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.
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. People’s expectations of themselves and other people are challenged. New alliances are forged, experiences shared and futures are shaped.
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. Please read on to find out why – and to see the evidence.
What difference are we trying to make?
Our interest is in the development of skills for life and in areas of psychological impact, which underpin the ability of young people to take control of their lives and identify and achieve their ambitions:
- Positive inspiration
- Self-reflection / development of decision-making and values / leadership
- Resilience / mental toughness / ‘grit’*
- Challenging high-risk behaviours
*Grit can be defined as consistency of effort and perseverance. Mental toughness can be defined as challenge, commitment, confidence and control.
How do we measure the impact of our work?
The impact of our programmes on each young person is assessed using My Compass, which 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.
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 or skill. There are eight development areas:
Making decisions that matter; Managing my feelings; Staying on track; Communication; Problem solving; People and me; Confidence; The world and me.
We help disadvantaged young people progress into education, training and employment
The programme for which we have the most evidence of impact is Dangoor Next Generation. The Young Explorers who join this programme through referrals from youth workers are extremely vulnerable and face very particular and often high-risk behavioural challenges.
- 74% have declared mental health issues
- 1 in 10 are receiving intensive support from drugs workers
Our record of success with these Young Explorers is particularly strong, with 96% moving immediately into employment, education or further training.
We influence values and behaviours
A number of studies by P. Allison in 1999 (3) 2000 (4) and 2005 (5) have found that our expeditions produce profound emotional responses. A period of post-expedition adjustment indicated by all participants was synonymous with “changes or examination of values during the expedition experience.”
A study of a British Exploring Society expedition in 2003 (8) demonstrated significant changes pre and post-expedition in key positive behaviours such as setting priorities, achieving goals, and solving problems efficiently. These behaviours remain core desired outcomes for us.
We develop mental toughness, leadership skills and grit
A major empirical survey (9) of nine British Exploring Society expeditions completed in 2015 showed statistically significant improvements and positive effects in mental toughness, leadership skills and grit.
The research used pre, post and a later 3-month quantitative and qualitative methods of collecting data from 415 surveys.
“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.”
We support the transition into adulthood
“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.”
Research (6) indicates the development not just of a sense of autonomy, self-confidence and empowerment or agency among Young Explorers, but of changes to the way they interact with others – demonstrating improved judgement and greater tolerance.
We believe our programmes have life-long impact
While capturing longitudinal evidence remains a challenge, we are working to better understand the long term benefits of our work. To this end, we are two years into a qualitative research project with Penn State University. They are working with individuals who went on expedition with us 20, 30 and 40 years ago to see what impact this experience has had on their adult lives.
(3) P. Allison Post Residential Syndrome – research from the Ground Up. 1999 Brathay Hall Trust; (4) P. Allison Post Residential Adjustment – research from the Ground Up. 2000 Brathay Hall Trust; (5) P. Allison Post-expedition Adjustment – What Empirical Data Suggests? 2005; (6) P.Allison, J. D. Davis-Berman Changes in Latitude, changes in attitude: analysis of the effects of reverse culture shock – a study of students returning from youth expeditions. 2011 Routledge; (7) A.Kennedy The expedition experience as a vehicle for change in the Inner City. Penrith: 1992 Adventure Education; (8) T.Stott, N.Hall Changes in Aspects of students’ self-reported personal, social and technical skills during a six week wilderness expedition in arctic Greenland. 2003 Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning; (9) P.Allison, R.Martindale, T.Stott, C. Nash, S. Gray, J.Wang Personal Development through Expeditions Final Report 2015