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An Evaluation of Youth Outside’s Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI)


Youth Outside strives to ensure that the lived experiences of all youth are honored as part of the outdoor experience. In service of this goal, in 2012 Youth Outside began OEI as a development program to empower young adults (ages 18–24) from underrepresented communities to become outdoor leaders, and to foster greater inclusion and culturally relevant leadership within the outdoor education, recreation, and environmental field.

Our evaluation of OEI explored its impact on equity in outdoor leadership and employment, and inclusive outdoor programming and operations. We learned that OEI has successfully increased outdoor and leadership skills and comfort among the racially, ethnically, gender, income, and sexually diverse group of trainees and graduates. Salient strengths of the program included a strong training and curriculum, promising network-building capacities, and a growing capacity of organizational partners to recruit and engage underrepresented youth and communities.

In evaluating OEI, we also found that OEI’s emerging leaders, predominately people of color, continued to face significant barriers in accessing leadership opportunities in the outdoor education field, despite having grown in leadership skills. Through our work with Youth Outside, we surfaced a prime example of the two-sidedness of inclusive leadership: growing individuals’ capabilities and at the same time needing to assess and shift the structural and cultural contexts in which they work.