CONNECT 2015: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

by Jason Faucera

It never ceases to amaze me how much work goes into planning the CONNECT conference. There are so many moving parts, yet every year we are able to put together a fantastic event. The best part about helping to plan an event like CONNECT is that you get to see it from both sides as organizer and attendee. You get to see the fun people are having and the networking and learning that is occurring at the event and know that your efforts are valued and appreciated.

It is similar in conservation planning when we ask a landowner to contribute, either in cash or time, to their on-the-ground projects. People tend to place higher value on things that they are invested in creating. For those who helped in any way to make CONNECT happen, whether simply manning the front desk or not so simply leading a track, I hope you are proud of what you helped to create. We all get to share in the success of CONNECT.

I heard some interesting comments this year that were surprising, but made more sense after I thought about them. I heard from multiple people at the conference that based on the draft schedule they considered not attending CONNECT. I was a little disappointed until they finished what they had to say. In each of those cases they followed up by saying that they were really glad they decided to come regardless of their early thoughts on the program because in each of the sessions they attended they were pleasantly surprised by how much they learned.

There could be a multitude of reasons for their early feeling about the program, some of which we can address, and some of which are just a function of presenting an annual event that tries to meet the needs of 150 people. Regardless, we are confident that there really is something for everyone at CONNECT because is being developed by our counterparts in conservation throughout the state. They are organizing and presenting the sessions that they want to see to make them better at what they do and trying hard to make sure it does the same for those in attendance. Couple that with the opportunities to make new connections, meet new people in the state, or just catch up with folks you already know and you have a recipe for success.

Watershed Councils again were integral in planning this year’s event and we are glad to have them be a part of CONNECT. There really is a natural overlap between the work of Councils and Districts that adds a lot of value to CONNECT, not only in terms of diversifying the training content, but in bringing different perspectives to our conversations. Districts and Watershed Councils fill their own distinct places in the conservation community, but they also have plenty in common. Throughout CONNECT, those similarities help to break the ice and provide a bridge to more meaningful conversations about how to get more done together without sacrificing the qualities that make us who we are.

The amount of time and planning that goes into CONNECT is immense. If you get a chance to thank anyone on the planning team, please do so. I want to especially thank Cynthia Warnock, Shilah Olson, Lisa Mahon, Teresa Matteson, and Judy Marsh for all of their hard work. These folks were the backbone of CONNECT 2015 and once again delivered beyond expectations.

Thank you to our track leaders; Jennifer Nelson, Lisa Kilders, Jenne Reische, Jeremy Baker, Ryan Gordon, Melyssa Graeper, Shilah Olson, and Tom Salzer who created a diverse and fantastic program.

Also, thanks to our sponsors who are fantastic and help us keep CONNECT affordable. Please be sure to visit the sponsors page to see who supports the work of District and Watershed Councils, and if you are in their vicinity, please be sure to thank them for their contribution.

While the weather was only mildly less cooperative, The Resort at Welches once again delivered a great experience for attendees. They are a pleasure to work with and really bent over backwards to make sure all of our needs were addressed.

Finally, thanks to all of those who attended CONNECT this year. You all are the people portion of the program and the ones who make CONNECT what it is: An event that enhances local restoration efforts throughout the State of Oregon and celebrates the people who make it happen.