The #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign was launched in April 2019 as “a response to the tokenization, exploitation, and racism that communities of color have experienced at the SHIFT Festival and in the outdoor industry as a whole.”
The campaign reiterated many of the points outlined in a November 8, 2018 letter written to The Center for Jackson Hole Board of Directors that demanded the resignation of its Executive Director, Christian Beckwith.
The November 8 letter, signed by 17 authors, the majority of whom were participants in the 2018 Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), called for the immediate resignation of Mr. Beckwith from SHIFT and ELP, both of which he had founded and directed.
As justification for the call, the authors asserted that Mr. Beckwith had not completed any diversity, equity, and/or inclusion (DEI) training to prepare him for the role of being SHIFT’s Executive Director, which in turn left him “underprepared and ill-equipped to lead an organization that seeks to center equity work in the outdoors.”
The November letter furthermore asserted that Mr. Beckwith was responsible for racial violence, unpaid emotional labor, microaggressions, othering, and the creation of a racially hostile and toxic environment at SHIFT and ELP that triggered trauma responses among ELP participants.
The #WTSA campaign reiterated many of these same points and made the same call for Mr. Beckwith’s resignation.
The Center for Jackson Hole’s Board of Directors was aware of the multitude of factors that had led to the disruptive experience of the 2018 ELP.
These factors included the participation of one individual that Mr. Beckwith had recommended the organization “decline the opportunity to collaborate” with, in part because of the individual’s assertion that they would disrupt the organization if they were not allowed to participate.
This same individual, a principal behind the campaign, stated to an assembly of Emerging Leaders during ELP that they had participated in ELP specifically to disrupt it.
In December 2018, after a careful investigation of the points made in the letter, as well as a review of additional letters sent by ELP participants whose perspective differed from that of the signatories of the November 2018 letter, the board responded directly to its authors with this letter.
In their response, the board affirmed their ongoing support for Mr. Beckwith’s leadership as Executive Director. Following the #WTSA campaign’s launch, they reaffirmed their support.
On April 25, the individual who had stated their intent to disrupt SHIFT wrote a letter to the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board, SHIFT’s founding sponsor, asking them to defund SHIFT for many of the same reasons outlined by the #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign.
After a “diligent review” of the situation, the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board affirmed its ongoing support for SHIFT.
The Center for Jackson Hole chose to work directly with the authors of the November 2018 letter calling for Mr. Beckwith’s resignation. This approach, which is grounded in our commitment to responsibility, has had the unfortunate consequence of keeping key facts of the matter private.
We have received more than 50 letters of support for our work in the face of the campaign. A May 8 Guest Shot in the Jackson Hole News & Guide offered support from 35 others, including Oscar-Award winning filmmaker Jimmy Chin, Nature as Medicine champion Dr. Michael Suk, and New Network Leader founder Jane-Wei Skillern.
The following overview provides a synopsis of the events leading up to the campaign as well as the steps The Center for Jackson Hole has taken to incorporate the lessons learned during the experience into its evolution.
This FAQ is made alongside the position outlined in the open letter written by The Center for Jackson Hole board in April. These are the steps we have taken since November to incorporate the lessons we’ve learned into improving our organization.
The steps are consistent with our organizational efforts to address issues of social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion with our programming since 2016.
We share this overview in the hope that they will be of value to others in the broader community interested in similar work.
The Center for Jackson Hole (CfJH) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen the coalition of interests dedicated to the protection of the natural world by investing in the future of their constituencies.
We achieve this mission via two main programs: SHIFT (Shaping How we Invest For Tomorrow), an annual festival, held each autumn in Jackson Hole, that explores issues at the intersection of outdoor recreation, conservation, public health and cultural relevancy; and The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), a program that trains a diverse group of early career leaders to help develop our work at SHIFT and in America. Until April 2019, ELP was developed in conjunction with and led by The Teton Science Schools (TSS).
The Center for Jackson Hole is not an organization specializing in DEI. Similarly, SHIFT is not a DEI-focused event.
That said, we recognize the importance of continually striving to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within our organization and community. 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. It is an ongoing process.
