Winter ELP Consolidates Structure, Outcomes for Emerging Leaders Program

Emerging Leaders at the Winter Emerging Leader Program, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Photo: Liz Sodja


From February 23-26, 2017, The Center for Jackson Hole reconvened 25 alumni from the 2016 Emerging Leaders Program (“ELP”) at The Teton Science Schools’ Jackson Campus to further develop the organizational structure for ELP with the ultimate goal of scaling its impact around the US.

Key outcomes of this Winter Emerging Leaders Program (“WELP”), which was programmed and led by TSS’s Colby Mitchell with Terry Tempest Williams, included consolidation of program goals and development of tools that would allow ELPers to bring its impact back to their communities.

Under Mitchell’s direction, the Emerging Leaders determined that at each ELP, participants would be given:

  • Familiarization with subject matter to be explored at the SHIFT Festival (in 2016, this included funding for public lands and the public land transfer movement)
  • Instruction on how to then lead the conversations at SHIFT
  • Tools and skills to help engage in discussions critical to protecting public lands
  • Export models that allow them to share the results with their communities

ELPers also identified the “ecosystem problem”—that public lands and conservation are not relevant to all Americans—and developed ways to work on the problem via SHIFTx stakeholder discussions, podcasting and public engagement.

The Winter ELP was made possible by The National Conservation Training Center, Conservation Legacy, The Sierra Club, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The National Park Service, The Utah Film Center and The Wilderness Society

Thanks to the Winter ELPers, each new class of ELP will include three days of preparatory work in advance of SHIFT that familiarizes ELPers with the Festival topics.

Upon conclusion of the training, ELPers will be prepared to help lead the proceedings at SHIFT in various capacities: as panel hosts, moderators and panelists, as keynote speakers during SHIFT, and as key logistical assistants throughout the Festival.

During ELP, participants will also be given the tools to share their work back out with their communities. These tools, known internally as “export” or “sharing” models, include SHIFTx Stakeholder Discussion Meetings, Podcasting and Public Engagement.


Much of the program at WELP focused on planning and implementation of local SHIFTx stakeholder discussions.

WELP participants identified five major objectives for SHIFTx stakeholder discussion meetings:

  • Convening stakeholders to foster collective impact
  • Sharing stories important to the movement
  • Inspiring tangible action and goal setting among stakeholders
  • Identifying solutions to local issues of landscape and community
  • Connecting ELP participants to colleagues in the field while also elevating their presence in their own community

WELPers noted excitement for and support in planning SHIFTx stakeholder discussions in their local communities. In addition to a recent SHIFTx in Washington, DC around urban youth engagement in DC’s outdoors, SHIFTx meetings are under development for communities in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, and Albuquerque.


During WELP, ELPers developed the framework for a podcast that they could run and produce, inspired by the ties that bind us through interaction with landscapes.

The podcast will provide a platform for a diverse array of stories and discussions about personal and community connections and relationships to the land and/or landscape. Via these podcasts, ELPers aim to increase the diversity of voices and experiences in relation to the outdoors in the podcasting community; raise exposure for SHIFT and ELP; and develop storytelling as a tool to build connections between people and landscapes.

Each future class of Emerging Leaders will be trained to participate in the podcasting.

Public Engagement

With the training provided within the Emerging Leaders Program and the experience gained by actively presenting and facilitating at SHIFT, ELP alumni will be able to return to their communities with the requisite skills to organize, facilitate and lead conservation conversations, present their perspectives, stories and insights, and actively participate in other areas of public engagement.

By structuring SHIFT programming to channel ELPer experience and perspective, SHIFT connects the next generation of stewards with the traditional voices of conservation.

About Teton Science Schools

The Teton Science Schools (“TSS”) has been teaching about the natural world and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since 1967. Its seven program areas share a common vision of education, one deeply rooted in the outdoors as place anchors that enrich our understanding of the world.

The Center for Jackson Hole worked with TSS instructors to develop and execute ELP curriculum. The resulting program leverages personal narrative as a means of galvanizing others around a cause, collaborative dialogue as a frame for acting practically within institutions to affect change, and disciplined learning to bring together unconventional partners for work on complex challenges.

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