A History of DEI at SHIFT

The Center for Jackson Hole’s mission is to strengthen the coalition of interests dedicated to the protection of the natural world. It is not a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) organization. Similarly, SHIFT is not a DEI event.

That said, we believe that the coalition of natural allies must be inclusive if it is to be strong enough to protect our public lands in the midst of unprecedented threat. This belief has guided our efforts to incorporate social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion into our work.

Below is an overview of our efforts to address issues of social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. This post outlines some of the considerations our Executive Director, Christian Beckwith, had in starting this work.    

2014: First full SHIFT Festival. Focus: GEMS (Gateways to Environments of Major Significance) and the intersection of conservation with Nature (the natural environment), Culture (the built environment) and Adventure (outdoor recreation). No DEI work.


2015: Second year of SHIFT. Theme, “Where Conservation Meets Adventure,” featured an exploration of the future of our wild places. Juan Martinez, together with the Student Conservation Association and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, bring ca. 32 early career leaders to SHIFT and conduct a half-day training to help them participate in proceedings. This training becomes the impetus for the ELP.

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market (August 4): “Millennials Outside: Diversifying the ‘Look’ of Outdoor Media“. Panel discussion, moderated by Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin and Christian Beckwith, explored how authentic representations of millennials in the outdoors creates value for brands’ bottom lines while simultaneously developing a new constituency of stewards for the protection of our natural resources


September: Facilitated by Alfonso Orozco, a 2016 ELP alumni, the SHIFTx Stakeholder Discussion “Jackson Hole Latinos in the Outdoors” invited thought-leaders from the various Jackson Hole stakeholder groups to share efforts underway to engage the Jackson Hole Latino community in outdoor recreation, identify opportunities for collaboration and increase overall success in our common efforts and objectives.

2016 SHIFT: “Outdoor Rec & Our Public Lands”. First substantive efforts to incorporate DEI into programming.

  • Inception of Emerging Leaders Program, developed to create pathways for a diversity of young voices, lived experiences and perspectives into the conversations at SHIFT
  • Cultural Relevancy Workshop held at SHIFT. Coordinated and run by Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, co-founder of The Avarna Group, the workshop taught participants strategies and techniques to successfully navigate the DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) landscape
  • Panel discussion Next-Gen Engagement and Cultural Relevancy explored the creation of professional development opportunities for emerging leaders and young staff members across sectors of the stakeholder coalition in order to develop a more diverse workforce and constituent base.


Outdoor Retailer Winter Market (Jan. 12): “Outdoor Rec & Cultural Relevancy”. Panel discussion with four ELP alumni, who present case studies on ways they’ve successfully leveraged outdoor recreation to engage a culturally relevant next generation of conservationist and customer.

February: Winter ELP held to refine focus and outcomes of The Emerging Leaders Program. Included emphasis on personal narrative, and creation of ten videos documenting relationship of non-traditional stakeholders in outdoor rec and public lands.

SHIFT 2017: Theme: “The Business Case for Public Lands: How investments in outdoor recreation and the conservation of public lands create vibrant, resilient economies in communities around America.”