See here for an overview of our efforts to address issues of social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
See here for an overview of significant outcomes from our work.
The #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign was launched in April 2019 as “a response to the tokenization, exploitation, and racism that communities of color have experienced at the SHIFT festival and in the outdoor industry as a whole”.
Timeline of events:
February 28: ELP applications open
July 2: ELP participants announced
July- August: All ELP participants are interviewed. As part of preparation, all participants receive ELP FAQ.
“If we are unwilling to [meet their demands], Bam has made it clear they intend to undermine our work to the best of their ability by denigrating us with other ELPers in this year’s class, as well as via interviews with media outlets and SM…
While Bam has very good insights to bring to the program and our work in general, it comes at the risk of significant disruption to ELP and SHIFT alike.
Given that their experience at [another conference] was not comfortable for them, we can assume it will be difficult to create a positive experience for them at SHIFT. If that is the case, I believe Bam will do their best to express this via the means available to them…
I propose we decline the opportunity to collaborate…”
October 12: ELP begins at Jackson Campus of Teton Science Schools (TSS)
October 13: in the morning, TSS leads a DEI workshop for participants
October 14 (est): Multiple ELP participants confirm Bam’s statement to group that their intent in participating in ELP was to “fuck shift up”
October 16-18: 2018 SHIFT Festival begins. Tensions are still running high on issues surrounding racial injustice, power and privilege, and emotions spill over into the Festival.
November 5: CfJH Board receives a letter signed by 17 individuals, predominantly participants of 2018 ELP, that calls for the resignation of Mr. Beckwith.
Nov. 6: Board responds to the letter’s authors with this acknowledgement, noting they would follow up after further investigation
November: The CfJH Board receives letters from additional 14 ELP participants that they include in their evaluation.
Letters received by the CfJH board from 2018 ELP participants include the following quotes, which are presented here with the authors’ permission (the authors have asked to remain anonymous):
On Beckwith’s role in the events:
“I do not believe the traumatizing nature of the 2018 emerging leader program can accurately be attributed to Christian in its entirety or even to a degree that would require resignation….”
[A defining factor in the events was]“… one individual’s stated attempt to intentionally dismantle the program.”
On the letter sent to the CfJH board:
“I know some emerging leaders are sending a mutually signed letter to the Board… I do not agree with some of the strategies used by some of the folks who are organizing this letter and that the omission of my name from the list of signatories is not accidental…”
“While some ELP participants are calling for Christian’s removal from SHIFT and ELP in particular… there is more to be discussed and discovered before any quick judgements are made. Ultimately…. the best course of action would be to address complaints from prior employees, ELP participants, and others affiliated with SHIFT and implement new protocol in response….”
On Beckwith’s role as ED:
“ …Individuals I spoke with through the conference, echo acknowledgement of Christian’s vision of a more inclusive outdoor industry and respect in how he uses his privilege to draw people to the table. [He is]…open to have his comfort zone expanded so that the table… can be further diversified to better represent everyone who’s voice can improve this environmental community. It is my hope that the board… recognize that skillset and the value Christian brings to his position”
Suggestions for the program moving forward:
“A steering committee comprised of past ELP participants from each cohort should be created…”. (N.B.: An ELP advisory council was created March 2019)
“Thoroughly evaluate the organization, your roles as board members, the planning of the programs and the messages that your organization puts out for everyone to see. There are so many positive aspects to your organization and there can be an even greater positive impact through a comprehensive assessment, thoughtful planning and implementation.”
“…I think that the Emerging Leaders Program would greatly benefit from hiring a culturally competent individual to work alongside Christian and to serve as a program coordinator…” (N.B.: 2018 ELP alum Dr. Morgan Green was hired February 2019)
I must stress that this “separation of power” should be evident from the very beginning. For example, this person should be responsible for overseeing the application process, contacting successful Emerging Leader applicants, coordinating roles at the SHIFT festival, developing an agenda for the Emerging Leaders Program…” (N.B.: Dr. Green is responsible for overseeing the application process, contacting all applicants, and developing the 2019 agenda)
“I think that the Emerging Leaders Program and the SHIFT Festival are two separate entities, and should be treated as such. In my view, this program coordinator should be able to work independently… they should report directly to the SHIFT board.” (N.B.: Dr. Green reports directly to the CfJH Board)
“Additionally, in the future, every effort should be used to vet accepted applicants, to ensure that everyone is committed to at least some baseline of cultural relevancy.” (N.B.: Dr. Green has personally vetted all 2019 applicants)
December 21: With all information appraised, Board communicates official letter of response to the authors of the letter.
