Cellphones are shut off. The tweets have stopped streaming out. It’s a Wednesday night in January, and 60 young “influencers” have gathered to talk. The setting, a café in downtown Salt Lake City, serves as a discussion room for the Futurists, an ambitiously-named, invite-only group of twenty-somethings (and a few in their 30s) charged with visualizing the future of the outdoor world.
“We are committed to the outdoor industry and want to have a voice in its future direction,” said Stasia Raines, one of the group’s founders.
Raines and cofounder Deanna Lloyd organize the Futurist meetings in conjunction with the twice-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show in Utah. It kicked off last winter with 17 attendees but ballooned to more than 50 people in August who met in the upper room of a brew pub near the convention hall.
I attended the January meeting this year along with gear designers, marketers, athletes, other journalists, and environmental activists from around the U.S. Despite the social atmosphere and free food, the Futurist meetings are not networking events. Business cards are banned during the discussion times.
Instead, for two hours the group is focused on conversation and the sharing of ideas. Raines and Lloyd moderate. You share ideas and move table to table, talking through a list of questions and topics with a diverse group of young go-getters who otherwise would rarely be in the same space.
“It pulls down professional barriers,” said Yoon Kim, the founder of startup media company Blogs for Brands. “By guiding the topic of conversation, the setting requires all parties to be a bit vulnerable. There’s a trust factor that is built from that process.”
Kim received a grant for a media project via a relationship he built during a Futurist meeting. “The group has introduced me to folks who were more willing to give me one-on-one time because we’ve developed that trust factor by sharing common goals and visions,” he noted.
Raines and Lloyd are currently planning the fourth Futurist meeting for this summer. The group, which gets support from The Outdoor Foundation and the Outdoor Industry Association, has ambitious goals and the ear of a small but influential segment of the outdoor world. We talked to Raines for a few more details on the future direction and current state of the Futurist group. —Amy Oberbroeckling
Describe the Futurist Project in one sentence.
We are a collection of people who come together to try and thoughtfully shape the future of the outdoor industry.
Who is a candidate for the group?
Our goal is to continue seeking out young “up and coming” leaders in the industry. We hope to attract those that share a commitment and passion for the outdoors. We want them to have a voice in the industry’s future direction.
What causes and issues do Futurists see as being most pressing?
A huge topic of conversation right now is accessibility to the outdoors and accessibility to the outdoors industry. We realize that the average outdoorsman is not necessarily the same person we are seeing on the Outdoor Retailer show floor. We want to make the outdoors more accessible to everyone.
What issues do you hope to discuss at the next Futurist meeting?
We let the group determine direction at our gatherings, and the specific issues we address will be up to who attends. We are building the plane as we fly it.
What effect do you hope to see five years from now from this group?
We would like to see the project be a go-to resource for providing the outdoor industry with information from our community. Eventually, these meetings can become a place where future industry leaders get together, collaborate, and find even more ways to contribute. This group is a place where young folks in the industry can grow and mature together as they share and elaborate on common ideas and goals.
—Amy Oberbroeckling is an assistant editor. Contact Outdoor Nation for more information on the Futurist group.