  • Year Two of ELP continued to elevate voices and perspectives of early career leaders in outdoor rec, conservation, land management
  • Keynote Presentations:
    • Bears Ears: 10,000 Years of Public Land, featured 2017 SHIFT Award Official Selection Utah Diné Bikéyah (UDB) Board Member and Spiritual Advisor Jonah Yellowman, UDB Community Specialist (and Arizona State Representative) Eric Descheenie, and Cynthia Wilson, UDB’s Traditional Foods Program Director, in a celebration of 10,000+ years of traditional knowledge, sovereignty and the creation of Bears Ears National Monument from the Native American perspective
    • Common Ground: A Film Series, Expert Panel and Dialogue on Diversity featured GirlTrek Co-Founder T. Morgan Dixon and filmmaker James Q Martin in a discussion of differences, blind spots, and the urgency of collaboration to do real work to protect public lands
    • Breakfast Keynote by The Emerging Leaders featured stories and perspectives from early career leaders, including those who have been historically marginalized in outdoor rec and conservation
    • Closing Keynote by Angelou Ezeilo, Founder, Greening Youth Foundation, on how she is working to change the face of conservation in the United States and help young people of color find meaningful careers in conservation
  • Panels, happy hours, lunchtime discussions represent increasing efforts to include diverse perspectives in SHIFT programming
    • Gotta See It To Be It project brought social and other media influencers together to develop a vision for where they want the outdoor recreation/conservation space to be in ten years—and then take the first step toward that goal at SHIFT. This programing included The Center for Jackson Hole’s current Board Chair, Dr. Len Necefer.
    • The Modern-Day Activist happy hour explored ways to elevate responsible recreation – one that fosters and is informed by a conservation ethic while promoting diverse, inclusive and next-generation engagement – as a behavioral norm in the human-powered outdoor rec community, connect all people to the outdoors, and engage them in the decision-making processes that affect the places in which we play
    • Closing the Nature Gap track focused on the value of public land investments where most Americans live: in urban areas
    • Lunch Discussion Cross-Cultural Communication: How youth engagement organizations around the country are reaching diverse stakeholders in culturally relevant ways
  • Late fall: 2016 ELP alumni Alfonso Orozco joins board
  • December: Operation Right Seat, Left Seat launched to begin transition plan of Center for Jackson Hole leadership to Emerging Leaders


  • Winter: Orozco becomes board chair. Latino Outdoors founder José Gonzalez, Natives Outdoors Founder/ 2017 ELP alumni Len Necefer join board
  • Winter: ELP alumni Grace Anderson hired to coordinate ELP. Resigns three months later after disagreements about communication and job performance
  • Spring: Center for Jackson Hole organizational retreat held, by invitation, at home of Jonah Yellowman, spiritual advisor of Utah Dine Bikeyah, as part of intentional effort to incorporate traditional knowledge into organizational structure. Retreat focuses in part on transition plan for leadership to Emerging Leaders


  • SHIFT 2018: “Public Lands, Public Health: How we can create a stronger connection between, and thus a stronger argument for, outdoor recreation, public lands and public health”
    • Year 3, ELP: issues surrounding division on racial injustice, power and privilege disrupt program. ELP participants hear leaders within the WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign discuss “showing up to ELP specifically to bring Christian down” and to “burn down SHIFT.”
      • Organization and Christian own the structural elements that caused harm to members of the ELP cohort. Begin concerted efforts (discussed below) to address these valuable pieces of feedback and shape our strategic vision for the organization’s future.   
    • Opening Blessing by Jonah Yellowman, Spiritual Advisor, Utah Dine Bikeyah, grounds event in respect for, offering to the land
    • Land Acknowledgement in Christian’s opening remarks acknowledges event takes place on the historic lands of Arapahoe, Shoshone, Eastern Arapahoe and Bannock tribes
  • Panels
    • Social Justice, Public Health features representatives from successful community based organizations that are integrating the health benefits of time outside into the lives of the people they serve
    • The Built Environment looks at the innovative approaches to municipal design that are being implemented to engage the full spectrum of America’s populations
  • Happy Hours and Satellite Events
    • Modern Day Activist happy hour continues dialogue of representation, outdoor rec and conservation
    • Media and Cultural Sensitivity Orientation outlines how to communicate about Tribal lands and help Tribes working to protect cultural resources and sacred sites
    • Pointy End of the Spear film program, featuring Hawah Kasat, showcases how the lessons we are learning from veterans’ experiences can be applied to the 90% of the American population that experiences trauma at some point during their lives
    • Closing Keynote, by Emerging Leaders, features voices, perspectives of next generation of outdoor rec/conservation leaders

November 2018: Board receives letter demanding resignation of Executive Director Christian Beckwith. For more information on the events that transpired, please see the #WontTakeShiftAnymore Campaign FAQs.

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