Beyond Horizons Knowledge Exchange in Norway + France

The Erasmus+ project Beyond Horizons envisions an outdoor sports sector that is ‘welcoming and engaging’ to vulnerable youth. At POW we want to share and foster positive transformation in these groups, and to do that, we need to get a lay of the land. That’s where our knowledge exchanges come in.

The objectives of these exchanges are to:

1. To detail the barriers that vulnerable youth may experience.
2. To uncover the best practices of welcoming and engaging those youth in outdoor sports.
3. To have some fun doing outdoor activities ourselves.

In April, POW had the honor of being hosted by Nord-Troms friluftsråd, a Beyond Horizon partner, for a week in Alta, Norway. Over the 7 days, partners flowed from expert presentations to cold outside activities. The Erasmus+ project is great at bringing together various individuals across Europe to try new things. For example, in Norway, everyone tried Nordic skiing, ice fishing with a “Friluftsgruppa”, an organisation that facilitates different activities each week for those with a disability, and also dog sledding.

When not outside, experts gave presentations or hosted workshops for us to think about the core question of the Beyond Horizons Project. While every talk was interesting, Nicole (POW Sweden) spoke highly of the stories from the Sami people. She found it insightful to learn about how their traditional practices, like reindeer herding, have held. Then, the Sami representative spoke about what their relationship with the land is like, and especially how the climate is changing that relationship.

“In the arctic region, the effects of climate change are 4 times faster.”

This vastly changes the Sami people’s relationship to their land and their livelihood. As a Nordic chapter in which the Sami people are indigenous, Nicole was inspired to work closer together with them. She found parallels between their enthusiasm for the land and outdoor recreationists’ (followers of POW) enthusiasm for our playground, so why not collaborate?

Most recently, Coline Ballet-Baz (POW France athlete) and Gillian Rosh (POW Europe) met the group in Chamonix, France. This time, the exchange was hosted by En Passant Par La Montagne (EPPM), a local association doing direct work to bring any groups, targeting youth, into the mountains.

We kicked off the exchange with a climbing session with locals who are part of EPPM. Climbing has proven to be a bonding, wholesome experience when considering the multiple languages, cultural differences, and some with physical disabilities. Something about having to belay someone and the climber putting their trust in someone else.

The week continued with a trip into the woods where, while walking or setting up the tipi, we discussed our various barriers and the nuances that contribute to them. It’s a small detail, but consider how wearing the correct gear; ‘right’ doesn’t only mean high performance but also represents brand and style. How do you react if someone isn’t wearing that piece of gear? We also tackled big topics, such as the public funding going into infrastructure to access the outdoors in an environmentally sound way.

“These barriers were further exemplified in a presentation by Opening Up The Outdoors (OUTO), which is in the middle of research into the question what’s stopping people from getting outdoors, particularly People of Color?” — Coline Ballet-Baz, POW FR Athlete

From these expert talks, we hold workshops related to the deliverables of Beyond Horizons. We asked about how to integrate what we listened to and what are the next steps. This exchange focused heavily on the impending toolkit that explains the barriers and how to address them. Additionally, we brainstormed about the youth involvement we hope to see in 2025. It’s not all fun walks and talks in the mountains!

Overall, POW is enthusiastic about its involvement in this project and the perspectives that we are learning from. Our mission clearly states: As climate advocates, we want everyone to be a climate advocate. We want everyone to feel included in becoming a climate advocate, whether through outdoor sports or another pathway. Being part of Beyond Horizons is giving us solid ground to do so.

All photography by Erik Engelro.