The Center for Jackson Hole

In 2013, The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board (“TTB”) commissioned a conservation-themed event to address the drop-off in visitation to the area in October. The objective was to apply the Lodging Tax in a way that benefited the local economy and the Jackson Hole community while also bringing value to the environment—a criterion of success known as the “triple bottom line.” It was understood that if the event were successful in achieving these goals, benefit would accrue to both the Jackson Hole brand and its reputation as the epicenter of American conservation.

In May, 2013, the TTB hired The Venture Collective, an event company run by Christian Beckwith, to create the event. Given the short timeframe, the 2013 event was deliberately designed as a limited, localized event that would establish the framework for the festival’s full launch in 2014. The 2013 event consisted of three nights of programming and mySHIFT, a community wide cleanup. Roughly 1,000 patron experiences were recorded at the events. Per design, these patrons were almost exclusively from the Jackson Hole area.

2014 marked the first full SHIFT Festival. Efforts were made to create a high-quality, high-impact event that focused on issues relevant to Jackson Hole’s sustainability as a community and an ecosystem, reinforcing the emphasis on the triple bottom line. The event ran from October 8-12 and attracted some 690 total patrons, including 124 out-of-town visitors. Organizers raised more than $58,500 in funds outside those provided by the TTB.

In 2015, a non-for-profit 501c3 organization, The Center for Jackson Hole, was established to execute SHIFT and offer tax-deductibility to its supporters. The Festival ran from Wed., Oct. 7-Sat., Oct. 10 and focused on the intersection of outdoor recreation and conservation. It attracted 254 out-of-town visitors and generated $126,166 in fundraising and sponsorship.

The 2016 SHIFT Festival, which ran from Th., Oct. 13-Sat., Oct. 15, explored the intersection of outdoor recreation and America’s public lands. New for 2016, The Emerging Leaders Program brought a select group of rising stars in the outdoor recreation and conservation communities to Jackson in advance of SHIFT, trained them at the Teton Science Schools, and then integrated them into the proceedings as speakers, panelists and facilitators. The event attracted some 500 out-of-town visitors and raised more than $110,000 from individuals, foundations and businesses, from both within and outside the Jackson Hole community.

In 2017, the second annual ELP prepared 32 young outdoor recreationists and conservationists to participate in SHIFT as panelists, facilitators and keynote speakers. After four days of training, the Emerging Leaders helped The 2017 SHIFT Festival explore The Business Case for Public Lands: how investments in outdoor recreation and the conservation of public lands creates economic prosperity in urban and rural communities around America.

SHIFT and The Emerging Leaders Program are symbiotic. By structuring SHIFT programming to channel the experiences and perspectives of ELP participants, we not only prepare the next generation of leaders to work alongside the “veterans” in the outdoor recreation/conservation communities; we allow their perspectives to help shape the Festival.

Following 2017’s programming The Center for Jackson Hole embarked on a new objective—a three-year intergenerational transfer of power that trains past and future Emerging Leaders to run SHIFT and the Emerging Leaders Program.

To do this, we began hiring ELP alumni for key roles. In January, we brought on 2016 Emerging Leader Grace Anderson as our Marketing Coordinator. She was joined by 2017 ELP alumnus Gerben Scherpbier, who documented the institutional knowledge necessary to run SHIFT and the ELP.

This change extended to our board as well. Center for Jackson Hole board member and ELP alum Alfonso Orozco were joined on the board by Frederick Reimers as well as 2017 ELP alumnus Len Necefer, while current board members Luther Propst and Ted Staryk stepped into support positions. They were joined by allies Jon Jarvis, Peter Metcalf, Meryl Harrel and others as we mentored the Emerging Leaders on a one-on-one basis to successfully execute the transition.

The 2018 SHIFT Festival, which took place Oct. 16-18 in Jackson Hole, explored the health benefits of time outside: how outdoor recreation on our public lands creates a healthier citizenry, attracts new customers to the outdoor industry, promotes stewardship and advances quality of life in communities across America. In hotels, restaurants and venues around Jackson, the innovators, early adopters and thought leaders at the forefront of the “Nature Rx” movement collaborated on an agenda that advanced a stronger connection between and thus a stronger argument for public health and public lands.

Preceding the Festival, the Emerging Leaders Program engaged 24 early career professionals in four days of training at the Teton Science Schools. At SHIFT, these same individuals were then given prominent leadership positions, where they presented on panels, led happy hour discussions, and facilitated nature-rich interventions for the benefit of SHIFT attendees.

The results created a watershed moment. For the first time, proponents in outdoor recreation, conservation and land management—SHIFT’s traditional stakeholder communities—gathered with members of the health care, funding and research communities to explore the critical connection between time spent outside on our lands and waters and the health and wellbeing of all people.

For the previous five years, The Center for Jackson Hole had developed SHIFT into a coalition of stakeholders broad enough and strong enough to champion our public lands in a time of unprecedented threat.

In 2018, we expanded the stakeholder coalition to include Health Care. As a result, the $734B/year outdoor recreation industry is working with the $3T/year health care industry in new ways to advance the case for nature in our society.

Since its inception in 2013, SHIFT has evolved into a convening space for natural allies to address issues of common concern related to conservation. Topics we’ve explored include the outdoor recreation / conservation partnership (2015); the relationship between outdoor recreation and public lands (2016); the business case for public lands (2017); and the connection between public lands and public health (2018).

The 2018 SHIFT Festival catalyzed the May 2019 cover story in Outside Magazine. This in turn underscored the opportunity before us. By highlighting the health benefits of nature, we can raise its value proposition in a time of unprecedented threat.

The momentum created by the 2018 event was unprecedented, and helped focus our theme for 2019. Making the business case for nature as medicine would advance what we believe to be conservation’s greatest opportunity: the positioning of public health as the last frontier of ecosystem services.

By doing so, we raised the value proposition for nature while promoting a cost-effective component of comprehensive health care.

The future of medicine in the US will focus on changing patient behavior, which contributes up to 40% of health and wellness. Social determinants of health — conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play—are drivers of a wide range of health risks and outcomes as well as levers for cost savings. Nature is one of those drivers, but its importance has yet to be fully realized.

In December 2019, The Center for Jackson Hole voted to refocus its mission on the advancement and promotion of nature as a social determinant of health. We believe doing so represents the strongest argument we can make for nature itself, at a point when that argument needs to be made loudly and clearly.

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