July 1, 2020
When we say “climbing is for everyone,” we are taking a stance. We are saying that we believe in everyone’s right to access our sport…and that we know we haven’t gotten there yet.
Supporting the communities in which we operate has been a core value of Touchstone since its opening in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1995. Over the years we have brought the climbing experience to over 50,000 marginalized youth; in 2019 alone we worked with over 60 groups, 3,300 individuals, and made contributions of over $60,000 to organizations that support underrepresented or underserved communities in climbing. We offer free or discounted access to the gyms through meetup groups, schools, and nonprofit organizations, and give a thousand donation certificates to schools every year.
Nevertheless, climbing remains a privileged sport and our gyms fail to properly represent the diversity of the communities they are in. We are just beginning to understand the extent of our inability to create emotionally and psychologically safe environments for Black folks and people of color. Our gyms reflect this inequity, both in terms of member base and visitor use as well as employee demographics. Making our gyms and our company safe, uplifting spaces for all is a critical priority, and though we have a strong record of creating access for underprivileged youth, it is clear that we have not done enough. We have seen this failure for some time, but as we listen to feedback from members and staff it has become clear that our biases and ignorance have been key barriers. We are new to the equity, diversity, and inclusion work necessary for us to break down those barriers, but we are excited to embrace it.
Collectively, we are at our strongest when the lives of our underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized community members are valued and their voices are included in the conversation. It is our priority to collaborate with others, particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), to help us diversify our culture and make our spaces and our sport authentically accessible to all. We will renew our efforts to cultivate a vibrant, accessible, and equitable climbing community we can all feel safe in and proud to be a part of.
Anti-racism work is a crucial part of our vision for a more inclusive and equitable sport. We make the following commitments to stand with our BIPOC community:
1. DEI Training
We commit to indefinite holistic, company-wide DEI training, from desk staff to the CEO. DEI training for us does not mean checking a box. It means ingraining the work into every aspect of our company culture, and recognizing that the work is personal, emotional, and necessary. We commit to an ongoing professional engagement with BIPOC-led DEI training organizations and consultants so that we can continue to grow and support this work into the future.
2. Diversity in Hiring
We will rework our hiring practices with the help of BIPOC organization consultation to make them more diverse at all levels. But it is not enough to simply hire diverse staff—we will also develop the structures to support them, including mentorship and ongoing training to encourage long-term employment.
3. Remove the Cost Barrier
Race and socioeconomics are bound up in the anti-Black schema of the United States. We will expand our assistance programs in scope and magnitude to minimize the cost barrier present to those of lesser means, particularly for our Black communities.
4. Community Youth Programs
We will continue to build bridges for community collaborations through schools, local organizations, and member initiatives to ensure that our gyms represent and serve their neighborhoods. Many of our gyms are located in neighborhoods that are diverse but deeply segregated. We want our gyms to be places where everyone in our communities can come together and climb, connect, work out, and be seen. Using our relationship with the Boyle Heights Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles as a template, we will expand our partnership with BGC to an additional location and look to expand this program even further in the future.
5. Youth Membership and Competition Programs
It is clear that Black children have not experienced the full depth of support, joy, and celebration of other youth climbers. We will change this through continued development of programs with BIPOC community involvement to ensure Black climbers are a part of our youth programs, from our after school recreational groups to Team Touchstone. We will also provide scholarships and develop additional forms of financial aid to ensure that all can afford the program.
6. BIPOC and Gender Identity Meetup Groups
Though our ultimate goal is to make our gyms safe, diverse, and inclusive spaces at all times, affinity groups continue to provide important pathways and community bonds in climbing. We will continue to support our meetup groups by making changes to increase participation and to ensure that all participants feel welcome. We will put particular focus on creating greater accessibility for first time climbers.
7. BIPOC Groups Further Afield
We commit to financially supporting groups and causes working to increase diversity in climbing outdoors and throughout the country, like Brown Girls Climb and The Brown Ascenders, and continue our sponsorship of the annual Color the Crag event. We will continue to provide opportunities for our staff to attend sponsored events so that they can build community, represent us, and return with knowledge and ideas for us to implement at our gyms.
8. Competition and Event Sponsorship
We want our big annual events to reflect the full climbing community and to be a safe and uplifting experience for all. We will establish grant programs to help financially support BIPOC participation in our large annual climbing competitions like Woman Up and Battle of the Bay.
9. Diversity in Touchstone Athletics
It is time we celebrate diversity on our athlete roster. It is important that we amplify stories and accomplishments from climbers of color, and especially Black climbers. We will be expanding the athletes we support and feature on our social media accounts to better represent our diverse communities.