The Need: Describe the need for your solution and the size and characteristics of the community(ies) your solution is engaging
Today’s youth will face a number of environmental issues as they grow older including the inevitable effects of climate change and loss of habitat. Research shows that youth who develop strong connections to nature when they are young grow up to safeguard it in the future. If younger generations are not connected to their natural environment, it is unlikely that they will understand the importance of ensuring our planet remains healthy into the future.
Youth in communities all over B.C. are spending an unprecedented amount of time indoors rather than exploring their nearby natural environment. Most youth can identify more corporate logos than local wildlife. Barriers to spending time outdoors include cost, inaccessibility and fear of the unknown.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Get Outside BC is a collaborative project that strengthens youth attachment to B.C.’s environment by training and empowering young leaders from across the province. Forty 14-18 year olds take part each year and impact approximately 400 other youth in their communities. Since 2011, we have organized the project as an annual 3-phased program.
Every aspect of the program has authentic youth engagement at the forefront. Rather than telling the youth what to do and how to be a leader, the project is designed to enable the participants to discover their own sense of leadership and what it means in the context of connecting other youth to the outdoors.
There are many projects aimed at connecting youth to the outdoors, but very few offer follow-up engagement with their participants. Get Outside BC is innovative in the way that it is built around sustainability; we want to ensure that this group of leaders remains connected and continues to inspire other youth into the future.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include the primary activities involved in your solution.
Get Outside BC has three phases, which all contribute to its success as an effective and sustainable project.
Phase I: Outdoor Leadership Youth Summit
Forty youth, aged 14 to 18, from across the province come together in July for a 5-day outdoor youth leadership summit in Squamish, B.C. The summit includes a night camping nearby, hiking, leadership training, discussions with ‘green job mentors’ and other outdoor activities.
Phase II: Youth-Led Outdoor Events
After the Summit, the youth go back to their communities to plan and host their own outdoor events, to inspire other youth in their communities to get outside. The youth are eligible to receive $200 in funding from the project to fund their events. Examples of events include beach and park clean ups, outdoor concerts, and multi-day hiking trips. Some events have had 10 youth attend, others had over 100!
Phase III: Regional Reunions
In October, regional reunions are held throughout the province where the youth reunite in their regional groups to talk about and learn from one another’s events and plan for the future. Each of the reunions are connected via videoconferencing so the youth have a chance to connect with everyone once again.
Each of the communities where the youth's events take place benefit from the community building and the opportunities to connect to nature that the events provide. This increased connection will undoubtedly lead to communities that are more interested in safeguarding their environment and therefore the health of their citizens into the future.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others working to address the same needs as you and indicate what sets you apart from them.
Other outdoor leadership programs include the Robert Bateman Get to Know program and a nearby leadership program called LEAP. In the US, there is a program called Outdoor Nation.
What sets Get Outside BC apart lies in its collaborative nature, its youth-led approach and its sustainability as a project.
Get Outside BC is run collaboratively with other organizations; the project really benefits from the various strengths that each organization brings.
Get Outside BC empowers youth rather than informing them. The youth are able to form their own leadership style and execute their events to their liking.
The project is sustainable since the 40 youth form a network across the province that stay in touch, plan future events, and continue to plan ways to get other youth outside.