#54: Parker McMullen Bushman – Reaching New Audiences + The Inclusive Guide

#54: Parker McMullen Bushman – Reaching New Audiences + The Inclusive Guide Nature's Archive

Summary

I love getting feedback and suggestions for the podcast, and back in May, within a few days of each other, I received some interesting and overlapping suggestions. One listener said “I enjoy the deep dives into different taxa or environments, but I also really enjoyed some of your earlier episodes where you had people with different ways of engaging with nature, such as the standup paddleboard guest” (that was Christian Shaw, who was drawing attention to plastic pollution). And a former guest gave me similar feedback, along the lines of wanting to hear from guests with “different relationships with nature”.

I think my guest today will make both of those listeners happy, and hopefully you, too. She’s inspiring, she has a wealth of knowledge in environmental education and natural sciences, and charted a unique path to get where she is at. My guest is none other than Parker McMullen Bushman, also known as Kweenwerk on social media!

Parker McMullen Bushman – photo courtesy Parker and @mprphoto.co

Today’s discussion might very well be the widest ranging that I’ve had to date. Parker tells us how to connect with everyone about nature, beginning with Parker’s unique journey that led her to getting a Master’s degree of science and natural resources, focused on environmental education and interpretation. She’s worked in marine sciences and was Vice President of Community Engagement, Education, and Inclusivity at the world famous Butterfly Pavilion.

Parker gives us several examples in how she and her organizations have reached people that had been thought to be difficult to reach. If you are a nature communicator – and I think nearly all of us are, even if only with our family and friends – you’ll walk away from this episode with some new tools in your toolkit.

After 25 years in environmental education, Parker’s personal and life experience led her to realize that she has an even bigger calling, which led her to start The Inclusive Guide. The Inclusive Guide is an online crowdsourced review service – a bit like Yelp – but focusing on safety, accessibility, and inclusion. The guide is for everyone, regardless of race or identity, and it covers not only businesses but also parks, outdoor spaces, nature centers, and more.

Check out www.inclusiveguide.com, and if you are inspired, you can contribute to their gofundme. And you can reach the Inclusive Guide by emailing hello@inclusiveguide.com and @inclusiveguide on instagram and twitter.

And stay tuned until the end to hear about a roly poly the size of a football [see a video here!]

Oh, and you can follow Parker on TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter as Kweenwerk, or professionally on LinkedIn.

Did you have a question that I didn’t ask? Let me know at naturesarchivepodcast@gmail.com, and I’ll try to get an answer! I’ll add these Q&As to my monthly newsletter, so if you aren’t already subscribed, go here. I promise, no spam. I share the latest news from the world of Nature’s Archive, as well as pointers to new naturalist finds that have crossed my radar, like podcasts, books, websites, and more.

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People and Organizations

Butterfly Pavilion

Crystal Egli – cofounder of the Inclusive Guide

The Diverse Green Project

EcoInclusive – Parker’s consultancy and training organization

The Inclusive Guide

Outdoor Afro – a national not-for-profit that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.

Books and Other Things

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry by Camille Dungy

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

Transcript

Transcripts are automatically created, and are about 95% accurate. Apologies for any errors.

[00:00:00] Michael: I love getting feedback and suggestions for the podcast. And back in may, just within a couple of days of each other, I received some interesting and overlapping suggestions. One listener said, I enjoy the deep dives into different tax and environments, but I also really enjoyed some of your earlier episodes where you had people with different ways of engaging with nature, such as the stand-up paddleboard guest, by the way that guest was Christian Shaw, who was drawing attention to plastic pollution in our waterways.

[00:00:26] And another person, a former guest in fact gave me similar feedback along the lines of wanting to hear from guests with different relationships, with nature. So I thought great idea. And I think my guest today will make both of those listeners happy and hopefully you She’s inspiring. She has a wealth of knowledge and environmental education and natural sciences and charted a very unique path to get to where she’s at.

[00:00:49] My guest today is none other event Parker McMullen Bushmen, also known as KweenWerk on social So today’s discussion might very well be the widest ranging one that I’ve had to date on this podcast. Parker tells us how to connect with everyone about nature. Beginning with Parker’s unique journey that led her to getting a master’s degree of science and natural resources focused on environmental education and interpretation.

[00:01:15] She’s worked in Marine sciences and was vice president of community engagement, education and inclusivity at the world. Famous butterfly pavilion in Colorado. Today Parker gives us several examples and how she and her organizations have reached people. That had been thought to be very difficult to reach. And if you’re a nature communicator, and I think most of us are at some level, even if it’s only with our family and

[00:01:37] You’re going to walk away from this episode with some new tools in your toolkit.

[00:01:41] After 25 years in environmental education, Parker’s personal and life experience led her to realize that she had an even bigger calling, which has led her to start something new called the inclusive guide.

[00:01:52] Michael: Parker tells us about the goals and approach of the inclusive guide today. But in summary, The inclusive guide is an online crowdsourced review service a bit like Yelp. If you’re familiar with that.

[00:02:04] And focused on safety, accessibility, and inclusion. The guide is for everyone regardless of race or identity, and it covers not only businesses, but also parks, outdoor spaces, nature centers, and more. So check out http://www.inclusiveguide.com. . And if you’re inspired, you can contribute to their go-fund me.

[00:02:22] You can find them on Instagram and Twitter at inclusive guide.

