I trained as an accountant before I realised that measuring finance doesn’t necessarily reveal real value or lead to the best and most meaningful outcomes. As a result, I may have a slightly distorted view when I start talking about Natural Capital. I am clear that reducing nature to financial values alone is to fundamentally undervalue the natural world. Equally, I do not subscribe to the view that measuring our relationship with nature and trying to place a value on our Natural Capital is wrong; providing we understand why we are doing it. If trying to place a value on nature leads us to behave in ways that better appreciate the natural world and our role as part of it, then I’m up for trying to value it.
You may have noticed that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently launched a request for data about the value of Natural Capital ecosystem services as part of their ongoing work. I’m not going to take up this piece with an explanation of the breadth of government surveys and measures that touch on the Outdoor Learning world, so suffice to say that this request is shining a spotlight on the paucity of data held by the UK government on the overall value of Outdoor Learning provision.
Those of you who engage with the work of IOL will know that at our heart we are seeking to increase the value placed on outdoor learning in its many forms in UK society. It will be of no surprise then that the work of ONS is important to us.
Some of you may have engaged with the Regional Outdoor Learning Research hubs that have been forming over the past two years. As well as providing excellent opportunities for providers of Outdoor Learning and academics with an interest in the field to share understanding and identify potential new research opportunities, they also have a longer-term goal of improving the development of the evidence base for the Outdoor Learning sector. Whilst this means we’re improving our understanding of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ the Outdoor Learning world, and making that more accessible to all, we are making relatively little progress on the ‘where’ and ‘how many’ questions.
There is an overlap between the ONS’ desire to measure Natural Capital and the Outdoor Learning sector’s need to improve wider understanding of the value it currently brings and could potentially bring to UK society.
Bluntly, we need to get better at measuring what we do if we want to be taken seriously.
Whilst the sector is improving its message of how it works through better articulated theories of change, we need to start improving how we capture and describe the scale of what we do. IOL is seeking to respond to ONS’ call for more data on our sector and if you haven’t already, you should complete the IOL Natural Capital research survey on behalf of your organisation or practice. The intention is to refine and develop this data collection to enable the sector to more accurately and frequently describe its value in the future.
Go to the Survey https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NatCap19