The 2015 Gathering for Conservation conference hosted by the Network and OACD was well attended and well regarded. Similarly, CONNECT has been going strong since 2009, and has become a great event for district and council staff who want to focus on technical training. Both CONNECT and The Gathering have received overwhelmingly positive feedback along with suggestions for improvement.
One frequent question asks why there are two conferences every year. Between The Gathering in fall and CONNECT in the spring, many people find themselves having to choose where to spend their limited time and budget.
Planning and delivering multiple conferences a year is taxing and affects other important association work. Partnering on these events makes the most sense, and we feel the impact of fewer conferences with broader participation will be much greater.
NOWC, OACD, COLT, and OCEAN are entering a planning process together to identify opportunities for districts, councils and land trusts to collaborate. As a result of these preliminary discussions, the Partnership Boards have agreed to initiate a new conference schedule to deliver one quality conference per year. The concept is one that we are excited about and we feel will meet the needs of all involved.
As such, CONNECT 2016 this April at Salishan is the technical forum we want to encourage council, district, and land trust employees to attend this year. For 2017, we are planning another large conference for board members, employees, and partners and are working on the details as you receive this news.
We are planning annual business meetings for both OACD and NOWC for fall 2016. These meetings will focus on the work of the associations with little if any additional conference-like programming. In years where there is no Gathering conference, such as 2016, we are likely to hold separate business meetings.
Here are descriptions of our proposed future conferences and what you can expect to see moving forward:
The Gathering will move to an every other year event focused on bringing board members, staff, and partners to the table together, much like it has in the past. The main difference will be that the technical portion of the Gathering will be a slightly modified version of CONNECT. Where there was only one track at The Gathering in 2015 dedicated to technical topics, there may be as many as three in the new format. Couple that with an already significant administrative and policy oriented program and you have an event with something for everyone.
CONNECT will then bring training to staff in the years between Gatherings, focused only on technical topics. It will continue to be a conference focused on building skills and relationships at the implementation level of our organizations. We will continue to offer relevant and important training to council, district and land trust staff who deliver the conservation programs in their communities.
We feel this alternating schedule provides the best approach to meet both attendee and planner needs. It helps us leverage our members and partners to become involved without overtaxing them. We will continue to keep you appraised of our progress in moving to this format.
In an attempt to keep The Gathering from interfering with the larger legislative session in odd years, our structure will work to have Gatherings in even years and CONNECT in odd years. In order to make this work, we will have back to back events in 2017 and 2018 that will function much like the Gathering will in the future. Starting in 2018, we will be on the proposed schedule.
We hope you are as excited about this change as we are, and look forward to even stronger conference offerings in the years to come. Thanks for your continued strong support of the Oregon Conservation Partnership.