[00:02:26] And make sure you stay listening to the end because Parker tells us about an amazing creature. She got to work with at the butterfly pavilion, essentially a giant Rollie poli that lives under water. And I included a short video in the show notes. showing it, and it is just astonishing to see and oh, by the way, you can follow Parker on Tik TOK, Instagram and Twitter as queen work. K w E E N w E R K or professionally on LinkedIn. And I have links to all of that in the show notes. So without further delay, Parker McMullen, Bushman.

[00:03:00] Parker: My name is Parker. I am how many titles can I give you? Cause I wear a number of different head wraps. I am the CEO of eco inclusive, which is a consulting org that works with primarily conservation based orgs. You can find me on social media as queen work, spelled K w E E N w E R K.

[00:03:24] And queen stands for keep widening environmental engagement narratives. And I’m also the chief operating officer of the inclusive guide.

[00:03:33] Michael: That’s awesome. Thank you so much for that. And I’m excited to finally connect to you with the podcast we met at thei conference. In fact, it was my first time attending and you were one of the. Awesome people that were there to help us new people feel included at the conference. And I think you were maybe one of the first people I even talked to.

[00:03:54] Parker: Aw.

[00:03:55] Michael: It’s great. Now months later to be able

[00:03:57] Parker: I love it. I’m really excited to be chatting with you.

[00:04:00] Michael: And as you just alluded to, and as I was telling you, before we started, I’ve been struggling a little bit to succinctly summarize who you are because you do wear so many head wraps.

[00:04:10] Parker: It head wraps

[00:04:12] Michael: LinkedIn I looked at your LinkedIn and you had just a litany of hashtags, leadership, outdoor recreation, environmental justice, conservation, education, diversity, and inclusion.

[00:04:22] And every time I look, you’re doing something new and amazing. So hopefully we can hit on many of those topics in the course of the discussion today.

[00:04:31] Parker: Yep.

[00:04:31] Michael: To do that, Given that this is primarily a nature podcast. And we met through that VIN diagram overlap of environmental education. Can you tell me a bit about where you grew up and how you got connected to the environment in the

[00:04:47] Parker: Yeah. I love to talk about this because my path into conservation and environmental education, I don’t think is the usual path. I grew up in the Bronx in New York city and my mom was from South Carolina. My dad was from Georgia. They both moved to the big city. They met and they had three kids.

[00:05:10] I was the oldest which means that’s the boss. And, I connected I grew up in the Bronx. I had experiences in the outdoors, my, because both my parents were from the south. All they knew was the outside. And so growing up in the Bronx, we would go outdoors, but not like those traditional like, oh, go to the national park or go and do those things.

[00:05:36] It was kind of like picnics or we would walk around our block. And doing those types of things. So to be honest, because the activities that I did as a kid, aren’t the activities that we traditionally represent when we talk about being outdoors. I had a view of those activities as not being outdoorsy.

[00:06:00] When I grew up, I never thought of myself as outdoorsy or an environmentalist. Even though I had this deep care for the environment. And Even though we didn’t have the direct line walking around my block, looking at my neighborhood, doing things like collecting aluminum cans with my dad, which we did out of necessity.

[00:06:23] Cuz we had, back in the day you could turn those cans in for 5 cents a can. As I walked around my city block collecting cans, I would notice things like the trash that we left behind. I would notice the trees that were on my block and how they would change throughout the seasons. I would notice our urban Flo and fauna the pigeons, the bugs that were on the sidewalk and I gained a sense of.

[00:06:50] That was very urban. So that was kind of my growing up. I had never had an environmental education course had never learned about conservation until I got much older. Didn’t know what a national park was into my twenties, but I really credit those experiences with the environmentalist that I am today.

[00:07:13] Michael: When you picture yourself going around the block with your dad picking up cans, about what age was that?

[00:07:20] Parker: That was around seven or eight, so kind of young

[00:07:24] Michael: And do you feel that was a unique experience compared to other kids or were you just naturally drawn to making some of those additional observations while you were out and about.

[00:07:33] Parker: I think that is a part of who we are as humans to observe the environment around us. And when we talk about environmental education that’s all about getting kids into the outdoors and just getting them that sense of place and an understanding of the cool animals that live in those spaces so that they could want to protect those spaces later.

[00:07:58] And for me, I gained that sense of place, even though it wasn’t through a regular course. I would credit that and I think that it is something that kids are drawn to do wherever they are. But what’s interesting about it, right? When we think about gaining that sense of place, we often think we have to take kids out of urban environments for them.

[00:08:23] To do that. And so like when I taught, cuz I’ve spent 24 years in environmental education we would often have kids come from urban environments and try and connect them to that natural world, which was really cool. And really necessary. But I think it is harder to make the leap on how does this apply to what I do back at home in those environments that look very different.

[00:08:53] Right?

[00:08:54] Michael: Yeah. And I think we’re indoctrinated from an early age. If you have access to. Discovery channel or animal planet or something like that. It seems like nature is either confined inside of a zoo or somewhere really far away. And and it’s everywhere. I have a friend who organizes urban bio blitzes and picks out yeah, just like little city parks.

[00:09:16] They may not look like much, but if there’s a few trees and some shrubs and some water and then you try to get local people to come and take a look at it again, it’s, there’s a bit of a selection bias there because you have to attract the people to say, I wanna do a bio blitz in the first place, but, it’s an interesting method and a lot of eyeopening experiences, I think for the locals that visit the park while these bio blitzes

[00:09:39] Parker: Yep. And I had that thought, like, I fell into my environmental education career. Like I’ve told you, I, I grew up in the city, grew up in a very urban environment. I went to school as a pre-med when I was getting my bachelor’s lasted about, I think it was two semesters before I changed my change.

