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QA: Ivan Levin, director, Outdoor Nation

Outdoor Nation Director Ivan Levin talks to SNEWS about the next generation of outdoor industry leaders.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

The future of the outdoor industry relies on the next generation getting outdoors.

That’s not as easy as one might think. There’s a barrage of electronics — from video games, cell phones to social media — keeping kids indoors and out of touch with nature.

Outdoor Nation, part of the Outdoor Foundation, is looking shift the balance back in our favor. The group’s director, Ivan Levin, was at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market looking for industry executives to help him in this mission.

In a nutshell, what is Outdoor Nation and what is it trying to accomplish?

Outdoor Nation is the signature initiative of the Outdoor Foundation, which is the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of the OIA. It is working to empower the Millennial generation to increase their participation in outdoor recreation.

Why should an outdoor executive pay attention to Outdoor Nation’s activities?

You should pay attention because we are helping define who the future outdoor enthusiast is. Outdoor Nation is bringing in traditional and non-traditional enthusiasts to get outside regardless of background or origin. We have the ears of thousands of young people who will one day have voices and opinions on outdoor issues on a political level, but also on a what-types-of-products-should-I-buy level.

Give me a brief history of Outdoor Nation.

In 2010, the first Outdoor Nation Summit brought 500 people to Central Park to talk about the challenges that prevent youth from going outdoors. This was the beginning of the movement of promoting outdoors to Millennials. In 2011, Outdoor Nation held five regional summits with the goal of figuring out the regional issues that prevent young people from going outdoors. Here, we wanted to give funding to address the challenges that were identified. In the same year, we piloted the campus program as well as bringing young people to Capitol Hill to advocate for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Healthy Kids Outdoors Act and other initiatives. In 2012, we’re hosting 10 summits, the last of which is at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, where we’re partnering with Futurist Project. This way, industry insiders can talk about issues they deal with in regards to outdoors.

What is the Futurist Project?

It was project started by Stasia Raines and Deanna Lloyd to have a conversation with 25-35-year-olds within the industry about the challenges that their generation faces in regards to the outdoors. We decided Outdoor Nation could help fuel the Futurist Project and get 100 industry young professionals together to identify projects in a café-like setting.

What do you think Outdoor Nation will look like in five years? Ten years?

In five years, Outdoor Nation will be happening in so many cities that we might not even know where they are happening. Summits will get legs of their own through a toolkit that we’re developing so any young person can host one. Very much like a Ted X type model. I also see Outdoor Nation growing on college campuses across the country. We hope the Outdoor Nation movement will go down in history as a movement that created a societal shift. We want to touch every young person in the country — or at least try to.

What are three ways those in the industry can help with Outdoor Nation?

First, connect your staff to Outdoor Nation and help build momentum by supporting summits, projects, as well as the advocacy work we do in D.C. Second, look at Outdoor Nation as a way to put your brand on the projects that result from the summits. Third, Outdoor Nation has a grant program.

What has been your greatest accomplishment with Outdoor Nation so far?

Impacting the lives of young people. For instance, watching a 20-year-old African-American female who is lonely in her community, but is here and is so happy because she gets to talk about things she’s passionate about to people that look like her; helping to make that happen and being part of that process is a great accomplishment.

–Yoon Kim