Communications Manager, Cecilie Davila, sat with Christian Beckwith of SHIFT JH. Here he shares the background of this popular annual event that attracts attendees and speakers on a National level and what you can expect this year, in this entry of #humansofjhchamber
What was vision and reasoning for SHIFT?
It was commissioned by the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board (TTB) to address precipitous drop off of visitation here in the fall. They put out a bid and my company applied and ended up getting the contract in 2013.
How have you seen it grow from beginning to now?
It was hard to find our focus at so we looked at the marketing contract with JH and narrowed down the most attractive attributes to visitors. The TTB asked for an event that reached Jackson’s organic relationship with Jackson’s conservation efforts. SO in the end, we created an event that celebrated conservation. Our three pillars consist of conservation with nature culture and adventure—nature refers to the natural world, culture as a built environment, and adventure as outdoor recreation.
In 2013 we started in the spring and didn’t have a lot of time, but wanted to establish foundation elements the first year. So that year’s event we made it a locals-only which allowed us to figure out the lay-of-the-land of our community and we took what we learned and used it as the foundation for the following year’s event in 2014. What we ended up doing was we looked around the country for initiatives that were leveraging outdoor conservation and adventure and we put on an event that had those three pillars I mentioned before. We found folks who had gateways to environments with major significance; our usual suspects are obviously the Vails, Aspens, Whistlers to Marthas Vineyard, Nantucket, Key West, Moab etc….All these communities that are adjacent and gateway communities like Jackson..these environments that are so compelling to many of us. We found characteristics that were so common to these communities like the bus systems and transportation, and even parallels with issues we were struggling with here as in affordable housing.
We brought in a non-profit, The Meridian Institute, and they did an evaluation for us which resulted in their recommendation to do a single focus narrowing in on one of those three pillars. We decided, with my background as a climber and a skier, to focus on this intersection of conservation with outdoor recreation. Following the year 2015, we started looking at outdoor recreation in our public lands. This was just when the movement to take federal public lands under state control was getting a lot of traction and for a lot of folks in this community it was problematic because if you look at the history of public lands taken over by states, they historically they get flipped..they’re sold.
In 2016 we got deeper into this focus. The year before’s focus was on the business case..the economic—how investments and conservation of public lands led to economic prosperity and real America. Last year's speaker Jon Jarvis, head of the National Park Service appointed by, at the time President Barack Obama, said SHIFT was the most diverse and youngest conservation event he had ever attended. He pulled me aside and said, “look, if you really want to add value to the equation, look at Nature RX.”
What is Nature RX?
There is a movement in the space that is examining public health implications with nature. It was a new spacer because I don't know that much about health care. The first 9 months were spent talking to some of the experts in the country, and they are doing some incredible work. In talking to some of these folks we were able to better develop an understanding of the landscape at large and where outdoor recreation fits into it.
This year the event Is called “public lands public health” and what we’ve done is used our SHIFT awards to identify the most impactful innovative and replicable initiatives in the country that are leveraging outdoor rep for conservation gains and that are all promoting and advancing the benefits of spending time outside. And we are developing this year’s program to showcase those initiatives because we know they are moving the needle wherever they are in the country. A couple of years ago we developed a program called “The Emerging Leaders Program” designed specifically to address the fact that historically this space of conservation and outdoor recreation and land management has been populated by Caucasians predominantly. So with this program, we look around the country for folks ages 21 to 30 that are moving the needle in their work and have distinguished themselves in their efforts and we’ve invited them to apply. From there we then evaluate them and take the best of them and bring them here each year to train them at Teton Science Schools with SHIFT and we train them to help them lead the conversations that take place in the space and to empower folks who historically have not been a part of this conversations. That has been one of the things that have really differentiated our work on the National landscape and one of the things that have personally been the coolest part because you are talking to these kids who are totally crushing it--crushing it in ways I would otherwise have never known about...it’s been really inspiring.
This is the first year we have shifted the focus of the event with the shift awards selections but also the emerging leaders. So everyone who is coming this year is engaged in public health and as it relates to public lands and is a result that is incredibly dynamic, overwhelmingly rich in opportunity, and we are so excited to invite these folks who are are leading these conversations at a national level to Jackson! In Jackson we have a long history of conversation. For our community, it is both an opportunity to showcase what public lands means to us, what conservation means to us what outdoor recreation means to us, but then to also introduce the country to this natural discourse to this connection of public lands public health. Disenfranchisement of the generation of Americans from nature itself is what we are thinking about. We are in the midst of the single biggest mass migration in human history and it’s a generation behind screens. They have a less and less reason to be outside, and nature now has very few champions. We want to reverse that trend and if we don’t then we are in a lot of trouble.
This article has been edited for length and clarity.
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This story is a part of #humansofjhchamber: The campaign places a focus on the faces of our local businesses and nonprofits. Learn about their inspirations, why they got started in their industry, and more! Find the Chamber on Instagram, @jhchamber. For information about the program, please contact Director of Membership, Elisabeth Rohrbach, firstname.lastname@example.org or 307.201.2301.
Written by Communications Manager, Cecilie Davila 307.201.2304.