#WontTakeSHIFTAnymore Campaign Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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What is SHIFT?

What happened with the #Won’tTakeSHIFTAnymore Campaign?

Why is the campaign calling for Mr. Beckwith’s resignation?

What has the Center for Jackson Hole done to address the concerns brought up by past ELP participants?

What DEI work has the Center for Jackson Hole done prior to and since the #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign?

What is SHIFT?

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.

What happened with #Won’t Take SHIFT Anymore?

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:

2018 ELP participants selected

2018 ELP participants interviewed in preparation for SHIFT

Problematic situation identified during ELP interviews

ELP participants invited to participate in SHIFT programs

ELP begins

Tensions rise

CfJH Board receives resignation letter

CfJH Board investigates

Quotes from letters received

CfJH Board responds to letter signatories

CfJH Board institutes organizational changes

#WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign commences

Attempts to engage with campaign members are rebuked

2018 ELP participants selected

February 28: ELP applications open

July 2: ELP participants announced

2018 ELP participants interviewed in preparation for SHIFT

July- August: All ELP participants are interviewed. As part of preparation, all participants receive ELP FAQ.

    • Half-hour interviews were conducted by CfJH, SHIFT and ELP Founder and Executive Director Christian Beckwith. The purpose of the interviews was to learn about ELP participants’ professional experience, how they arrived at their current area of expertise, their interest in outdoor recreation, conservation, land management and/or public health.
    • As part of the interview process, to help guide his programmatic development, Beckwith asked each participant, “Tell me your story.”
    • The resulting information helped Beckwith place all participants in at least one programmatic element of SHIFT.

Problematic situation identified during ELP interviews

July-August:

    • After an initial, one-hour conversation between Beckwith and Bam Mendiola, in which Mendiola expressed concerns about the language used throughout the SHIFT website, Beckwith asked Mendiola to speak with a former ELP participant who was serving as the ELP/SHIFT liaison for 2018. The goal of the conversations was to ascertain whether SHIFT and ELP would be a positive experience for and further develop and advance Mendiola’s professional development while enhancing the experiences of the other ELP participants. After these conversations were completed, Beckwith and the liaison conferred, and agreed—in part because of Mendiola’s stated negative experience at an affinity conference—that Mendiola’s experience and participation in the ELP programming would not be positive for either.
    • After several more hours of conversation with Mendiola, on August 8, Beckwith expressed concerns about Bam’s participation in the program to CfJH board members:

“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…

    • Several board members noted Beckwith’s recommendation, but overruled after a conversation between them and Mendiola resulted in an agreement that Mendiola would work within the ELP in a constructive fashion, and furthermore that the board members would be on hand during ELP to insure this was done.
    • Mendiola’s participation in ELP 2018 was then confirmed

Emerging Leaders are invited to participate in SHIFT programming, and roles and responsibilities of participation are outlined

August-September:

    • Conference calls with all ELP participants were held, often in conjunction with SHIFT Award recipients, to discuss their respective roles (e.g., in panel discussions and happy hour programs) in SHIFT
      • Expectations, roles and responsibilities of participation were outlined in emails such as this

The Emerging Leaders Program Begins

October 12: ELP begins at Jackson Campus of Teton Science Schools (TSS)

Tensions Rise

October 13: At 9 a.m., TSS leads “Uncovering Unconscious Bias and Affirming Identity” training for participants

    • This DEI element, which triggered some ELP participants, was added to ELP agenda without prior approval 
    • By evening, ELP participants break into racially divided caucuses to discuss and debrief the events of the day

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.

CfJH Board receives a call for resignation letter

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

CfJH Board investigates

November: The CfJH Board receives letters from additional 14 ELP participants that they include in their evaluation.

    • 5 were individual letters from those who signed the resignation letter providing additional context and information
    • 9 were letters of feedback, recommending, among other things, that the program be restructured and that Beckwith be retained

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)

The CfJH board responds to the letters’ signatories

December 21: With all information appraised, Board communicates official letter of response to the authors of the letter.

    • The board notes that “We did not receive acknowledgement from the authors that either of our letters had been received.”
    • Email addresses of the board members were shared with all who submitted a letter or signed the resignation letter
    • None of the individuals who signed the resignation letter subsequently emailed any member of the board  

The CfJH Board institutes organizational changes

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.

