Our founder, Kurt Hahn, was well-known for his stance on social justice - within his historical context. While the beginnings of Hahn's work and Outward Bound would not be considered inclusive by today's standards (for example, the first courses were created for boys and remnants of that patriarchal construct still exist), the principles of Outward Bound have withstood the test of time. Now, as new generations of alumni and school leadership continue to write Outward Bound's history, how we apply those principles continues to evolve.
The Outward Bound experience is teeming with exercises in communication, teamwork, and problem-solving - from technical aspects like route-finding to campfire discussions about our life experiences back home. These are all hands-on opportunities to explore the concepts of equity and inclusion. And in those experiences, diversity matters. Having participants from different backgrounds working together strengthens everyone's opportunity to learn.
We recognize that our community needs diverse perspectives and leadership and we acknowledge that we have struggled to attract and support racial diversity in our community. People of color and other marginalized identities often experience barriers in access and feeling welcome in the outdoors and the outdoor industry.
We understand the need for change within our organization and the outdoor industry as a whole. While it doesn't happen overnight, we are taking both long- and short-term actions to do our part.
Our Commitment to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
We believe there is a wealth of untapped potential in every individual. As such, our programs and actions must be relevant, responsive, and accountable to the places and people we serve. COBS recognizes that social injustices can impact all aspects of our lives, including outdoor engagement. We seek to ensure access for underrepresented youth and young adults to engage in transformational experiences through the outdoor classroom and strive to remove barriers to this access. This requires humility and a commitment to our own learning and growth as it relates to equity, inclusion and diversity.
To this end, we have made the following commitments to support our values of integrity, excellence, compassion, and equity, diversity, and inclusion:
Ensure culturally responsive and inclusive practices across our organization, including in our programs, services, and policies
Provide equitable access to our programs, to employment opportunities within our organization, and to vendor and contract opportunities
Promote equity in our organization and field
Serve students and prepare educators who reflect the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the region/s in which we operate
Be an authentic community partner
Be a growth-oriented organization
As we engage in this ongoing process and continue to refine our approach, we are using resources and support from partners and organizations like The Avarna Group to support us.
We strongly believe that removing financial barriers is an important step towards a more inclusive outdoor community. In 2019, we delivered 2,100 student program days for our 330 scholarship students from 26 partner schools and organizations.
We also believe that it's imperative to invest in the development of educators who reflect the socioeconomic and cultural diversity of the students in our communities. To this end, we have launched our Fellowship For Emerging Leaders program to create more opportunity for marginalized and underserved individuals to launch their career in the outdoor industry. We are also are updating our training to include mental health first aid and embedded themes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are continuing to grow this work as part of our ongoing accountability.
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