Trade Shows & Events

Jackson Hole tourism board continues funding SHIFT Festival despite missteps

The "Won't Take Shift Anymore" campaign raised questions about leadership's ability to cultivate a safe space for conservation and outdoor recreation trailblazers.

After an investigation into the annual SHIFT Festival, the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board (TTB) agreed on Monday to continue funding the event that brings together diverse leaders in the outdoor recreation and conservation space.

The review comes after former participants accused the event’s executive director, Christian Beckwith, lacks the basic justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) training needed to lead the organization. They also allege that he fostered a traumatic and taxing environment for people of color and LGTBQ+ identities. One participant urged the TTB to quit funding the event.

The “Won’t Take SHIFT Anymore” campaign called for Beckwith’s resignation and for systematic change. However, the event’s board decided to keep him on. They hired Dr. Morgan Green to lead the associated Emerging Leaders Program and they hired someone else to train all leaders—including Beckwith—in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusivity principles during their board retreat in mid-April.

The TTB licenses the name SHIFT to the nonprofit organization The Center for Jackson Hole, which was created in 2015. SHIFT was founded by Beckwith in 2013.

“We are heartened that the TTB, in its full examination of the facts of the matter, reached the same conclusion that our board arrived at in November,” Beckwith told SNEWS. “We’re excited now to focus our full attention on this year’s SHIFT, which will continue to develop last year’s theme of ‘nature as medicine’— a theme documented in the May Outside Magazine cover story, ‘Ask Your Doctor If Nature Is Right For You.'”

SNEWS also reached out to “Won’t Take SHIFT Anymore” members and we’ll update the story once we hear back.

Read the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board’s statement in full:

The Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board will continue to fund the 2019 SHIFT Festival (‘SHIFT’) at the previously approved level reflected in our fiscal year 2020 budget.

The Board has diligently reviewed the sequence of events, communications and current opinions involving SHIFT and the associated Emerging Leaders Program. We have concluded that, although The Center for Jackson Hole is not without historical missteps, it is in the best interest of our community, our environment and our broader society to continue our support of their work.

We commend the leadership of the Center for Jackson Hole for enacting several significant changes to this year’s upcoming events based on feedback received from a multifarious group of stakeholders. We are appreciative to all who have participated in this discussion and trust that collective betterment has been a shared goal throughout. We have full confidence in The Center for Jackson Hole’s ability to execute on their organizational changes and stated objectives for which the funding was originally approved. It is our belief that through this process, they have become better equipped than ever to proceed with their valuable work on the challenging, pertinent issues surrounding conservation, recreation and outdoor access. As we move forward, we ask everyone to practice empathy and seek commonality to allow for greater understanding between diverse perspectives and continued, productive dialogue.