Youth Outside

July 13, 2018

In these last few posts, we are providing additional resources for recreation programmers and administrators by sharing a few online recreation platforms and resources from leading organizations within the field. In the previous post, we highlighted OPEN Space, the official blog of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). This publication focuses on topics such as outdoor recreation, physical activity and health and wellness.

In this post, we are focusing on a relatively new organization—Youth Outside which was founded in 2010 in Oakland, California as the Foundation for Youth Investment. It was started through a $10.7 million grant from the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council as the result of a legal settlement. The expectation is that funds are distributed throughout northern and central California in support of outdoor and environmental programming for youth.

In 2015, the Foundation changed its name to Youth Outside, which more accurately represents the organization’s work to ensure that youth who have been traditionally or historically underrepresented in the outdoor movement have the opportunity to connect with the outdoors in culturally relevant and inclusive ways by eliminating barriers that could hold them back.

For example, they support organizations that remove logistical barriers that keep many youth from getting outside such as transportation, gear and program costs. But they also work to remove systemic barriers that are connected to dominant culture, institutions, and power dynamics. For example, youth who are traditionally underrepresented in outdoor spaces can feel unwelcome and discriminated against in nature. They rarely see their identities reflected in the people working in the outdoors or find signs in anything other than English. To truly connect with nature, these young people must interact with people who look like them, come from similar backgrounds and speak similar languages when they participate in outdoor programs.

Youth Outside accomplishes their mission through a variety of approaches:

  • They make grants to organizations who are working to remove these logistical and systemic barriers. For example, they’ve helped provide funding for field trips with an environmental focus for over 100,000 youth.
  • They provide a variety of training & capacity-building programs designed to support individuals in the building of the skills and confidence that they need to be leaders and educators in the outdoor field. They also engage organizations in recognizing and removing barriers within their own cultures and systems. One of their programs, the Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI), focuses on increasing the number of outdoor educators from a wider range of racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. This workforce development program weaves opportunities for young adults to learn outdoor skills such as backpacking, sea kayaking and rock-climbing with conversations around the need for equity, inclusion and cultural relevancy in current and future workplaces. The NRF supports Youth Outside’s OEI program, and its initiative this year (2018) to empower and advance young women from communities of color in the outdoor recreation field by hosting an all-female student cohort this year.
  • They are also committed to asking the hard questions and facilitating the difficult conversations needed to drive broader change across the outdoor field. The organization recently began a blog titled #DifficultTerrain which focuses on topics of equity and inclusion in outdoor education and outdoor recreation. This recently launched blog will provide salient information on these complex topics in the future.

Check out the Youth Outside website to further explore this organization and the work they are doing to help as many youth as possible have meaningful outdoor recreation experiences.

Youth Outside graphic