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Accessibility

There are inequalities between different people’s access to resources in society. These resources might be things such as food, education, medical help, and property. Historically, the world of educational expeditions has been dominated by affluent white people (e.g., early expeditions run by the Public Schools Exploring Society). The period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s saw the British overseas youth expedition transform from a product exclusively for the socioeconomically privileged to one catering to a “much larger range of children of varying social backgrounds and academic abilities” (Grey 1984, p. 17). An example of these programs is Kennedy’s (1984, 1992) overland expeditions to the Sahara Desert with inner-city youth from Liverpool. Current initiatives such as the Next Generation scheme offered by the British Schools Exploring Society are examples of promoting equality of opportunity.

In the UK today, although more opportunities exist for marginalized people to take part in expeditions, a fundamental discrepancy between the demographics of those who go on expeditions and those who do not appears to remain.

In Scotland, where students from the bottom 20% of the socioeconomic spectrum are seven times more likely to be excluded from school than those in the top 20% (Scottish Government, 2009), one can reasonably speculate that expedition opportunities for the former will come from a youth-at-risk program of some sort. Conversely, those within the top 20% wanting to go on an expedition will usually rely on their parents paying substantial amounts of money, or that money may often be raised with the help of their parents’ social and business networks.

Beyond financial matters, it is quite likely that in social networks characterized by chronic low income, young people are not interested in going on an expedition, as there is little history of any family member or friend so doing. Equally, teenagers attending an independent school with a strong tradition of going on an expedition may feel stigmatized if they do not take a given expedition opportunity. It is conceivable to suggest that by choosing to participate in an expedition, they are merely “going with the flow” and following dominant social forces.

The implication for practitioners in all countries and cultures is that if the outcomes of an expedition are desirable for all young people—as a means to increase overall personal growth and well-being—then surely these kinds of experiences ought to be available to all, irrespective of financial power, physical ability, sex, gender, religion, or ethnicity. Conclusions Expeditions in the UK have a long history that can be traced back to exploration for geographical purposes. In the last 20 years, expeditions for young people involving science research, adventurous activities, and community work have gained remarkable popularity, yet elicited only a moderate amount of research. More recently, in 2008, a “knowledge exchange” conference was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and organized at The University of Edinburgh, as a means to discuss and share information about overseas expeditions. The conference was successful in bringing together expedition providers, policy makers, and academics in order to discuss a range of current issues concerning all parties.

Allison, P. & Beames, S. (2010). Feature article: The changing geographies of overseas expeditions. International Journal of Wilderness, 16(3), 35-42.
Grey, T. (1984). The expedition experience. Adventure Education, March/April, 17-18.
Kennedy, A. (1984). Liverpool schoolboys Sahara expedition. Adventure Education, March/April, 19-20.
Kennedy, A. (1992). The expedition experience as a vehicle for change in the inner city. Penrith: Adventure Education.