The 2018 Emerging Leaders Program

Participants in the 2018 Emerging Leaders Program take the stage during the ELP StorySlam on the final evening of SHIFT.

Developed in conjunction with The Teton Science Schools, The Emerging Leaders Program (“ELP”) is designed to prepare participants to help lead the proceedings of The SHIFT Festival, and to bring SHIFT’s coalition-building model back to their communities, where they can further develop the alliance of stakeholders dedicated to the protection of America’s public lands.

Early career leaders who have distinguished themselves in the fields of outdoor recreation, conservation, land management and public health are brought to the Jackson campus of the Teton Science Schools for four days of training. Participants then transfer to SHIFT, where they are given prominent leadership positions, presenting on panels, leading happy hour discussions, and facilitating nature-rich interventions alongside SHIFT attendees.

As it has in the past, the third annual ELP included voices, perspectives and experiences that have historically been marginalized in the outdoor recreation, land management and conservation communities. The results enriched partnerships and conversations throughout SHIFT—but they also proved disruptive and triggering for ELP participants and SHIFT attendees alike.

The Center for Jackson Hole is the 501c3 umbrella organization for SHIFT and ELP. Soon after the 2018 ELP ended, we received feedback that the program had created an inflammatory, non-inclusive, and unsafe environment for some participants, and that this in turn had created undue discomfort, pain, and stress. We were told that unanticipated requests for emotional labor affected participants in ways that they found to be harmful and unfair, and that, overall, the management and facilitation of the 2018 ELP had fallen short of their standards.

We recognize the seriousness of these experiences and appreciate the effort required to make them known to us. In the ensuing months, the calls to improve on a variety of levels have guided our decisions.

2018 ELP participant Karen Ramos shares a laugh with Alastair Lee Bitsóí, Communications Director for Utah Diné Bikéyah, at SHIFT

The Center for Jackson Hole believes the coalition of stakeholders working to protect our public lands has the potential to become a movement. We also believe that, to preserve our public lands, the movement must include those who are often under-represented in mainstream outdoors and environmental work. Until our efforts to protect our lands, waters, and wildlife address systemic inequities that have precluded the equitable representation of the rights and interests of all people, they won’t be strong enough to succeed.

Our vision for ELP is to convene a diverse group of early career leaders from around the country who have a stake in conservation to help lead the proceedings at SHIFT. This diversity is represented in ability, ethnicity, geography, race, gender, political affiliation, work, thought, and life experience. By convening such a group from across the core SHIFT audiences, we seek to provide a cross-section of perspective and insight that in turn insures the outcomes at SHIFT are relevant to all people.

When we realized that our efforts in 2018 to create an inclusive and constructive environment had failed, and that that in turn had caused participants harm, we took it seriously, and went so far as to discuss eliminating or pausing the program. The people who participate in the ELP are the future of the movement. The only way to keep the conservation field relevant and our public lands safe is to continue to bring young leaders like them together. Because of this, we have decided to move forward, evolving the ELP to address the 2018 experiences and to incorporate feedback from past participants.

In the past, ELP participants have learned valuable skills and built incredible relationships, both with one another and with other SHIFT attendees. The program has provided a platform for the leaders of tomorrow to meet with industry veterans and influence the conversation in the outdoor and the conservation communities.

2017 ELP alumnus Len Necefer presents at SHIFT in 2018. Dr. Necefer currently serves as Chair of The Center for Jackson Hole

Our objective for The Center for Jackson Hole is to create an ELP-led organization. Moving forward, we will continue to incorporate ELP alumni into our organization at both the board and staff levels (our past two board chairs have been ELP alumni, and alumni today comprise more than 50% of the board members). The program will be directed by 2018 ELP alumnus Dr. Morgan Green, who has created an ELP Advisory Council made up of ELP alumni to help oversee the program’s evolution. Dr. Green is currently revising the framework of the 2019 ELP, with a particular focus on its leadership structure and curriculum. As well, we are providing our organization’s Board of Directors and staff with training in diversity, equity and inclusion work.

Certain moves will be made more quickly than others; our commitment to the ELP and to inclusive, equitable programming does not end with these actions. Decisions regarding other ways to evolve will be made throughout the year, and will be guided by our belief that convening a cross-section of experiences and identities is critical to addressing the core challenges facing the next generation of leaders.

Working across difference is challenging. Convening such a group is incredibly hard; at times, it’s messy. Those facts notwithstanding, we believe in ELP, because we believe the future of outdoor recreation and conservation needs a well-prepared coalition of allies to lead the movement. It is for this reason that we are committed to continual improvement and reflection regarding SHIFT, ELP and how both programs are offered.

2018 ELP alumnus Dr. Morgan Green is the new Director of the program

We cannot undo the impact the 2018 program had on some participants, but we can own it, and are actively working to rectify the factors that led to it. We expressed our apologies to the Emerging Leaders as a group during the program, an apology we repeated during the opening at SHIFT a few days later. We express it again now.

We have heard the call to evolve and adapt ELP to make it a safer place for future participants to connect and grow. We have taken the feedback and suggestions into careful consideration and welcome continued recommendations, as we welcome collaborative, constructive efforts to insure an equitable future for the outdoor recreation/conservation partnership.

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