In the face of a request to divest from the SHIFT festival, the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board reaffirmed its support for the conference and the nonprofit that puts it on, The Center for Jackson Hole.
In April, a group called Won’t Take SHIFT Anymore posted a letter to Medium asking for the resignation of Center for Jackson Hole Executive Director Christian Beckwith, saying that Beckwith created a “toxic” environment for participants of color and those from other traditionally marginalized communities at SHIFT and in the Emerging Leaders Program.
Soon after, the group also sent a letter to the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board asking it to divest from SHIFT, which would have been a significant blow to the festival’s finances, considering the board supplies roughly a third of the funds.
In a public statement Monday morning, the board made clear it would not heed the request.
“We have concluded that, although The Center for Jackson Hole is not without historical missteps,” the statement reads, “it is in the best interest of our community, our environment and our broader society to continue our support of their work.”
According to the fiscal year 2020 budget approved last month, the travel and tourism board dedicated $85,000 to the nonprofit for the SHIFT festival. Maintaining funding for SHIFT comes as a result of organizational changes The Center for Jackson Hole has made, the statement says.
According to Beckwith and the nonprofit’s board chairman Len Necefer, the nonprofit has added diverse members to its board, many of whom are graduates of the Emerging Leaders Program, and instated Dr. Morgan Green as the head of that leadership program.
Beckwith has also said he is “trying to work himself out of a job,” though he did not put a timeline on when he might step away from the festival and nonprofit he has built.
Those steps appear to be enough for the travel and tourism board to continue its support for SHIFT.
“We have full confidence in The Center for Jackson Hole’s ability to execute on their organizational changes,” the statement says. “It is our belief that through this process, they have become better equipped than to proceed with their valuable work on the challenging, pertinent issues surrounding conservation, recreation and outdoor access.”