Outward Bound (OB) is a non-profit experiential education organization that adapts outdoor activities to an educational context to develop character. Since its origin in 1941, the OB model has been successfully implemented in 35 countries. OB’s success in delivering educational programs across the globe is related to the facilitators’ abilities to adapt programming to the unique values and needs of the communities in which the programming is being offered. However, little is known about the ways in which character is conceptualized across these contexts or the way in which programming has been adapted to maintain cultural relevance. This study will capitalize on an established community of practice to advance our understanding of both the meaning of character and the ways in which different cultures promote its development. We seek to answer the following research questions:
1. How has character been conceptualized and defined across the 35 countries delivering OB?
2. How has the OB model been adapted to develop character across multiple countries and cultures?
Through a strong research-practice partnership, the research team will engage the OB global Community of Practice in multiple case studies. Results of this study will enable researchers to understand how character is conceptualized across countries and cultures, how varying conceptualizations of character influence the way character is promoted, and how character development programs maintain fidelity while also allowing space for culturally responsive adaptation.
This study will result in multiple professional development workshops, publications, and conference presentations in academic- and practitioner-facing venues. An improved understanding of the meaning of character and culturally responsive program adaptation will not only advance research but will also enable programs to better serve youth across a variety of communities, improving character development for countless youth across the globe.