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AORE actively engages in the issues and policies that affect our membership and industry. As Executive Director, charged by the Board of Directors, my office is working to remove or lower the actual and perceived barriers that prevent our organization, our membership, and the outdoor industry from achieving success.
Our Work Now
We are all facing many challenges at this moment in time. AORE member programs and others in the outdoor industry are dealing with impacts from the change in federal administration, continued budget constraints, legal and insurance concerns around both human resources and outdoor activities. However, I want to celebrate our successes to address issues of common concern, particularly on items identified as priority by the membership and strategic directions from the board.
Shaping a Community of Adventure
The disparity in outdoor program availability and accessibility experienced by historically underrepresented populations requires a response from all of us; it requires action not only to invite and include, but action to address the systemic barriers that limit or prevent any person from engagement in outdoor recreation and education. Programs, other non-profits, and some for-profit entities outside our "normal" spheres are at present doing good work. The AORE board, staff, and committees have been working diligently to learn, understand, and support this amazing work that is already happening by developing strategic partnerships and exploring programs that will increase member awareness and resources. We have volunteers, staff, and members working to identify programs and organizations that can expand our breadth of knowledge and invite them to work alongside AORE providing tools, trainings, and educational programming for members as well as conference attendees. Our vision is for the entire AORE membership and organization to learn and grow through these connections and partnerships so that the opportunities for personal and community development through outdoor recreation and education continue to expand for everyone.
The data gathered from assessment and evaluation of member benefits and conference experiences continue to guide our decisions. The work of the Board in 2017 is focused on achieving eight SMART goals and all seven committees are receiving additional support, guidance, and leadership to achieve both conference and non-conference goals. Quarterly committee chair meetings and bi-monthly calls with committee leadership allow for increased volunteer and staff collaborations resulting in enhanced member and attendee experiences. To increase engagement and satisfaction in service to AORE, volunteers of every level including the BOD and committees are now on-boarded with a clear delineation of responsibilities and expectations. Recent committee celebrations include leadership identifying how to better transfer institutional knowledge, and in an effort to engage and hear from all levels of membership, each committee now has at least two student members which also supports a leadership development pipeline.
The Coalition for Outdoor Access (COA) - formerly known as the Outdoor Access Working Group (OAWG) - evolved from this challenge: Outdoor recreation, education programs, outfitters and guides provide people with opportunities to experience public lands in an exciting and sustainable way. Unfortunately, the recreation permit systems historically used by land management agencies have not adapted to meet the evolving needs of a wide range of user groups. This has resulted in unnecessary restrictions on the opportunities to enjoy public lands, thus undermining local economies and diminishing support for federal land funding.
AORE is a steering committee member of COA which means we present a unified member voice. AORE participation has also included significant member regional representation at the past four U.S. Forest Service/COA workshops which continues to ensure that AORE member concerns on access are voiced. We continue to work collaboratively with members of both the COA and the USFS to understand changes in the Chief's Guidance Letter and how that impacts member's ability to access the outdoor classroom.
Students Are Our Future
Working with a cadre of other organizations including Transforming Youth Outdoors, 21 Conservation Service Corps, National Park Service, Association for Experiential Education, and the University of New Hampshire, AORE is seeking to understand the staffing skills and needs of potential employers and the industry. To better serve our students, and support emerging leaders in this sector, we continue to develop and deploy current and actionable materials, advice, and resources to empower student members. Committees and strategic partners are providing resources so members have the requisite skills and knowledge to not only pursue their outdoor career but make a lasting and positive impact on those they lead.
While AORE's SMART goals are lofty and will impact members and member programs over time, it is the collective action of members that will ultimately create the change in our industry and for those we serve. What can you do to participate and further these initiatives? What are the ways that you can positively impact the industry?
AORE member programs are increasingly becoming more aware of diversity, equity, and inclusion and effective strategies to engage the culture and change the composition of their programs and program offerings. Have you identified ways your program can be more inclusive in 2017?
If you see it, participate in it! Respond to membership and attendee surveys, projects, and evaluations. This allows us to understand our member demographics and identify areas for growth as well as identify disparity.
Encourage other members to reach out to not only underrepresented populations, but other groups, individuals, and colleagues who may benefit from the JOREL, the conference, or other AORE resources. This further expands our reach and network resulting in more robust conversations, resources, and opportunities.
AORE member programs now have more and timely information relative to land access and permitting process. With better understanding of the issues, increased participation in regional workshops, and gathering survey feedback, our voices are unified to improve the challenging system of public land access. Consider participating in the American Alpine Club and AORE team project.
Understanding the disparity between employer's needs and the skills that students emerging from member programs allows AORE to develop initiatives for students to expand their skills and identify areas for them to grow. How can you support and mentor your staff and students to invest in themselves and craft their professional development path?
As Executive Director, I thank you for your dedication to advancing yourself and your professional development which directly impacts those that you lead and introduce to outdoor recreation and education. Together, we continue to maximize our efforts for our membership, while moving the needle for the entire industry.
Jeannette Stawski, CAE
Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education