Equity and Inclusion in Practice: ASLA Florida 2019 Annual Conference
In issuing the , the Landscape Architecture Foundation made a commitment to strengthen and diversify our global capacity as a profession and to cultivate a bold culture of inclusive leadership, activism, and advocacy within our ranks. To promote these values, LAF is showcasing ways in which design firms and the organizations that support them are demonstrating leadership on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Below, we highlight how ASLA Florida is promoting equity and inclusion in its 2019 annual conference, Common Ground, which will be attended by hundreds of landscape architects.
At a planning charrette for this year’s ASLA Florida conference, the event organizers were working hard to define a theme to anchor programming. Organically, they came to the idea of “Common Ground.” They charted a course for attendees to learn about how landscape architecture can better fulfill its promise to create welcoming spaces for all with a focus on social and environmental contexts. Considering this theme, the organizers found a natural connection to LAF’s New Landscape Declaration.
Working with Kona Gray and Diane Jones Allen, among the first confirmed speakers for the conference, the planners keyed into an important conversation about diversity. They heard that many people, especially people of color, were tired of hearing people’s ideas about diversity. They wanted to see action: less talking, more doing. What does it look like when the ideals that have been talked about are put into practice?
The conference organizers took this to heart. They approached their programming with intention, making specific efforts to seek out diverse perspectives, experiences, and demonstrations of the impact of implementing diversity strategies. They dug deeper, thinking about what exactly they meant when talking about diversity and broke down representation among speakers by gender, race, experience, and geography, to name a few. More broadly, the organizers also connected the theme of Common Ground to diversity in other aspects, creating opportunities to have conversations about spaces in which two or more different groups with different goals come together, such as public/private partnerships. Addressing this idea, one organizer compared landscape architects to puzzle masters, taking disparate needs and ideas and working to reconcile them into a final product.
Beyond curation of the educational opportunities, the organizers also made an effort to practice equity in conference operations. They worked with speakers to provide feedback to strengthen course proposals, helping to demystify the proposal process. They increased access for students, making the conference free for Student ASLA members and engaging them early in volunteer opportunities. In creating speaker gifts this year, the organizers contracted with local artists whose pieces will highlight social equity. And the action does not end when the conference closes. Calls encouraging attendees to act on their values will be presented throughout the event, and LAF's New Landscape Declaration and Action Plan will be available to provide inspiration.
This year, conference organizers have made a concerted effort to enact the values and ideals that have been discussed over the past five years of holding the event. They recognize that they don’t have all the answers to solve the issues landscape architects face today but aim to provide a strong foundation for others to continue to take action themselves. Common Ground, the ASLA Florida annual conference will take place in Orlando, Florida on July 11-13.