This month we’ve spoken to CEO of British Exploring Society, Honor Wilson-Fletcher who explains the work of BES.

What do you/your organisation do?

I’m the CEO of British Exploring Society.

We deliver learning through exploration in wild and remote locations to young people.  We’ve been doing this, on every continent, since 1932.

We want all young people to have equal access to challenging, life-defining learning and adventure in wild, remote locations as an essential preparation for a confident adult life – so we’re working hard to make our work available to an increasingly diverse group of young explorers.  Our focus is on small-scale, high-impact work and our community of explorers now represents a cross section of young people from a wide and inclusive range of communities and experiences of adolescence.  We work with young people in foster care, leaving care, and those living with disabilities.  This year, 13% of our explorers describe themselves as disabled, 23% as from BAME communities, and over 65% will have joined us from severely disadvantaged communities – and the majority of our places are fully or substantially subsidised.  The ratio of Leaders to young people is 1:3 – and all those leaders are professional volunteers.

How long have you been an AIM Member?

We joined AIM in 2012.

What’s the best part of your job?

Where to start?  I genuinely think I have one of the best jobs ever. I work with incredibly upbeat and able colleagues, our Leaders are utterly inspiring, the young people we work with are brave, hilarious, awe-inspiring and endlessly surprising…and our donors and supporters are some of the very best, too.

What issues do you think the industry faces this year?

That’s a big question. I think we’re very focused on understanding the rapidly changing needs of our small audience.  I would be nervous about claiming to know what issues the rest of the industry faces – but I’d venture everyone might be tackling more mental health issues?  I’d be interested to know if others might identify a growing cultural shift in parental anxiety as a future problem, too?

What benefits have you gained from being an AIM Member?

Knowledge is power.  Sharing experiences and working as a co-operative community is always good. AIM has some great professionals alongside – and we have asked them some very taxing questions.  (thank-you for your patience, Liz..!)

What exciting projects do you have lined up for the future?  

Because of the work we have been doing to modernise the organisation we’re keeping an eye on our strategy.  We’ve refreshed it recently, with a review called Firm Footing.  We have been in operation for long enough to witness, document and adapt to significant changes in the needs and aspirations of young people – and in approaches to parenting, education and in public attitudes towards challenge and risk.  Working with young people with very diverse experiences of life has provided infinite rewards for us and driven rapid change in the organisation – but it’s also keeping us on our toes.  We’re increasing our UK-based expedition programmes with Scottish adventures planned in the Spring, Summer and Autumn of 2020 – and ongoing. In March 2021 we’ll send a small and challenging programme for promising young leaders with some expedition experience off to Siberia, and Lake Baikal.

What’s your favourite activity?

As this is an AIM questionnaire I am assuming you mean ‘outdoor’ activity? I love alpine walking. I run a bit – but nothing too dramatic. Being somewhere remote and beautiful is my favourite thing.

What activity do you want to try?

It’s more a case of what skills I might need to acquire to enjoy a remote place properly rather than activities for their own sake to be honest….although I’d quite like to learn a lot more about huskies and dog sleds….(entirely for research purposes of course – we’ve talked often about the idea of running dog-supported expeditions….).

Thank you to Honor for providing us with such a great interview

You can read about some of our other member’s here:-

The Climbing Hangar – Member Profile

Hebridean Pursuits – Member Profile

Birch Hall Adventures – Member Profile

Releasing Potential – Member Profile