[00:09:59] What I was doing, cuz I was like, oh my goodness. Pre-med I can’t do this. And ended up in anthropology cuz I was like, oh I like people. And so I got my bachelor’s of science and anthropology. I got out of school and opened the paper. There weren’t any jobs for Indiana Jones. And so I had to figure out what I was gonna do.

[00:10:23] And someone was like, oh, did you know these camps, like I’d been a camp counselor before. And they were like, did you know. These summer camps have year round programming and they just require you to have a college degree and they’ll give you a place to live and they’ll teach you the curriculum.

[00:10:42] They’ll give you food. And I was like, oh, okay I guess this is something to do while I figure out my life. Figure out that Indiana Jones job. And so I fell into it Necessity. And as I was in that career, I looked around me. I am, I know people are listening today. So a visual description, we’ve got a black woman plus size, big smile, head wrap glasses.

[00:11:11] And as that this is the person that I’ve been, I was very different from the other people that I, I worked with. A lot of them had come from backgrounds where their parents had taken ’em are being and to national parks. A lot of them had a lot of experience doing things.

[00:11:31] Skiing and hiking. And everyone besides me in some of these places that I worked with were, it was predominantly white. And as I came in, I remember having a lot of fears, a lot of worries that, oh, I just. I’m not outdoorsy and I don’t have the same connection to nature that these other folks have.

[00:11:54] And, could I do this job well, and over the years of doing the job, I learned that, oh, actually, I am really outdoorsy. And a lot of the experiences that I had in urban environments, walking around with my parents actually prepared me for the job that I was doing. Then it prepared me to make observations to groups of kids that were coming in from urban environments that really connected to them.

[00:12:27] And it prepared me to be able to connect to people that maybe didn’t have that same background. And even though it was a job that I fell into after a couple of years, I realized, oh, this is amazing. I wanna connect people to the natural world in these real and important ways.

[00:12:51] And then I started to think about how do I get more people that look like me connected?

[00:12:56] Michael: So you saw your message being highly effective, and then that was like a, an additional reinforcement to what you were feeling about, actually being outdoorsy. It

[00:13:05] Parker: Yeah. It’s funny. Nature gives you so much, and I think there’s a lot that people don’t realize that they get from nature. But one of my, solidifying experiences, I used to lead Marine science courses on the Georgia. And we had this group of kids that came from Atlanta and I remember walking on the beach with this group of kids and a little black boy ran up to me and he said excuse me, miss, excuse me, miss. How much I gotta pay for these shells. Right? and he had just a handful of like shells that he had collected on the beach. And I was like, you don’t have to pay anything.

[00:13:47] It’s, free. And , for this kid to realize this connection and to be like, what wow, this is free. Like this experience is free. I get to take this shell home and it’s free and I can do this that. Cinched it for me. I was like I gotta do this. I gotta keep making these connections.

[00:14:08] Michael: That’s such a great story. It shows the politeness and innocence of the kid. And also it’s indicative of this child’s lack of access to nature, I think as well. So I wanna figure out what is then. The through line. So you had, obviously you had big educational aspirations to be premed originally, but you ultimately got a graduate degree in environmental education interpretation.

[00:14:35] That’s another big leap to make. So what what did that look like? How did you come to that conclusion?

[00:14:39] Parker: I Was doing this work for a while. And , I mentioned to you that I noticed that there was a lack of people who looked like me in these positions and realized that this was a bigger systemic issue. We’ve got the green two point, oh, if people haven’t heard of the diverse green project, they should definitely check it out.

[00:15:06] It’s an organization that , started a study several years ago of conservation. Nonprofits and organizations around the us. And they saw that a lot of those organizations, folks of color had not broken what they called the 12 to 16% green ceiling. And when they looked at organizations, a lot of times orgs wanted to be inclusive.

[00:15:33] To reach everyone in their communities, but they were having difficulty in doing that. And there were a lot of reasons why, and. it’s really cool to have the data that shows us, oh, even organizations that are doing the work it has been tough and what are things that we can do to make change.

[00:15:54] And so I went back to school and I decided, this is something that I really care about. how do we reach communities and give them the resources that they need to teach diverse groups about the environment. So I went back, got my master’s of science and natural resources with a focus on environmental education and interpretation.

[00:16:14] My project was around watershed education. And how do we use inclusive science communication to reach different audiences? And what are the things that different audiences need, resources support, right? And after I got done getting my degree I ended up forming eco inclusive, which is my consulting org, where I work with orgs and talk with them about these topics.

[00:16:44] Michael: As we were discussing at the start I’m launching new ideas that I’m organizing as a nonprofit and Yeah it’s all hands on deck. We can’t leave anybody behind when it comes to the environment. And there are huge swaths, at least in the United States. I probably, I imagine in other countries as well, of people who have been left behind in this before we get into that, though, I’m gonna, I’m gonna make people wait a little bit more to learn about your big idea that you’re

[00:17:13] Parker: Yes.

[00:17:13] Michael: But I’m still intrigued by this this master’s degree that you got. Can you tell me a bit about what the curriculum looks like? What’s the balance between natural resources and communication? I imagine it was probably split

[00:17:27] Parker: Yeah for the degree in general, we got to kind of choose our path, right? And so my path was more heavily environmental education than interpretation, but interpretation was such an important part of it, right? Interpretation is how do we communicate to people, stories about the resources whether that be outdoor resources, land management, whether that is the insect the invertebrate that you wanna talk about or different animal.

