British Exploring Society is an authority on transformational youth development through expeditions to remote locations.
On expedition, everyone is out of their comfort zone and that’s a great leveller. Young people’s expectations of themselves and others are challenged. New alliances are forged, experiences shared and futures are shaped.
Our Young Explorers come from a wide variety of backgrounds; from communities facing high levels of economic and social deprivation and from those where expectations of personal and professional success are high. Often, these people would never cross paths in any other way. With us, they rub shoulders and exchange ideas in tents and canoes, up mountains and in the jungle.
Our work is transformational for everyone who participates, Leaders as well as Young Explorers. We also believe that wider society benefits from the adventurous, resilient, adaptable team players we help to create.
What do we measure and why?
We are interested in the development of knowledge and character attributes as well as the acquisition of skills. In our impact assessment, we do not place emphasis on capturing evidence of knowledge acquired as this is such an individual experience – except where it affects behaviours.
We have a strong intrapersonal focus in our work. We use an introspective tool, ‘My Compass’, which focuses on self-efficacy. It is our version of a well-established impact measurement tool, the outcomes star (originally funded by the Big Lottery), adapted for our programmes since 2017. It focuses our Explorers on the development of confidence, self-awareness, mindfulness, taking ownership and responsibility in one’s own life, finding value in connecting and learning and being challenged. It develops independence and self-governance. We believe these attributes are essential for wellbeing and living a healthy balanced and fulfilling life.
In addition to assessing the impact of our work to understand how well our all programmes are working, we also work with external research organisations to understand the longer-term impact of our programmes.
My Compass measures the degree to which young people have developed attributes and skills during their programme with us. It is used as a tool for reflective conversation with Leaders, encouraging Young Explorers to think about what they hope to learn with us to and to set goals for themselves.
My Compass allows each Young Explorer to set goals and self-evaluate their progress along their journey with us. Each point of My Compass represents an area of learning.
We collect evidence and feedback from Young Explorers and Leaders throughout our programmes. On average, we see progress in skills and ability in all areas measured across all our programmes.
In 2022, 74% of young people felt that My Compass helped them to reflect on the skills they were developing on expedition. 63% of our Young Explorers this year told us that they felt they had improved in making decisions that matter.
"One of the reasons I went on expedition was to prove to myself that I can do the things that at first glance I feel like I wouldn’t be able to. I like to take going up the mountain really literally - many times I’ve heard that 'problems are like climbing a mountain' and there is something so rewarding and freeing knowing I’ve actually done that!"
Grace - Young Explorer, Dangoor Next Generation Iceland 2022
"Challenging myself to go on an expedition was the best thing I could have done at this stage in my life. The expedition, and everything that led up to it, was an incredibly rewarding, and life-affirming experience. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent such an extraordinary three weeks with a truly brilliant group of people, who I hope to stay in contact with and hopefully go on more adventures with in future."
Izzy - Young Explorer, Canadian Yukon 2022
"After the expedition I really do feel that I have a greater sense of self-confidence. The expedition has made me happy with who I am and confirmed the journey I want to embark on. I felt as though I could see my goals more clearly making me want to go on more expeditions in the future. On top of this I am even engaged in geographical dilemmas facing the world, which has made me more motivated to succeed in my studies and pursue a Geography degree."
Nye - Young Explorer, Hartz Scottish Explorers 2022
“Things changed for me this summer and my life was transformed when I found the inner strength to ignore the negativity of bullies and overcome my self-doubt and anxiety, to put myself forward and join the awe-inspiring, mixed ability, month-long Dangoor Infinity sea and land expedition of self-discovery to Iceland.”
Joshua Hopkins Young Explorer Dangoor Infinity 2019
“We’ve embraced others, ourselves, but finally the stunning nature that has submerged us these last three weeks. Seeing the complete wilderness of this beautiful landscape has revealed… the little things can have such a big impact, which can be easily ignored when living in a fast-paced city… [it] has inspired us all to change our ways to conserve the wonderful world we live in.”
Kyle Mills Young Explorer Dangoor Next Generation 2019
“My life goals became a lot clearer and I understand myself a lot more now. I know that in the future wherever I go and whatever I am doing this experience will still be holding a positive influence on my mindset. At the start of this expedition I was in the middle of nowhere with a large group of strangers, at the end I was in an amazing place with friends I now have for life.”
Young Explorer Ilayda, Canadian Yukon 2019
Penn State University researchers interviewed Explorers who went on expedition with us over 20 years ago to see what impact this experience has had on their adult lives. “This study provides evidence that these long-term influences of expedition experiences can be long-lasting and significant in participants’ lives.” (Ramírez Cañas, 2019)
Studies have found that our expeditions produce profound emotional responses. A period of post-expedition adjustment indicated by all participants indicated “changes or examination of values during the expedition experience.” (Allison et al., 2011)
A study on our Greenland 2003 expedition showed significant changes in positive behaviours such as setting priorities, achieving goals, and solving problems efficiently. These behaviours remain core desired outcomes for us. (Stott & Hall, 2003)
“Leadership appeared to increase through the expedition and then remain stable, and the application of coping strategies appeared to keep increasing over time.” (Allison et al., 2018)
“Overall it is reasonable to conclude from the evidence that the expedition experiences offered by British Exploring Society are consistent – it does not matter which year you go and where you go – the benefits reported are consistent.” (Allison et al., 2015)
“Expedition participants frequently talked about using their experience on the expedition to direct their lives as they adapted to post-expedition life. This often translated into important decisions about future careers and education.” (Allison, Davis-Berman & Berman, 2015)