    • This email was sent out to entire Emerging Leader alumni base (2016, 2017, 2018 cohorts)
      • Any alumni (at that time, including two people who had signed the resignation letter) for whom SHIFT did not have updated email addresses did not receive the email
      • Bam Mendiola, who stated after SHIFT that they never wanted to be contacted by SHIFT or any individual who works for the organization, was not included.  
      • To our knowledge, of the 14 ELP alumni who signed the letter of resignation, 11 were sent the email
    • Following the aforementioned email, Dr. Green was able to hold space for conversation with 5 of the 14 alumni who signed the resignation letter and answer questions.
    • Dr. Green begins work with Colby Mitchell, Teton Science Schools instructor and lead facilitator of ELP since inception, on revising curriculum for ELP 2019

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:

    • Addition of questions to the ELP application to better assess participants’ work with and understanding of DEI, leadership experiences and the value applicants find in their work.
    • Letters of recommendation and resumes now incorporated as part of the application process
    • Development of a dedicated curriculum for ELP that focuses conversation around conservation, leadership, public health in relation to time outside, community building and outdoor rec with time to address inequity in all of the above fields
    • Initiation of a two tier interview system of prospective ELP applicants to allow multiple opportunities to set expectations for what the program will entail from two different perspectives.

March: ELP alumni Gerben Scherpbier, Leandra Taylor, Justin Forrest Parks invited to join board

The #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore Campaign Commences

April 6: https://medium.com/wont-take-shift-anymore published.

April 12:

    • Board publishes this letter,
    • Beckwith publishes this apology.
    • Both referenced in social media and newsletter to all SHIFT subscribers

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.

    • Beckwith was notified of this decision (in an email sent from Executive Director Chris Agnew) less than 2 hours prior to press release
    • As part of TSS “evaluation,” no outreach to any member of CfJH board or staff was made by any TSS representative, including to ELP Director Dr. Green

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:

    • José Gonzalez reaches out publicly and personally to Bam Mendiola via social media to work on mediation. No response to date
    • Jess Saba reaches out to Nadia Mercado via Instagram to try to move the conversation off social media. Mercado rejects the overture
    • Len Necefer reaches out to Nadia Mercado to attempt a phone call. Mercado declines, indicates she will only speak over Instagram direct message or text
    • Dr. Green emails members of the campaign and offers an opportunity to hold space for discussion.
      • One member of the campaign accepted offer to date
      • Another campaign member responded to Dr. Green’s email to ask a clarifying question. No further indication of interest in additional dialogue has been given

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

    • Evaluation included confidential review of all letters received by CfJH from November until a week before the Travel and Tourism Board announcement. Majority of individuals who submitted letters requested that they not be shared on social media or on our website.
    • TTB’s review remains the most complete evaluation of what our organization has done to address the impact of 2018’s ELP program.

Why are they calling for Beckwith’s resignation?

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:

  • Lack of formal DEI training completed by Beckwith
  • Lack of screening for DEI training in other ELP participants on ELP application
  • Traumatic experiences and racial violence experienced at ELP, which included
    • Tokenization
    • Extractive and unpaid emotional labor
  • Insufficient communication regarding the exact roles and expectations at SHIFT by ELP participants

Additional complaints by coalition members levied during the campaign include:

  • “Predatory” asks by Beckwith:
    • During ELP interviews, participants were asked “What is your story?”
    • For the story slam, a list of participants was suggested to the moderator that included primarily women of color

 

What has the Center for Jackson Hole done to address the concerns brought up by past ELP participants?

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:

 

  • Hire a DEI consultant to train all CfJH staff and board members in DEI principles. This was planned in December and completed at the board retreat in April.
  • Incorporate DEI principles in the organizational fabric.  While the CfJH is not an organization specializing in DEI, we recognize the importance of continually striving to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within their organization and community.
  • Hire a culturally competent, ELP alumni as a director of the Emerging Leaders Program (Dr. Morgan Green, ELP 2018 was hired in February)
  • Structurally separate SHIFT and Emerging Leaders Program. Dr. Green oversees all aspects of the application, interview, and curiculum process of ELP, reports to CfJH board
  • Create an advisory council of ELP alumni to help direct the program and identify areas to grow. The council was created in March.
  • Rewrite the ELP application and develop content-focused curriculum from scratch. This effort has been done largely by Dr. Green, with the assistance of the advisory council and the alumni network.
    • Revisions include an evaluation of an applicant’s cultural competencies before admission to the program.

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.

  • Members of the board have been told that the campaign does not wish to speak with them. See above comments about board members’ actions to hold dialogue with campaign members.

May- Present: Development of Core Principles to clearly define CfJH values. This work-in-progress is being developed to:  

  • Incorporate action items that embody our organization’s mission
  • Outline traits we expect to see in ELP applicants
  • Establish an intrinsic community agreement that provides a “code of conduct” during the ELP program

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:

  • 11.6.18
  • 12.6.18
  • 1.9.19
  • 2.19.19
  • 3.19.19
  • 4.18.19-4.21.19
  • 5.6.19
  • 5.17.19

What DEI work has the Center for Jackson Hole done prior to and since the #WontTakeSHIFTAnymore campaign?

See here for an overview of our efforts to address issues of social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.



 
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