The art of experience facilitation: a combination of guiding, exploration, and learning

Working with people is one of the most satisfying occupations in the world, working with people in the outdoors is even more satisfying. Seeing people’s reactions when they find an experience pleasurable or enriching is priceless. Experiencing it when someone changes their thinking and or behaviour after an intentional intervention is even better. Being part of a process where you contributed to where a person’s newfound insights are impacting communities is more than encouraging!

The reward of appreciating adventurous endeavours in the outdoors is recognised but at the same time neglected. Not only is it an avenue to facilitate experiences in the outdoors, but also to use the methodology and spirit of outdoor adventure experiences in an indoor environment.

In South Africa, the outdoor and adventure industry is known for two main occupations.

The two occupations that combine people, the outdoors and adventure is Adventure Guiding (Tourism) and Adventure Related Experiential Learning Facilitation (Camp Facilitators). Some may argue that nature guiding is also part of this. 

Adventure guides are a specialist type of tour guide that works for companies that organise events and trips. They are also employed in recreational and tourism industries that offer once-off trips or events. Some adventure guides are freelance, and some are employed by one company. People attend these programmes to experience accomplishment while enjoying the scenery. Some travel with clients while others are situated only at one site. Both types of guides have similar basic qualifications. Normally adventure guides organize and conduct expeditions in the wilderness or operate a specific activity only (e.g. bungy jumping) for clients who want to have an extreme experience. Guides are occupied with both technical and relational skills.

The other occupation where adventurous experiences are facilitated in the outdoors is that of outdoor adventure learning facilitators. These are occupations that either specialise in working with youth or adult clients. People in these occupations are facilitating experiences where the core purpose is not only fun but also to change thinking and behaviour whether for educational, developmental or therapeutic applications. The objective is to structure intentional activities to reflect on and transfer the learning from the experience to real life, making it applicable to different situations away from the adventure experience. These people are working as either freelance facilitators or permanently employed at either a school campsite or a corporate team building provider. Some providers offer both these specialities. These facilitators will keep themselves busy with both the technical application of skills and interpersonal facilitation skills.

Both these occupations have the intent of presenting an experience, the one with the intent to offer pleasure and accomplishment (adventure guiding) and the other to offer thought and behavioural change (adventure-based learning). Both these occupations do address other outcomes also, but not as the primary intent of the experience.      

In South Africa (until now) the thinking was that adventure guides are more technically orientated and outdoor and adventure facilitators are more people orientated. This is a dangerous assumption as the lack of one focus may cause either physical or psychological injury. If an adventurous activity is not facilitated appropriately, a tourism client can experience serious trauma that jeopardises the way they perceive life. On the other side, a client on a team-building event or school camp can die if technical competence is not demonstrated.

The Adventure Institute has a mission to change this paradigm. Although these are two very unique focus areas with diverse clients, multiple similar knowledge areas will ensure a richer, safer experience for all. The qualifications packaged in the Adventure Institute’s three levels as well as the short courses are the first of their kind in South Africa (Africa). These knowledge areas are specifically designed to address people, technical, and enterprise focus areas. Students will enter the industry as well-rounded, legal, and competent practitioners with the capacity to contribute to, start, or sustain their businesses.

The passion and drive of the Adventure Institute are not to sell a product, but to serve an industry based on research and projection of current and future workplace skills. The Institute is aware that it will take a radical culture change (practice) to divert from the current paradigm of the South African Outdoor and Adventure fraternity to realise that the current system of “qualify for just enough not to get into trouble” will NOT contribute to a healthy and safe Outdoor and Adventure Industry. The sooner the diverse offering of the Adventure Institute is recognised as the benchmark the better!

With the Adventure Institute’s approach of adventure being a “state of mind” we have termed this inclusive science “experience facilitation”. This refers to the offering of an experience where the following factors are integrated; people, the outdoors, adventure, business, facilitation, instruction, competence, learning, development, therapeutic awareness, the environment, and safety. The approach teaches that you cannot have a rich experience if these factors (at varying levels) are not part of the equation.

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Adventure Institute

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