Rethink Outside™ – It’s Time to Tell a New Story

by Berkeley Bryant, Program Coordinator, Blue Sky Funders Forum

The Rethink Outside™ Shared Narrative was the subject of the opening session of the 2021 National Trails Workshop

"Rethink Outside" in white text against a black background

Logo courtesy Blue Sky Funders Forum.

Time in nature has often been seen as a ‘nice to have’ and not a critical need for society. However, as research shows and as the National Trails Community knows, access to nature is a basic human need, providing many benefits including mental and physical health. 

Through a collaborative, multi-year, inclusive process, Blue Sky Funders Forum launched Rethink Outside™ in 2019, a campaign to lift up the benefits of time spent outdoors from a nicety to a necessity for everyone–regardless of geographic location, race, or economic status. 

Two years later, we have connected with hundreds of funders, practitioners, and allied fields, unifying our voices to express the benefits of time spent outdoors and to allocate critical resources to this work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the elevated prominence of racial inequities and inequitable access to the outdoors in our society only made our cause more urgent. A COVID-19 messaging brief was developed to elevate the importance of equitable access to the outdoors in the context of the pandemic. We have the opportunity to capitalize on that awareness and interest by using the shared narrative to uplift the benefits of time spent outdoors, during the pandemic and beyond. The shared narrative could be a powerful tool when promoting trails as places for community building and strengthening the connections between the outdoors and public health. 

As we all work to make the outdoors more accessible and safe, prioritizing inclusive and welcoming language is key – for example, displaying trail signs and promotional materials in different forms to accommodate outdoor enthusiasts with disabilities and in multiple languages.

In 2021, Blue Sky launched the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship, a 6-month capacity and skill-building engagement for leaders and storytellers identifying as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. The 20 fellows will draw on their own experiences, craft stories, access resources, and co-create the program. All qualified applicants to the fellowship have been invited to join an online community gathering space to be in community, and to share events, resources, tools, and more.

Using this shared narrative as a tool, we can lift up and bring new resources to our work. This narrative is not owned by any one organization–it is the story of us.