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2023 Blue Sky Funders Forum, Annual Conference Highlights

The Blue Sky Funders Forum (BSFF) is a funder collaborative that exists to inspire and increase philanthropic investments and the community of funders supporting equitable access to meaningful outdoor experiences and connections to nature. Held annually, this year’s events were designed in collaboration with the Outdoor Kids Alliance (OAK), a national strategic partnership of more than 100 businesses and nonprofit organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in connecting children, youth and families with the outdoors.

In my role as a program officer at TRFF working to support environmental education efforts in our region, and as a board member of the BSFF, I was pleased to participate in this year’s annual conference. The event had multiple layers of engagement with youth, community leaders, government agents, and funders with the goals to have authentic and meaningful connections with each other, align on the current needs of the field, learn about the possibilities of cocreating strategies with youth and map out individual and collective actions.

During the conference, youth leaders in the OAK community engaged participants by sharing their thoughts on closing the nature gap, followed by a panel of community leaders discussing the importance of expanding outdoor equity for all. Both panels talked about having authentic engagement practices, resources, and support for leaders doing this work. At the end of day one, we were honored to hear remarks from Secretary Deb Haaland of the Department of the Interior about the importance of equitable access to nature and fostering the next generation of land stewards.


Photo Source: Department of the Interior


Photo Source: Department of the Interior

The second day was focused on celebrating accomplishments of BSFF by sharing stories of success followed by strategy discussions that will help the continued evolution of BSFF and its partners to have aligned strategies and a vision for the future.

As always, the BSFF was a powerful and inspiring event that brought together a diverse group of people committed to making a difference in the lives of children, youth, and families. The event highlighted the importance of equitable access to nature and the need for continued investment in this work. My key takeaways are:

  • The importance of authentic engagement with youth and community leaders in the work of equitable access to nature.
  • The need for resources and support for leaders doing this work.
  • The commitment of funders to continue investing in equitable access to nature.
  • The vision for a future where all people have the opportunity to experience the benefits of nature.

I am looking forward for The Russell Family Foundation’s continued commitment to support youth in our region and apply some of the learnings from this event to our future strategic work in environmental education.