[00:18:00] Michael: The forehead flies.

[00:18:01] Parker: Yeah, yes. How do we communicate that in a way that people can relate to and brings their experience into the forefront? And I felt like it was important to merge interpretation with environmental education, environmental education can get very clinical, very scientific.

[00:18:23] And a lot of times we neglect to bring in the stories that help connect people to the nature and the science that they’re learning. And there is a human. Element to things. And I brought this into my career even later on. One of my most recent positions, I worked as the vice president of community engagement, education and inclusion for an invertebrate zoo in Colorado.

[00:18:53] So imagine rather than a zoo that you’re walking around on a large piece of land, we’ve got all of our little invertebrates and like tanks or in water or whatever, and you observe ’em on a different scale and. In this space, we struggled with what a lot of nonprofits struggled with, how do we reach community with science messages, right?

[00:19:17] And we did a lot of research all over the globe, under my department, exhibits and interpretation and environmental education was a part of my department. And we worked with our scientists that traveled to globe doing different research projects to kind of bring that information to the visitors at our site.

[00:19:39] And what I wanted to show that it could be done, that , you could create an exhibit that was Very inclusive of human experiences while keeping scientific facts at the forefront. And we did some research. We did some focus groups with our community

[00:19:56] people wanted to learn more about Monarch butterflies, which was a big project that, that we had done. And so we then connected with community that we wanted to reach in a bigger and more in depth way, which was our Latin X community locally Latin a community. And we helped several focus group with them and asked them, what are the ties?

[00:20:20] What is the connection? And we started to learn this story about Not only the Monarch migration down to places in Mexico where we go to tag, but what those monarchs represented to the local communities and how, big events like day of the dead and all of these things were tied to that migration and that people in those communities saw those monarchs coming down during the migration, as the souls of their ancestors returning and that.

[00:20:54] That migration had been happening for such a long time, that there were records of it, back to the Aztec empire. And so we created this story , and this exhibit that wove together, the scientific research a round, the migration around the Monarch populations and trying to shore up those populations and the community connection.

[00:21:19] And we worked with local Latin, a artists and the Mexican consulate and the Mexican art museum and all of these different groups came together, to help us plan this exhibit. And I think when we are scientists, sometimes we lose that human connection as well, but when we link the stories with the science, then people can connect to it in a deeper way, and it helps them to understand better.

[00:21:52] Michael: I love how you were able to tie. Culture and history into the science as well. And you’ve mentioned something there, a couple things really stood out . You were engaged with the Mexican consulate and I mean, it sounds like you had really good community engagement and I don’t think that just happens overnight.

[00:22:11] And I’m wondering for maybe some of the smaller groups I know among my listeners, there are some nonprofit directors and field trip leaders and people at different levels of scale. do you have any recommendations to them as to how they can start to build some of those relationships, especially if it’s outside of their typical cohort.

[00:22:30] Parker: Yeah well, first is kind of expanding our understanding of what is connected to the work that we do. When we think about what communities that we wanna interact with, what community members that we wanna interact with, we have to kind of think bigger and what are possible connections.

[00:22:52] Next is how do we build real relationships and really, it means coming to community first with the connection before we even have the project that we wanna work with. So how can we show up for your things? What are the things that are really interested in your organization? How

[00:23:15] Michael: Sorry to, to interject, but it, to, to me, it sounds like if you started with the project, that would be. Backwards because you’re already making a bunch of assumptions about

[00:23:23] Parker: Yes, exactly. Exactly. And, but it’s hard because we’re. If you work in a nonprofit world, you tired, like you tired. And we don’t have a lot of time. And so to think about, oh and now I gotta build those connections. It is an extra step. And it takes time. And I think about my friend who used to .

[00:23:47] Run the local outdoor Afro chapter, right? If people haven’t heard of outdoor Afro, it’s a national organization that has local chapters in different states. And it’s a group that gets black people outside hiking and doing events and things. And because people have heard about outdoor Afro, she got contacted for everything, people are like, do you wanna bring your folks? And you tell your people about this event, do you wanna show up to this? And the people that she connected with were the people who chose to build relationships. And sometimes even on their free time, they would reach out and be like, Hey, Can we come to this outdoor Afro hike?

[00:24:32] We know we don’t look like your , typical participant, but we’re wondering if we would be welcome if we showed up. So first I’m gonna show up to your thing and just kind of see what you’re all about. I’m gonna build that connection. And she recently this past year did a great program with the local Botanic gardens.

[00:24:54] But she talked about how the person. That she did the program with, it ended up being like a program where they had lots of different organizations show up to talk to community. They had, 150 to 200 people show up to hear different speakers throughout the day from this outdoor Afro group.

[00:25:13] And it was done in conjunction with the gardens, but the person who she developed it would had shown up to outdoor Afro things and said, how can we support you? I’m just gonna show up and get you to understand who I am and that I care about you and that I can be trusted. And now that we’ve hung out for a while, What do you think about doing a joint program?

[00:25:36] So it build up to it. It wasn’t the first thing out on negate and they gave her a lot and her community, a lot of input into what should the program look like? What are we going to highlight? And they gave them the funds to be able to do it. So they chose to highlight black homesteaders here in Colorado, and actually did an interview with one of the last living descendants from one of the.

[00:26:04] First black homesteads and what it was like to come, and a century or more before and build as their family came and built land and developed and grew and farmed and had their connection to the land. And so it was a story that people wanted to hear that was relevant to them, and they gave them the funds to go and interview and make a movie and create this whole amazing program around it.

