Patagonia 'Tools' conference inspires nonprofit leaders

Thanks to a grant from Patagonia, Idaho Rivers United was invited to attend the 2015 Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists conference in late September in Fallen Leaf Lake, Calif.

I was honored to be a part of this amazing group of smart and passionate people who are making a difference in their communities throughout the world. It was also a reminder that we are not alone in our work and struggles to protect what we hold dear.

Patagonia developed the grassroots tools conference in 1994 to do more than just write checks to environmental organizations. The company shares our concerns and wants to help find solutions to urgent environmental problems. Since the conference's inception, many of IRU’s current and former staffers have benefited from attending previous tools conferences.

The conference focused on a mix of core skills (strategy, grassroots organizing, lobbying) and “new” tools (technology, working with business, fundraising in uncertain times).

Highlights included inspiring stories from Wade Davis from National Geographic Explorer, and Yvon Chouinard, CEO and founder of Patagonia. We also learned from industry leaders including marketing strategist Spitfire Strategies, West-focused research firm Headwaters Economics and a team from Google. We even learned how to Contra dance!

The closing workshops brought 180 people to similar conclusions: we must learn to be strategic in our work, and we must communicate and collaborate. Most importantly we learned to always make the time to get out and enjoy the rivers, mountains, beaches, deserts, wild spaces and communities that inspire us to do what we do.