Futurist Project looking for young movers and shakers to lead the outdoor industry’s future

In a few months, on the evening before Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, 50-100 “futurists” will be invited to attend the second Futurist Project event. Participants, all 35 and under, will discuss what lies ahead for the outdoor industry.
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Investors often team up with incubators for the benefit of stakeholders. In a similar sense, Outdoor Nation and the Outdoor Foundation have partnered with the Futurist Project — the difference being that the beneficiary of this relationship is the outdoor industry’s future.

In a few months, on the evening before Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, 50-100 “futurists” will be invited to attend the second Futurist Project event. Participants, all 35 and under, will discuss what lies ahead for the outdoor industry.

“We were eager to bring together our peers and define the future of the industry in a way that was authentic,” said Deanna Lloyd, co-founder of the Futurist Project. Lloyd and cofounder Stasia Raines targeted young people after sensing their disengagement from outdoor involvement was due to exclusion from the conversation. They’re aiming to win back hearts and minds by creating a space for young people to talk about issues related to the outdoors. With the support of the Outdoor Foundation and Outdoor Nation, they will see if some of those conversations can generate actionable ideas.

“Partnering with the Outdoor Foundation and Outdoor Nation gives us the ability to not only talk about good ideas, but to make them happen,” Raines said. Last year, Outdoor Nation gave away $150,000 in activation grants and plans to double that total to $300,000 in 2012. One of the ways they plan to do that is by financing proposals that result from the Futurist Project. A minimum of $10,000 has been set aside by Outdoor Nation to fund projects from the Futurist Project as part of an effort to help Millenials (also known as the Facebook Generation or Generation Y) spearhead their own movements to get outdoors.

“I don’t want to prescribe or even influence the projects that come out,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of Outdoor Nation. “I hope young people will recognize the important role they play in the industry by engaging their peers.” Fanning has overseen Outdoor Nation since its 2010 launch by the Outdoor Foundation. With financial and moral support from groups such as The North Face and the REI Foundation, as well as other major outdoor brands like Merrell, Camelback, and SmartWool, Outdoor Nation has been working to boost young people’s efforts to engage their elusive demographic.

The reality is that the future of the outdoor industry depends on Millenials — yet engagement by young people has reached record lows. According to Fanning, possible reasons include a faster pace of life, overscheduling, increases in technology and urbanization.

Or maybe it’s not so much that young people don’t have time for the outdoors, but that they feel disengaged from the conversation. Maybe the best way to win them back into outdoors is to let them talk about the issues that pertain to them and lead initiatives so they can win over their peers.

Former Futurist Project participants are encouraged to nominate newcomers. Other nominees will be put forth by executives at brands, non-profits and agencies. Young adults who are doing cool and game-changing things in their space, or know of individuals who are, should email Collective@TheFuturistProject.org with their name, year of birth and a paragraph on why they should attend. The deadline for nominations is April 30, and invitations to the event will be mailed in mid- May. Companies interested in financially supporting the effort can contact cfanning@outdoorfoundation.org.

--Yoon Kim

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