[00:26:32] Michael: I love hearing these specific real life examples too. And it makes me wonder like these are, these were both pretty large scale examples. And , as you were overseeing the educational activities at the invertebrate zoo, was that the butterfly

[00:26:47] Parker: was a butterfly million

[00:26:49] Michael: Were, do you have some other examples, maybe at a smaller scale what roving docents maybe would say or do, or some of the signage or anything else that comes to mind that that worked well for you in connecting to folks who maybe were, not the typical audience.

[00:27:03] Parker: I talk with groups about this a lot. And the first thing that I normally ask groups to think about when they’re trying to make like how can we be more inclusive? How do we reach these different audiences? So first it starts with self-reflection because a lot of times we’re not able to see the things that might keep certain groups from being able to access.

[00:27:29] The work that we do. And that’s because we are very comfortable in spaces that we know we’ve been exposed to, were built for us. And so sometimes there are things that are right in front of us that we miss. And an example I think, would be I worked for an organization open to the public.

[00:27:48] We had volunteers that would come and guess that would come. That were wheelchair users. The door entry into our facility was one that you had to open. We didn’t have an automatic door opener. I never considered it because I have able body privilege.

[00:28:09] And having privilege. I know that term’s been tossed around a lot. There’s a lot of different types. Privilege. But really having privilege is just being able to live in a system that was designed with you in mind. So I have able bodied privilege because a lot of our facilities are built with able bodied people in mind and not necessarily people with disabilities.

[00:28:34] And so I walked in and. Of those doors never thought like how difficult it would be for a wheelchair user to get in and out. We had a volunteer who decided to bring it to our attention. She got dropped off by public transportation twice a week to volunteer. And when she got to the front door, she would either have to wait for another guest to open the door for her to get through.

[00:29:01] Or she would have to wait outside for someone inside at the front desk to notice that she was sitting outside and to go open the door for her. And so she mentioned this to us and, we hadn’t thought of it. We immediately were like, yes, we should do something about this. And we got into a meeting and I remember being in that meeting and us talking about it.

[00:29:23] And soon the conversation moved from Like that we needed to get this done to when do we really need to get this done? Is it in the budget this year? Can we wait till next year? And we had to kind of take a second and say, oh wait, okay. First of all, there’s no one who is of this class in our room right now.

[00:29:46] We don’t have anyone with a disability helping us make this decision. And two, , if the door was broken in a way that able bodied people couldn’t get through it, we wouldn’t have been discussing the budget and when we could do it, . We would’ve had to fix it right away.

[00:30:05] . And so I always urge people when you’re thinking about how can we. Do these things internally, that one, you start to think about what privileges you might have that would cause you not to see something that might be a struggle for someone else. How can you talk to and gain insight from people who might have different experiences than your own within a space so that you can know what you might need to change to make things more welcoming.

[00:30:39] And then, when you think about your timeline, of course, we can’t do everything all at once. And budget is a real concern, what do, are there things that you would do because it is more applicable to you? While you would put other things to decide and start thinking about how you prioritize things, not necessarily based on what you feel like has to be done.

[00:31:10] But really a holistic view of all the things that have to be done to help people to feel safe, welcome celebrated when they come to visit your sites and facilities.

[00:31:23] Michael: I think that’s a good mental model that you can then apply to a whole number of different situations beyond a door. Given all of this background and lead up the thing that. One of the things anyway, that got me super excited in talking to you last year was inclusive journeys and inclusive guide, which I think is the culmination

[00:31:44] Parker: yes.

[00:31:45] Michael: all of this.

[00:31:46] Yeah. Thought education experience, everything that, that you’ve seen felt experience for yourself. So tell me, let’s just jump right in. What is inclusive journeys and inclusive?

[00:31:56] Parker: Yes. Okay. I actually stopped my day job last year to go into this. full time and inclusive guide is really a tech startup. I noticed that along the years, as I talked with people in different organizations, about making changes around diversity equity inclusion, a lot of times folks were saying what their missing piece was that they didn’t have the data on who they were serving well and who they were not serving.

[00:32:30] Another component is when I talk with people who visit, whether it’s a national park or a local park or an organization, a lot of times some things that stop people from. Being willing to go out and be adventurous and go to a new park or a new place is not having an understanding of if those places are gonna be safe or welcoming to them and their different identities, whether it is someone who’s a wheelchair user and wants to know, like when I go to this park, is there anything that’s gonna be accessible to me?

[00:33:08] Or someone who maybe has a different racial identity and is goodness, I’ve heard about people having bad experiences and outdoor spaces and will this be a safe space for me? And all of that kind of came together. I co-founded with my partner, Chris Elgi or Crystal Elgi the inclusive guide and the inclusive guide is a website that’s like Yelp.

[00:33:33] But instead of rating customer service, it’s rating different measures for people to feel included or welcome in a space. And so when folks go on to inclusive guide, they fill out a identity profile and they share with us as much information as they would like to share. , we ask them about their racial identity, their sexual orientation, their gender if there are things about their body that might affect how people treat them, whether that is, I’ve got a lot of tattoos or piercings or I’ve got alopecia

[00:34:08] so we ask people a wide range of. Topics and they kind of fill out what they’re comfortable filling out and they only have to fill it out once. Now that information stays on their profile in the background, and then people can go and rate spaces, whether that’s a business, like I want to rate my local grocery store or an outdoor space.

