If you’ve heard of Outdoor Nation, you probably have some idea of what the overarching mission is (to inspire and empower Millennials so they will lead their peers to get outdoors). But the “how” can be a bit confusing, especially if you’ve never had exposure to the organization itself. Yes, Outdoor Nation has a blog (this one) that is dedicated to the outdoor lifestyle, outdoor advocacy and outdoor news, but ON is pretty targeted in their methodology on how they are getting young folks outside.
The way they do so is by organizing summits – three types to be exact – each with similar missions, yet slightly different execution. During the summits, project ideas are brainstormed and hashed out into a business plan. Then they are “pitched” to the room of attendees and the best ideas get funded. Here is a breakdown of the three different kinds of summits.
The signature summits are large gatherings of pretty much, any Millennial who wants to participate. There’s no registration cost, they are held in major cities, and they bring in anywhere from 150-250 young folks. The format is pretty broad – there’s a schedule of events that basically engages young folks to talk about the barriers to getting outside. This year, Seattle, Chicago and Chapel Hill had Signature Summits (and standby for next year’s cities!).
ON-IT Summits are a smaller audience (50-75 Millennials) and while the mission is similar to a Signature Summit, the event is a bit more intensive – consider it a “training” event, that essentially, trains attendees on how to take an idea, get it funded, and make it sustainable. Some of the training topics include “how to get funding elsewhere” and “how to promote projects on social media,” or “how to write a business plan,” …you get the idea. These Summits are designed to be a second year experience after the Signature Summits (so in year one, Outdoor Nation will go into a city with a Signature Summit then go into that same city the next year with an ON-IT Summit). The participants are selected based on the leadership and execution skills that they demonstrate during the Signature Summits. This fall, the ON-IT summits are in Boston, Austin, and LA .
The OWN-IT Summits are new for 2013. They are the answer to the question: “how do we make sure our presence lasting in cities we’ve visited and how can we empower the awesome Millennials we met in those cities, to continue to champion the outdoors through Summits?” In the five cities where we’ve hosted both a Signature and ON-IT Summit, we have millennial leaders who showed exceptional interest in the ON mission and we are empowering them to host a smaller Summit. These Summits will all look and feel very different – definitely not a one size fits all – but they will typically have about 25-35 people and will be just a day long (half day for outdoor activity and a half day of conversation/discussion). These are essentially a mini-Summit (think TEDx) that is intended to be our way of replicating the larger summits. Hosts get a limited amount of money to put on the Summit (pay for a space, food, equipment if necessary) and a little more cash to go towards one project that will occur in the 6-9 months after the OWN-IT (just like the projects that get funded at the larger Summits).
One example of a project that came out of an OWN-IT Summit was the work of two Spelman/Morehouse students at the Atlanta Summit in 2012. These students approached Outdoor Nation and said, “We want to bring ON to our campus and get people talking about the outdoors and actually going outdoors because it’s something that’s lacking.” They are going to be hosting an OWN-IT this fall where they will engage their campus in this conversation though an interactive activities fair and then host a hike where they will continue the conversation. In most cases, the funded project would be something decided on at the Summit, but because theirs is just focused on their campuses, they’ve already decided that the money will go to starting an outdoors club/gear bank for their student bodies.
Hopefully this little guide has helped you distinguish between the events. Just to recap on the difference: Signature is for new cities and they are large. ON-IT is for second-year cities and they are smaller. OWN-IT are self organized and each one has its own local look and feel. Now, a recap of the similarities: all are designed to empower Millennials to lead their peers outside. All are geared toward some kind of funding component. All of them are free and all are a total blast. So what’re you waiting for?
With contributions from Yoon Kim