As a philanthropy-serving organization that focuses on expanding investments to advance environmental literacy and connect people to nature, Blue Sky Funders Forum seeks to bridge silos and unite funders who share the belief that the benefits of meaningful time spent outdoors lead to stronger and healthier people, communities, and ecosystems.
Ample data exists to support the numerous benefits of nature. The correlations between time spent outdoors and positive health outcomes are well-documented. A 2018 meta-analysis of 143 scientific studies showed that data consistently links exposure to both urban green space and undeveloped natural areas to statistically significant reductions in poor health indicators including diastolic blood pressure, salivary biomarkers of stress, heart rate, and diabetes. Findings also indicated that time spent in green spaces reduces risks of preterm birth and premature death. Furthermore, some studies suggest that improvements to and increased access to outdoor spaces may combat health inequities, as people in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities often experience positive outcomes to a greater degree (Twohig-Bennett and Jones 2018). School and community-based programs that provide meaningful outdoor experiences to children and youth have been linked to improved social and emotional well-being including increased prosocial behavior (Dopko et al. 2019) and decreased violence and juvenile arrest rates (D’Agostino et al. 2019). Blue Sky Funders Forum has also compiled other research that links nature-based programs to conservation, education, and civic engagement outcomes.
A Shared Narrative
Since the network’s founding in 2014, the Blue Sky community has consistently identified the lack of compelling, unified messaging as a central challenge to moving toward our vision of a healthy, connected world where everyone has equal opportunity for meaningful experiences in nature. We have grappled with questions such as:
- How can we talk about and elevate the importance the outdoors can and should play in people’s lives?
- How can we create a sense of urgency, moving our work from a nice-to-have to an issue of importance?
- How can we invite action and collaboration from new allies to bring more resources and awareness to the field?
In order to elevate the critical role that nature can and should play in people’s lives, Blue Sky Funders Forum embarked on a collaborative, multiyear process to develop a shared narrative for the field—an engaging story to reshape how people think about and prioritize the outdoors and its benefits. Initial findings from engaging nearly 700 funders, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in stakeholder surveys and interviews confirmed the current narrative is that time spent in nature is a nice to have. Through additional research, message testing, and deep listening, we discovered that when the benefits of time spent outdoors are expressed as a basic human right, one that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience, that opens the door for new awareness and action.
Equipped with this core message and incorporating widely shared values for strengthening communities and advancing equity, Blue Sky crafted a new, shared narrative. This new narrative moves the vital work of connecting people with the outdoors from a nicety to an absolute necessity. Using this narrative as a tool, we seek to elevate the priority and urgency of our work, bring new resources to the field, and catalyze a cross-sector movement for equitable access to the outdoors and its many benefits.
A Call to Action
To inspire and support organizations to activate this new narrative Blue Sky Funders Forum is thrilled to announce Rethink Outside—a campaign to challenge and transform prevailing notions around time spent in nature and lift up the benefits of time spent outdoors as a basic human right. Coordinated by Blue Sky, Rethink Outside mobilizes and equips the funding and practitioner communities to tell this new story in order to engage new partners and bring the promise of healthy communities to all.
We invite funders and nonprofits to take action at rethinkoutside.org, where individuals and organizations can:
- learn more about the development of the new, shared narrative;
- pledge their commitment and become a Rethink Outside partner;
- support grantees’ use of the narrative and build capacity for compelling storytelling;
- access resources such as templates and communications tools to engage new allies and supporters;
- access communications expertise to assess alignment with the new narrative;
- find information on 2020 storytelling workshops, hosted by Blue Sky and open to funders and nonprofits; and
- visit the Rethink Outside story bank to see inspiring examples of the narrative in action.
Rethink Outside is just the beginning of a new social movement to create a future where everyone has positive experiences outdoors and shares the joy, health, growth, and sense of community that come with it. We have a shared responsibility to open doors to positive, rewarding experiences outdoors for all people, regardless of where they live or their backgrounds. Because when people connect with nature, we all benefit. Join us: #rethinkoutside and tell a new story!
Twohig-Bennett, Caoime and Andy Jones. “The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and healthy outcomes.” Environmental Research. 166 (2018): 628-637.
Dopko, Raelyne; Capaldi, Colin; and John Zelensk. “The psychological and social benefits of a nature experience for children: A preliminary investigation.” Journal of Environmental Psychology. 63 (2019): 134-138.
D’Agostino, Emily, et al. “Two-year changes in neighborhood juvenile arrests after implementation of an afterschool park-based mental health promotion program in Miami-Dade County, Florida, 2015-2017.” American Journal of Public Health. 109, S3 (2019): S2014-S220.