[00:34:32] Like I wanna rate how I feel when I’m visiting my local nature center. And people are rating the spaces on how safe. And that is, physical space, safety, emotional safety, mental safety, how welcomed they feel were they treated with dignity did they feel like folks were genuinely happy to have them there and how celebrated and celebrated is?

[00:34:58] I think one that people are like, what does that mean? The most? But celebrated means is their identity represented in this space. And so myself as a black woman, if I walk into a a store and they’ve got lots of pictures around. Are there any pictures of anyone that looks similar to me?

[00:35:21] When I go to buy my hair care products, are they hidden behind a shelf or locked up like black hair care products sometimes are, or are they out with everyone else? If I go to the nature center,, what are the stories? What’s the interpretation being there, are we talking about any of the other communities, whether that is native communities, black communities that live in the area and are they a part of the general story and interpretation of the place? So the inclusive guide is a place where people can rate all of those things on the front end and you can go and see a business or a park and.

[00:36:02] Nature center a museum and say, what is their inclusivity rating? And on the other side, we provide the organizations with that detailed information. So an organization can say, we would like to get a report and see what people are saying, and get maybe some feedback. We can look at the reviews on the back end and that’s.

[00:36:28] Something like when someone leaves a review, no one on the front end can see their identity information. But on the back end we could provide a report that is anonymous, we strip all the personal data of our users and we can tell an organization, oh, you do really well for Asian men, but white women in wheelchairs are having trouble when they visit your nature center.

[00:36:56] And these are the things that they’re saying that would improve their experience. So finally, we can provide organizations with that feedback, so that they can make the changes necessary to be more inclusive.

[00:37:11] Michael: I was gonna ask if accessibility was part of what you’re track. You just mentioned in that hypothetical that like somebody in a wheelchair. So it sounds like

[00:37:19] Parker: Yes. Yep.

[00:37:20] Michael: part of that equation.

[00:37:22] Parker: It definitely is.

[00:37:23] Michael: Are you still in beta or is it out and

[00:37:26] Parker: It is out. You can go to inclusive guide.com. It is nationwide and people can, we use like a Mapbox platform. So most businesses. Spaces places are already listed on the guide, but not every listing has been claimed by a business. And in order for it to be claimed, businesses can contact us and they can update their listing.

[00:37:55] We just have basic information where you located, what’s your number so on. If you wanna update with a biography about your business, if you wanna talk about your inclusion efforts, if you wanna let us know that you are wheelchair accessible and that you have single stalled bathrooms and that you work with certain communities, you can update all that information.

[00:38:18] And then when people are searching for an organization that maybe has an audio tour, cuz that’s an accessibility need that they have, they can research that on the guide and then those organizations will pop up.

[00:38:32] Michael: That’s pretty cool. It sounds like there’s a lot of things to track so this is largely crowdsourced. It sounds like you’re looking for people to provide the reviews to

[00:38:40] Parker: Yes. Yep. We need people to go sign up for accounts and rate your corner store. Let’s get this in going, it is based on People giving their honest feedback. And, sometimes when people hear the concept, we get a lot of reactions. Folks are like, man, this is great.

[00:38:59] This is something that I need. I would love this information. But sometimes there’s also fear, people are like what if, someone does say something that is not what we would hope to hear. And there’s a couple of things. One is the guide is not It’s not meant to make or break an organization.

[00:39:20] It’s not meant to call organizations out. It’s meant to be crowd source information so we can build better communities. One review on the guide is not also something that we should be judging organizations wholesale on. When you go on the Yelp, it is all subjective, right? People might go and they might say the service was slow and the soup was cold.

[00:39:45] When someone else is, who was hanging out with their family and their friends talking, think the service was fine because they had things to occupy them during that time. And the soup. Piping hot. It’s all subjective. And the guide is too right. It’s based on our own identities in the way that we view the world.

[00:40:05] And so I always tell organizations that it’s about the aggregate of data, cuz if you have one or two guests that say to service is slow and the soup is cold on a Yelp review, then you maybe, don’t take that so seriously. But if 50% of your guests are saying that there is some type of issue there, then you know, okay, we’ve got a track record and we can look at how we can make changes.

[00:40:35] Now, what else is really cool about the guide is we provide resources for our businesses. And so it would be like if someone complained about the soup on Yelp and Yelp was like, we’re gonna provide cooking classes for your lead chef, for us, if people.

[00:40:53] Michael: Or in that case, maybe it’s food safety.

[00:40:55] Parker: For food safety, right?

[00:40:56] Michael: yeah.

[00:40:57] Parker: for us, if you do have certain trends, right?

[00:41:01] We want businesses to succeed. We want parts and outdoor spaces to succeed and to be safe for everyone. And so we wanna provide those resources that say, Hey, these are the little changes that you could make. That would be really helpful for community.

[00:41:19] Michael: And I think services like this are like Yelp or any review service. People understand that there’s always gonna be a few people upset or a few people that had bad days. And there’s also a bias to report when things are bad. So I’m always encouraging people to write reviews when things were

[00:41:35] Parker: Well right. Use it all time. And the other thing is I want folks to know that this platform is for everyone. So sometimes we get questions from people who have what we would consider dominant identities. We. Yeah, maybe they’re white males and they’re like is this for me? And it is it’s for everyone.

[00:41:56] And it’s really important that we get people who maybe don’t have marginalized identities on there. And the reason is because we need to have a baseline. And so if you were to walk into a space and you’re treated, not great and I walk into a space and I’m treated not Gary, and we know it might be bad customer service, but if you walk into a space and you have an amazing experience and I walk into a space and I don’t have a great experience or vice versa, then maybe we can start to see trends that show us that, oh, there’s certain group of people with certain needs that aren’t being met in this space. And a lot of times businesses.