December 2018: Organizational decision made to separate leadership of SHIFT and ELP, with Beckwith remaining in charge of SHIFT and an ELP alumni retained to direct ELP. The ELP director would answer directly to the board and work in partnership with Beckwith.
December 2018-Ongoing: Beckwith refocuses his personal work in varying capacities to augment his understanding of issues surrounding inclusion and racial equity
December 2018: Beckwith begins workshops and trainings (including a Healthy Work Environment workshop, nine-week Foundations of Leadership course) to continuously improve the CfJH work environment.
January 2019: Dr. Green, ELP ’18 alumni, and Beckwith begin to work on DEI resource library for personal edification and for ELP and SHIFT 2019 participants
February: Dr. Green appointed Director of ELP.
February: Aisha Weinhold, ELP 2017, is invited to join the SHIFT board
February-March: Dates confirmed for an April organizational retreat. Outreach to DEI consultants began in regards to incorporation of DEI principals into organizational retreat and programmatic development. Retreat to include one day of organizational development training and one day of DEI training
March: Dr. Green creates ELP Advisory Council to incorporate experiences, perspectives, guidance from selected ELP alumni into programmatic revision.
Additional structural changes to the ELP program include the following:
March: ELP alumni Gerben Scherpbier, Leandra Taylor, Justin Forrest Parks invited to join board
April 6: https://medium.com/wont-take-shift-anymore published.
April 13: #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign launches, primarily via Instagram, with content shared on Medium.
April 15: Dr. Green publishes this letter, addressing the campaign from his perspective as a 2018 ELP alumni
April 19 – Teton Science School releases this press release, severing ties with ELP and CfJH.
April 25: Mendiola writes letter to the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board, SHIFT’s founding sponsor, requesting that they stop funding SHIFT
Throughout April: Various CfJH board members, staff and advocates attempt to engage those involved with the campaign:
April 19-20: CfJH organizational retreat focuses on sustainability, mission and core values, institutionalization of DEI principles. Includes one full day of DEI training, fulfilling a commitment the board shared with those who submitted letters in November 2018.
April-May: At least one additional SHIFT funder is contacted by a member of the #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore coalition, asking them to stop their support of the program
May 20: After a month-long “diligent review,” in which nearly a hundred private letters and public comments are evaluated, the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board affirms its decision to continue funding SHIFT
The members of the #WonTakeSHIFtAnymore coalition assert that the only way for the CfJH to proceed is for Beckwith to step down from the organization.
The original resignation letter cites the following reasons for their demand:
Additional complaints by coalition members levied during the campaign include:
Since ELP and SHIFT 2018, CfJH board and staff have invested (100+) personal and professional hours in discussion and planning to incorporate the lessons learned from the experiences at ELP and SHIFT in 2018 into organizational and programmatic improvements. This work is ongoing.
Specific steps include:
April-May: Dr. Green holds conversations with more than 45 prospective ELP 2019 applicants (100% over the phone) and more than 40 ELP alumni (65% over the phone, 35% via email) who’ve reached out to him to address the narrative surrounding the campaign from his perspective as a participant in the 2018 cohort.
April- Present: The Center for Jackson Hole continues, via allies, board members, and and the ELP director, to provide space for conversation with members of the campaign who are willing to hold dialogue.
May- Present: Development of Core Principles to clearly define CfJH values. This work-in-progress is being developed to:
April-Present: The Center for Jackson Hole has continued to dialogue with legal council regarding the long-term ramifications of the campaign.
Addressing the impacts reported by past participants of ELP has been a major agenda item on the following CfJH board meetings:
See here for an overview of our efforts to address issues of social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.