INSPIRED IMPACT™ is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of mission-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.
Beau Kiklis is the Business Alliance Organizer of the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance headquartered in Denver, CO. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and learn more at Conservationco.org/About-COBA.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
The Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance (COBA) is the business advocacy program of the state-based environmental advocacy organization, Conservation Colorado. With more than 185 members across the state, COBA is a strong, standing army of business owners and leaders who are ready and able to advocate for protecting and defending Colorado’s environment and public lands. Through COBA, business owners and leaders develop the necessary skills needed to become stronger advocates for themselves, their brands and within their networks.
By connecting our members, we are building a better, stronger community around the shared values of protected public lands, clean air and clean water for everyone. Our members engage in advocacy efforts ranging from earned media, phone calls, letters and meetings with decision makers, and lobby visits in Denver to Washington, D.C., to name a few!
Ultimately, we are building community over shared values, connecting like-minded business owners and leaders across the state, and empowering the business voice with our decision makers to create positive change for Colorado’s environment and people. By leveraging the organizational expertise of Conservation Colorado, we build innovative, sophisticated, stakeholder-driven conservation campaigns to fight for policies that protect and enhance our environment through state and federal action.
WHY DO YOU DO IT?
We love the outdoors – whether that be paddling whitewater in Brown’s Canyon, taking a stroll through City Park in Denver or down the Blue Heron Trail in Grand Junction, or taking a scenic drive on the million dollar highway in southwest Colorado – and we are all united by this one, simple shared value.
Together, we recognize the fundamental role public lands and a healthy environment play in sustaining everything that we value about Colorado: our public lands, clean air, and clean water. However, the reality is that much of Colorado’s natural environment is under threat, such as in Colorado’s North Fork Valley, where organic farmers are facing ongoing threats from oil and gas development. Furthermore, our communities of color and low-income communities are on the frontline dealing with unsafe levels of pollution every single day, breathing air that contributes to rising rates of asthma.
The Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance exists for the business owner or leader who shares these values and wants to advocate and take a stand alongside others. Whether that be joining to stand in solidarity, donating financial resources or taking on actions with our staff.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
– We’ve grown our membership from 0 to 185
– Protected more than 300,000 acres of Colorado’s public lands
– Passed a bill establishing Colorado Public Lands Day when efforts to seize our public lands were mounting
– Advanced an Xcel Energy proposal to expand their renewable energy portfolio to 60% in the next 10 years
– Played a critical role in Denver landing the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show
– Planned and hosted several events around the state, including several at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
In the 1950s, David Brower became the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and at this point in history, there was a growing support for dam building in the western US. One of the many proposed projects was on the Yampa River at Echo Park in northwest Colorado. Brower took this fight on and he became a wrecking crew with an incredible ability to organize a constituency.
In building a constituency for Echo Park, Brower . . .
– Got people out on the landscape and connected them to the place;
– Connected others through film, photography, and writing;
– Gathered stories from people, then had them write their congressperson
– Took those stories and the imagery, and lobbied on behalf of his constituency in Washington, D.C.
Brower’s efforts eventually proved successful, but he was quick to remind us that the work wasn’t done. He proclaimed that threats will never subside because even though the development was defeated, the resources people wanted to develop remained. So, really, the work never stops.
I share this story of David Brower and Echo Park because I find inspiration in it. Over 70 years ago, he connected people over a shared value, and 70 years later, it is still relevant to our work in 2018. While the issues may be slightly different, the approach and mindset are the same. Today is an incredibly exciting time to be working in business advocacy and to be a part of building a business constituency for Colorado’s environment.
WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our dream is for COBA to continue growing its membership and power with decision makers, and to be seen as the coalition for any business owner who shares our values. We want to be the leading force building greater sophistication among the Colorado business community, as it relates to environmental advocacy. Ultimately, we want to . . .
– Protect and advocate for public lands & wildlife
– Protect and advocate for our rivers and clean water
– Protect and advocate clean air and bold action on climate change
– And to protect and advocate for our those disenfranchised communities often on the frontline.
WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
We need three things:
1. People! Our power is in our numbers. We need more business owners and leaders coming to the table, joining COBA, getting active and organizing their networks.
2. Financial Resources! We rely on money from our donors and supporters to offer and run programs and to keep the fight alive.
3. Your Expertise! We all have unique abilities and skill sets that can help us win. Think about what you’re particularly skilled at and how it can help us. Maybe it’s marketing? Maybe you own a restaurant? An event space? Or maybe you’re a connector, a mover and a shaker? When we combine these areas of expertise, we become more and more efficient at advancing our mission together.
WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
One of the cornerstones of our work is building strong relationships with our members and their communities all across the state. Knowing that business owners and community leaders are busy people, it is critical that we are organized and coordinated across our campaigns to ensure that our asks are timely, urgent and well-intentioned, all in order to foster those relationships for the long term.
WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Remember your shared values. We don’t always have to agree, nor do we have to enjoy the same activities or even vote the same way, but we should always remember what unites us: public lands, clean air, clean water, and our communities. When we come to the table with these shared values and put some of our differences aside, we can accomplish anything.
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Not a business owner? Then find a friend who is, and tell them about us.
Don’t have any friends who are business owners? Consider making a financial contribution to Conservation Colorado or getting involved in our efforts at the grassroots level.
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