[00:42:42] Don’t have any idea. They just don’t know. Because people have not had the like a dedicated platform to talk about those particular things.

[00:42:53] Michael: And I’m thinking back in the course of my life, there have been a number of instances, certainly not the same as as certain other groups or demographics, but a number of instances where I’ve gone somewhere and I have not felt comfortable for one reason or another. And I wonder how much of that was a preconceived notion based on the part of town I was in, or, some other indicator versus as you said, maybe just it’s a bad service a bad place or maybe something else.

[00:43:21] And I think, know, that’s another benefit here is you can see, regardless of your demographic, you can see a little bit about the location as well prior to going.

[00:43:30] Parker: It’s something that we think will be benefit. To our whole community. And to be honest, this work and my work with eco inclusive, like it seems oh, this is a tech startup, and this, now you’ve done a left turn out of environmental education and this is something that’s very different.

[00:43:49] But I feel like this work is needed. It’s one of the most important work that I’m doing right now, literally to save the planet because when we talk about getting people connected to the environment, right? We don’t have everyone there. Not everyone understands the conversation. And sometimes there is a barrier to entry with people feeling comfortable in those spaces.

[00:44:16] And so providing organizations with real feedback as to what they can do to reach community, I think is really important. And then also having those conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, justice is also important for organizations. And that’s what I do with eco inclusive, because if you don’t know where to start, it’s hard to get going. And when we have these big conversations about our climate crisis, right? When we talk about those things and we don’t have everyone at the table when we don’t have everyone giving thoughts about how we solve the climate crisis, when we don’t have everyone bought into the solutions for it.

[00:45:04] And that’s because only a small demographic or a certain demographic is creating those solutions and having those conversations, then we have an issue. And so we have to, in order to make these changes, to address these big issues, we have to have a bigger variety of voices. And this work that I’m doing, I feel like is helping that to happen.

[00:45:30] Michael: Absolutely. And I’m looking at my notes and looking at the time and realizing I promised I wouldn’t consume all of our time. today. I wanna maybe wrap up on the inclusive guide and then move to a few short answer questions. And then I can give you a few moments back in your day.

[00:45:48] Parker: Okay. I’m prepared. Let’s get going.

[00:45:49] Michael: so in terms well before that, so just in, in terms of inclusive guide what’s next, do you have any expansion planned, any big marketing pushes? Are you gonna have an app? Like I’m curious what your roadmap looks.

[00:46:00] Parker: Yeah. Inclusive guide, right now we’ve got the app out and we are really looking for people to utilize it and spread the word. We want business partners and people to come on and sign up for the guide. We’ve got an amazing business partner manager who is working with businesses to get their information updated on the guide and helping them with resources to help them in their DEI.

[00:46:26] The other thing we’re doing is fundraising. And to be honest, that’s a big push for us. It is eight August is black business month, and I’m not sure when your podcast will come out, but we’ve been doing a lot of talking around black business month. And. What a lot of people don’t know is that black women founders like myself and crystal have been prolific in forming new businesses.

[00:46:55] Actually greater percentage of black women are forming new businesses greater than white men and white women. So we’re making a lot of new businesses, but we are the least invested in. And when we look at the billions of dollars that last year was given out to businesses by VCs only less than 1% went to black businesses and only.

[00:47:24] Three 5% I think, went to black women. And it is, we, a lot of the work that we’ve done have just been crowdfunded. We have a GoFundMe that has hit over a hundred thousand. We have people that are given to support this work, cuz they really believe in the resource that the guide could be. And so I think those are our big things.

[00:47:48] If you are just hearing about the guide for the first time, please go and check it out, sign up for a profile and share it with a friend. And if you have the ability to either give a dollar through GoFundMe or if you know a venture capitalist that wants to give us a lot of money hook us up, hook us sister up.

[00:48:07] So those are the big things

[00:48:10] Michael: To answer your question. I don’t think I’m gonna get this out in the month of August, but what I will

[00:48:14] Parker: We’ll take money outside of black business month too. So that’s

[00:48:18] Michael: Yeah but regardless I will make a a blog post on, so my website podcast dot nature’s archive.com is where I put all the show notes, but I also have an occasional blog entry. So I’ll make sure I get something up there as soon as possible. And if you could pass along the GoFundMe link, I could probably

[00:48:34] Parker: oh yeah.

[00:48:35] Michael: guessing but I’ll make sure to get all that up on the website. I know you’re out there in the media in various ways already, but hopefully this is another way to reach a few more

[00:48:44] Parker: Oh, I love it. Thank you so much.

[00:48:46] Michael: The quick questions that have come to mind and if they aren’t quick, that’s fine too.

[00:48:51] Parker: Okay.

[00:48:51] Michael: So up to you and you can always pass it’s, no pressure. So at the butterfly pavilion, what was your favorite invert?

[00:48:58] Parker: Ooh. Okay. So a good portion of my career was in Marine sciences working on the coast. So when I came to Colorado, I spent a lot of time in our Marine invertebrate room and we had these like deep sea isopods that were just these amazing, they looked like giant rolly polies but were like the size of footballs.

[00:49:25] They’re huge. And in the wild, they like eat things like die off from different animals or Whale glove, whatever we like had to keep ’em in this tank. And it had to be, the tank had to be cold to be able to mimic their deep sea environment. And they were just the coolest little things they hardly ever moved, but I like really liked them.

