CMG is Committed to Cultivating Diversity in our Practice and Profession

Like the rest of the country and the world, we watched as the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black Americans led to weeks of protest, and as those protests led to both overdue government action and sincere dialogues about the depth of racism in our country. We have been reading and listening to the important conversations about race and diversity happening in the landscape architecture community and are having those conversations within our office.

The systemic problems of racism and inequality facing Black and Brown communities are enormous, and, like so many others, we’re trying to figure out the most effective ways to help. In the spirit of open dialogue, we’re sharing the steps we’ve been taking, not because we have the answers, but in the hope that others in the landscape architecture field may find this helpful. These efforts and this list is a work in progress and our goal is to continually improve our practices. We’re really curious to know what other firms are trying and where they’re finding success.

We started our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Initiative at CMG in 2018 with a goal to increase the diversity in our office and our profession and to think critically about how we support the communities where we work. CMG is a mission based firm working to increase social and ecological wellbeing through artful design. We believe in the value of democratic public spaces and the DEI initiative is a vital step that embodies our mission and beliefs.

CMG is committed to cultivating diversity in our practice and profession because an inclusive design culture and process is critical to creating truly democratic public spaces.

We are working toward those commitments by:

  • EDUCATING OURSELVES ABOUT THE HISTORIC INJUSTICES FACING COMMUNITIES.
    • Last summer our entire office participated in a full-day workshop led by Skeo to discuss the legacy of injustice in our cities, approaching projects from an equity mindset and the concept of cultural humility.
    • This summer we are continuing those conversations in our book club, discussing some of the many anti-racism resources that have been widely shared in the past few weeks.
  • WORKING TO INCREASE REPRESENTATION IN OUR FIELD. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE IS A PREDOMINATELY WHITE PROFESSION, AND WE NEED TO BETTER REPRESENT THE COMMUNITIES WHERE WE WORK.
    • We would like to connect with middle and high school students to inspire a new, more diverse generation of designers and teach them how they can have a voice in shaping their built environment. Our DEI team’s main priority for 2020 is to engage with local schools and design programs, with a focus on programs that target low-income communities and schools in communities of color. The pandemic and stay-at-home orders put a wrench in those plans this spring, but we’re still working to engage with students this fall.
      • If you know of a Bay Area school teacher, especially one within the SFUSD who would like to introduce their class to the field of landscape architecture, please send them our way.
    • This year we started the CMG Landscape Architecture scholarship to fully fund a 5-year Landscape Architecture degree for a low-income student through the Cal Poly Scholars program. Landscape architecture degrees are expensive and out of reach for many low-income students, who are disproportionately People of Color. Please visit the Cal Poly Scholars program if you are interested in supporting a low income student’s education.
  • TRYING TO INCREASE THE DIVERSITY WITHIN OUR OFFICE AND ENSURE EVERYONE FEELS COMFORTABLE BEING THEIR AUTHENTIC SELF AT WORK.
    • We’ve been recruiting more widely for our internships to reach more diverse applicants. The average number of schools represented in our applicant pool went from 28 to 66 in the past few years. The past two summers we’ve hosted an intern from the San Francisco Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) professional design trainee program, which places students studying design from San Francisco.
    • All of our internships are paid so that anyone with the talent and dedication is able to participate.
    • We are working toward an office culture that emphasizes a posture of cultural humility. The past two years our office retreat focused on ‘personal mastery.’ While not specifically focused on issues of DEI, we’re learning the skills to have tough conversations together and to listen before we speak.
    • We’ve added more holidays to our office calendar. This year we asked staff to nominate holidays that are important to them and received submissions like Cesar Chavez Day, Juneteenth, Pride, Day of the Dead, and Yom Kippur. We had hoped to have happy hours or lunches to celebrate together and learn from each other. Now that we’re all working remotely, we’re having to work a little harder to stay connected, but we’re still marking these holidays with digital celebrations. 
  • SCRUTINIZING THE WAY THAT WE PRACTICE TO BETTER UNDERSTAND HOW THE BELIEFS AND TENANTS OF OUR PROFESSION ARE BIASED TOWARD AFFLUENT, WHITE COMMUNITIES.
    • Architecture and design communities have a long history of bias and this manifests in the way designers are educated, the way we work and the places we make.
    • We’d like to open this conversation to our larger landscape and design community and are considering ways to have a more open, public dialogue.

We are landscape architects because we care about people and the places where we live. Our work gives us a deeper connection and understanding of the complex web of space, people and ecology in our cities. Systemic racism, economic inequality and environmental injustice are realities in our communities and we must work together to design a world that is inclusive, equitable, and just.⁠ 

We don’t have the solutions. We know that Black Lives Matter. We know that democratic public space is essential and that everyone has the right to always feel welcome and safe, especially to join protests or celebrations in our streets. We know that we need to listen and that we need to keep trying.