Following a rapid increase in the number of experiential programs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the need for clear standards for program quality, professional behavior, and appropriate risk management became crucial. In 1994, the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) responded to that need by establishing comprehensive standards for common practices in the industry; becoming the nation’s first recognized accreditation process focusing on experiential adventure programming.
Since that time, the AEE accreditation programs standards-based evaluation process, conducted by objective, independent reviewers, has become the industry-accepted level of professional evaluation for experiential and adventure programs.
POBS Accreditation 2017:
In 2016 POBS sought AEE accreditation to extend our review of standards beyond internal and Outward Bound USA (OBUSA) reviews and audits. We sought to open our doors to industry experts outside of the OBUSA system to include a more comprehensive review of our safety plans and operations and other systems such as governance, oversight, logistics, staff training, and organizational culture.
In 2017, following a submission and review of the AEE Self-Assessment Survey (SAS), a 4-day, in-person review by an independent team of experiential education practitioners and field experts, and a written response to questions and standards improvements, POBS was awarded a 3-year accreditation.
Attaining accreditation status through the AEE offers and confirms evidence of POBS’ belief in and adherence to professional standards and commitment to quality and safety. It demonstrates to our staff and supporters that we are open to improvement and willing to allocate human and financial resources toward continuous improvement. Achieving AEE accreditation status signifies that POBS is meeting or exceeding industry standards and verifies from experts in the field that POBS is doing quality work and has sound financial, administrative, operational, and oversight practices.
The 2017 review and assessment of our organization by industry experts was a beneficial effort, especially at a time when we were preparing to move from our home at the Sedgeley Porter House to the Discovery Center, begin operating two differently designed challenge courses and changing leadership. It was this process, that extended our thinking about all aspects of our organization. The accreditation team assessed what were were currently doing and furthered planning with a critical eye toward our future in the Discovery Center.
Building on 2017, and navigating the pandemic, through a full accreditation process, POBS was recognized and awarded a 6-year reaccreditation taking us through to 2028.
This does not mean we will rest in our efforts to provide high quality programming, rather, it inspires all of us at POBS to recognize work done well and continue to keep watch over the organization in all aspects and extend that to those we serve.
The review team assembled for the second review, including a return reviewer, allowed POBS to assess our transition into the new space and new leadership. We continue to put into practice our learning from all aspects of the accreditation review.
- Confidence that funders, partners, participants need to have in us and our program and operations.
- POBS staff connect to other accredited institutions to discuss best practices, alternatives for programming, problem solving through the evolution of the industry, etc. has been beneficial to our staff.
- Having a return reviewer in 2022 was of significant benefit to see the transition through the first process and the application of the assessment into a new facility and with new leadership.
- Organizationally, we always learn from internal reviews, However, the external review, and the opportunity to learn from an extended process and the skills of the reviewers, takes our learning to a new level.
Visit the Association for Experiential Education website to learn more.