[00:49:49] And I liked when we got to feed them. So

[00:49:52] Michael: So it sounds like isopods on land too. Nutrient cyclers cleaning things up.

[00:49:57] Parker: Yep.

[00:49:57] Michael: that’s pretty cool.

[00:49:59] Michael: Hey michael here i just wanted to jump in and let you know i linked to a cool video of one of these giant isopods in the show notes and yes they really do look like huge underwater roly polies They’re super cool please check out the show notes and take

[00:50:13] Michael: And shifting, 90 degrees now for people that want to get into nature, interpretation, environmental interpretation, that maybe don’t have access to the type of education that you were able to get.

[00:50:26] What do you recommend? How do they.

[00:50:28] Parker: Yeah. I think one of the best ways is like connecting with your local organizations, like in your community, you probably have a nature center or an environmental education center. And I they probably are looking for volunteers. And so start with those conversations to see what the work is and build up to it.

[00:50:51] And like in a place like Colorado, where I live on a front range, Denver front range, we have so many different organizations that people can choose. What topics they’re interested in, to really kind of plug in.

[00:51:03] Michael: it’s a great spot that you’re at. I used to live in Boulder. I have a very rough idea of some of the opportunities there, but that was like 20 years ago.

[00:51:12] Parker: Yeah.

[00:51:13] Michael: things have changed quite a bit.

[00:51:14] Parker: Yeah.

[00:51:14] Michael: And do you have and you could take this, from both a nature perspective or an inclusivity perspective, but have you found any resources like books or media or documentaries that people could go seek out and watch or read that you found to be especially pivotal in your progression in your career?

[00:51:37] Parker: Oh, goodness. What? That’s a big that’s a big question. I’ve got some great resources back here of my shelf. And I’m trying to think if there’s any, sorry, I’m not talking to the, I should talk to the microphone. I don’t know if I would say that this is oh, like pivotal and would change your life. But it kind of changed my life. And this book is called black nature and it is four centuries of African American nature poetry.

[00:52:13] And what I love about this book is that when I grew up and when I got into environmental education and NA nature and naturalist, I really felt like, oh, this was something. Was for white people, honestly, because those were the people when I looked at magazines about outdoors. And when I looked at pictures and representation, it was mostly representation of white people.

[00:52:41] When I went to those spaces even to do my work, I saw predominantly white people. And I had this impression that it was something that black people was not connected to. And that, oh, we’ve gotta get people connected cuz they just don’t know. And what I learned through reading this book and other books is that black folks have had a connection to nature and the natural world and getting outdoors, we’ve been severed in some places from that connection and that we’re not.

[00:53:14] Typically represented, like when we think of great nature poets, we don’t typically think of black poets. But it’s there. And I think it’s really cool to read these different perspectives that are not what we normally represent in this space. So I think it’s a cool book to have black nature, four centuries of African American nature, poetry by Camille dun GE.

[00:53:42] Michael: Very cool. And I’ll make sure to include a link to that as well. Of course. And you gave a few pointers as to how to follow your work. But maybe you can summarize those again. So I know you’re very prolific on social media and and your website and everything else. So do you wanna run through how people can connect

[00:54:01] Parker: Sure. Professionally you can always find me on LinkedIn, but if you’re looking at some other social media platforms, I don’t know how many of your listeners are talkers or Instagrammers. But I have over 200,000 followers on TikTok and 18,000 followers on Instagram. I talk a lot about nature, getting outdoors, show myself, hiking, to kind of provide that representation for.

[00:54:27] Plus size fems in outdoor spaces. And, sometimes people ask why is that necessary? That’s a whole nother conversation, right? It’s not to make everything about race, but providing that representation allows more people to understand that it’s possible for them to. And so my platform is called queen work spelled K w E E N w E R K.

[00:54:54] And queen stands for keep widening environmental engagement narratives. And that’s the work that I do on my social media platforms. So you can follow me there. People can also link up with me through my different organizations. We have inclusive journeys and the inclusive guide. Don’t forget to check out inclusive guide.com.

[00:55:15] And you can reach out to us@helloatinclusiveguide.com. Folks can also check out my organization, eco inclusive and that’s eco inclusive.org to learn more about some of the trainings and different things that I provide for organizations.

[00:55:33] Michael: Very nice. And it’s been a pleasure Parker talking with you today, but before I hit the stop button, though, is there anything else that you wanted to talk about that I neglected or missed or whatever pops to your mind?

[00:55:47] Parker: Goodness. I think that I wanna thank you for having me or on your show. And I know that it’s not a typical topic that you usually have on your show, but I think that it’s so in important. And so if there is, one person out there that is trying to think of, oh, how do I learn more?

[00:56:08] Or where do I get started? You can start at The diverse green website, just to learn about some of the disparities that we see in the conservation field. And there’s some great resource lists, like ones that have been put out by the American hiking society and other groups that kind of tell people, okay, if you wanna learn more about diversity in the outdoors, here are some additional resources that you can go to.

[00:56:37] And other than that, I just wanna thank you. It’s been a wonderful time chatting.

[00:56:41] Michael: Wow. I had a fun time with Parker today. She’s experienced, thoughtful and offered a lot of great suggestions and perspective. I hope the inclusive guide takes off and helps business owners, property managers, and others really understand how they can improve and better serve their customers and users.

[00:56:59] And as a heads up the next nature’s archive episode that lands in two weeks will be all about raptors from education to rehabilitation and more from the folks at Fontenelle forest and their Raptor, woodland refuge i can’t wait for this one.


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