of equity and inclusion and in putting their knowledge into practice.

  • In our organizational planning, policies, budgeting, and fundraising, we strive to include a wide range of voices and perspectives, to follow up with individuals whose feedback and participation has been part of the process, and to communicate clearly and openly about decision-making priorities and rationale. Planning at the organizational, departmental, and project level prioritizes equity and inclusion: for example, in specific line items in our budget that fund equity work, through support for professional development (in equity and inclusion and other areas), and in devoting significant time and broad participation to processes such as updating this document and creating our strategic framework.
  • When hiring staff and contractors, we create hiring teams with representation from all departments and levels within the organization; and we consider life, work, and educational experiences as we evaluate candidates’ qualifications for positions. We eliminate unnecessary criteria that may restrict qualification for positions at Oregon Humanities, minimize barriers for applicants during the interview process, and acknowledge the many ways individuals can demonstrate strengths and qualifications throughout the application and interview phases. As we expand our team, it is crucial to assess the alignment of our staff, board, volunteers, and contractors with the diverse communities of Oregon. We adapt our outreach tools, hiring processes, and employee retention efforts as necessary to continue fostering diversity within our organization.
  • In supporting staff and building organizational culture, we strive to create an open, respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment, which includes making room for difficult conversations related to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in our work and in broader contexts. We provide opportunities for these discussions during our annual reviews, weekly check-ins, work groups, and in other methods of internal communication. All staff members are invited to participate in creating an inclusive culture through the internal culture work group and the other channels listed above. We try to create opportunities for people to grow professionally and personally and to practice new skills and roles related to equity and diversity.
  • Staff members in supervisory and managerial positions strive to include diverse perspectives when making decisions and model ways of working that utilize everyone’s talents and skills. Supervisors and managers also try to ensure that training, capacity-building, professional development, and promotion opportunities are available to all and responsive to staff members’ specific needs and interests.
  • With our board of directors, we emphasize equity and inclusion, beginning with how we recruit, retain, support, and advance board members from various racial, educational, professional, and geographical backgrounds. We try to build and sustain a welcoming and participatory board culture where everyone is comfortable with challenging conversations encompassing many perspectives and opinions. We invite board members to participate in grant, fellowship, program, and publication review committees that center equity and inclusion; and we solicit feedback on their experiences. In addition, we provide financial support to enable board members to attend meetings in cases where financial or geographic barriers might otherwise prevent them from doing so.
  • In our work with facilitators, instructors, media contributors, fellows, grantees, vendors, community advisers, supporters, donors, contractors, and other partners, we aim to reflect the full diversity of Oregon’s populace and to emphasize people and communities who have been marginalized, ignored, or oppressed, both historically and in the present. This requires, among other things, that we gather feedback about people’s experiences and measure demographics in order to identify opportunities for improvement and take steps to fulfill them. We prioritize transparency and fair compensation for people who partner with us in these ways.

We recognize that individuals have different degrees of privilege and access to resources. We are committed to providing support in a range of forms: for example, through inclusive hiring practices, flexibility in work schedule and location, accommodations for diverse working styles, opportunities for learning and building community, and adapting roles to fit the skills and interests of people as much as the needs of the organization. We hope everyone who works at and with Oregon Humanities, no matter their background, succeeds in their work and moves toward their professional and personal goals.



At the National Humanities Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2013, Nikki Giovanni declared toward the conclusion of her keynote, “America is a good idea. We just have to keep working on it.”

Our approach to equity and inclusion at Oregon Humanities—and to this document—bears the spirit of Giovanni’s declaration. We recognize the vital importance of equity and inclusion in our work and understand that continuous effort is necessary to advance these goals.

The examples we have shared here are meant to serve as reminders and spurs to further action and reflection. Our intent is for people who work at Oregon Humanities to periodically reflect on the ideas outlined in this document and to continue to put them into practice.

Our long-term aspiration is that this work—both our general initiatives and the specific equity and inclusion endeavors outlined in this document—will make broad and significant contributions to a more cohesive, inclusive, imaginative, and equitable democratic culture.

This framework will be revised regularly to reflect changes in internal and external circumstances related to our work. It was last revised in April 2024.