Youth taking a moment of rest and reflection on an overnight backpacking trip with an OEN member organization.

Youth enjoying an overnight backpacking trip with an OEN member organization.

OEN helps member organizations secure outdoor gear to ensure that youth are safe, warm, and dry on all their trips.

Youth at a river crossing on a day hike with an OEN member organization.

An example of an OEN member organization’s gear library. Each library is set up differently depending on the needs of their community.

An outdoor leadership training at one of OEN’s member’s campsite-based programs.

Keynote speaker, Autumn Saxon-Ross at OEN’s 5th annual National Summit in 2019. 

Outdoors Empowered Network
2018 – $10,000 Grant for Capacity Building
2017 – $10,000 General Support
2016 – $5,000 General Support
2015 – $7,500 General Support
2014 – $10,000 General Support

Outdoors Empowered Network is a national network of community-led, youth-centered outdoor education groups that are dedicated to increasing access and diversity in the outdoors through gear libraries and outdoor leadership training.

OEN’s member organizations support access to outdoor adventures for tens of thousands of youth each year. Members partner with youth service agencies, schools, and other youth-centered groups to make transformative outdoor experiences through these core programs:  

  • Gear Libraries – Members reduce one of the biggest barriers to getting outside—cost of gear—by curating and providing access to outdoor equipment libraries that cater to schools, youth service organizations, and families. Gear libraries can look different in different communities, using a wide array of partnerships.
  • Outdoor Leadership Training – Members provide experiential, skills-based trainings for teachers and youth workers in their regions so they are empowered to take youth outdoors on their own. For every adult trained, 20+ youth get a chance to experience the power of nature and the outdoors. For many young people, this is the first time they’ll see the Milky Way, hear a rushing waterfall, or experience an environment free of the urban cacophony of horns, sirens, and cell phones. Nature-based experiences change lives.
  • Community Support – Members often provide mini-grants, transportation subsidies, and connections through social media and listservs. Some also provide campgrounds, simplifying the preparations required for teachers and youth mentors as they plan their trips.

Being part of OEN gives members the opportunity to build networks, share best practices, fundraise for gear, and see the national impact of collective work. The core “train and support” program model brings together a wide variety of members, all working together to bring equity and access to the outdoors. 

Outdoors Empowered Network supports members in the following ways:

  • Outdoor Gear Acquisition – Our members are responsible for twenty gear libraries throughout the United States, reducing one of the biggest barriers to access for hundreds of thousands of young people. Outdoors Empowered Network supports these gear libraries through fundraising for in-kind and monetary donations, bulk purchases, and programmatic design.
  • Member Support – From designing new programming to applying for grants, running an outdoor education organization can involve a lot of hard and lonely work. OEN staff works hard to create connections, problem-solve, and support new program design.
  • Professional Community – From monthly calls to ad hoc virtual meet-ups to our annual  Summit, OEN cultivates a professional community for outdoor educators and administrators. Our network model gives members a community to work with as they explore new ideas, develop programming and best practices, and face inevitable challenges.
  • Thought Leadership – We support conversations about issues like diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors by bringing in external thought leaders and facilitating conversations among our members. Our annual Summit is a highlight of these ongoing opportunities for growth and leadership.

Member programs are at the heart of the work of Outdoors Empowered Network. Together, the network is working to increase our collective impact on the world, and create equitable access to nature.