What’s on the horizon for Outward Bound Canada in 2023
Outward Bound Canada (OBC) has been providing life-changing outdoor experiences for youth and adults since 1969. We’re one of the oldest and most recognized outdoor education organisations in Canada. And we owe our longevity to the fact that we’re constantly adapting to provide our participants with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a rapidly-changing world.
After the tumultuous years since the 2020 pandemic and the increasing impact of the climate crisis, we’ve recognized that it’s time to adapt again. It’s our goal to remain at the forefront of educational and social innovation, and be important allies in helping Canada meet its educational and environmental commitments and goals for the future.
So in addition to running our high-impact programming for thousands of youth across Canada in 2023, here’s what we’ve planned for the year ahead.
What changes in OBC in 2023 and beyond
1) A more focused view of who we serve
The significant and potentially long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health and well-being is now well documented, and highlights the need for immediate action. Outdoor experiential education is proven to help youth build the resilience and social-emotional skills to cope with the challenges of recent years, and the worsening impacts of the climate emergency. (More about it in our position paper: Help Me Out – How Outdoor Education Impacts and Empowers Youth to Thrive)
In 2023, our programs and activities will be fully focused on helping youth improve their mental health, build environmental leadership skills and develop social-emotional competencies such as resilience and self-confidence to succeed in today’s world.
2) Making outdoor education more equitable and accessible
Although outdoor education is acknowledged to be more important than ever, the sector faces many difficulties that began before the pandemic – and are likely to worsen as the world braces for a recession.
Canada’s public education system has been buffeted by budget cuts, many of which impact students’ access to experiential outdoor learning opportunities. Add to this the affordability factor and you’ve got a barrier (albeit one of many) for the hundreds of thousands of young people who have little access to these opportunities if they aren’t provided through school.
As costs rise, families struggle to pay for basic needs such as food and rent. This makes it even harder to afford outdoor experiences – and turns these activities into something “extraordinary”, reserved for the wealthier. This has led to unequal access to outdoor education and prevents underserved youth – especially those from marginalised and vulnerable populations such as Indigenous and racialised people – from acquiring the skills to compete on an equal footing in the modern workforce and to learn how to be environmental stewards.
We think this is unfair. OBC, as a charity, strives for our programs to be “ordinary” and accessible, so that all youth can participate and benefit.
That’s why this year we’ll focus on developing strategic partnerships and starting conversations with different levels of government with the aim of bringing outdoor education to the forefront. We will also continue to build our community of private donors, foundations, and corporate partners so we can provide funded experiences for all youth that need support.
3) Leaning into our role in the fight against the climate emergency
At the COP15 Biodiversity Conference in December 2022, Canada agreed on a set of recommendations to be implemented by 2030 to halt and reverse the rapid global loss of biodiversity. This was the latest of several commitments the country has made to mitigate climate change – with a focus on improving education so people can make better environmental choices and contribute to conservation.
As a registered charity with extensive experience in outdoor education and in collaborating with other organisations on conservation projects, OBC can be an important ally in helping Canada meet its environmental commitments by giving youth the opportunity to benefit from experiential outdoor education. This is because our courses not only help them acquire critical social-emotional skills for their adult life, we also effectively influence young people’s perceptions, beliefs, and behaviours about protecting and managing the environment.
This year we’ll seek to expand our partnerships with other programs, communities and organisations to create reciprocal programs, such as working with conservation organisations to offer service learning projects during our courses. We’ll also work with other charities to address systemic issues in Canada – after all, education, health, and economic development are all closely linked.
4) Building our supporter network
We look forward to updating you throughout the year on our progress towards our goals, through our blog and newsletters. And if it’s within your means, please consider making a donation today to make our courses accessible to more youth across Canada.