From its inception in 2006 The Outer Edge has always had for me some simple but clear goals - Raise the bar - improve standards. I believed (and that belief has been borne out) that with a little bit of effort, thought and planning that we could deliver events and courses to a higher standard. Better client experience, improved stakeholder liaison, richer experiences and better staff conditions and job satisfaction. All this whilst maintaining the nature of the adventure or activity and with increased level of safety. Easy? hell no but nothing of worth ever is and if I’m going to do something it gets done properly otherwise why bother?
Some of my proudest moments have come as a result of our Charity Event provision. For me the key was to really understand and have empathy with the perspective of all involved - the pressures, fears, frustrations, aims and aspirations.
- The charity and the hard working staff that were often under a lot of pressure to put on events, meet targets whilst staying within budgets and ensure a positive supporter experience which would hopefully lead to better donor retention and repeated support.
Oh and not to mention the frequent need for new, different or bigger events…
- The pressure that supporters/participants feel as a result of the promises they’ve made to themselves, the charity and friends and family from whom they’ve asked for sponsorship.
- The concerns that venue owners have over safety, disruption and security whilst still wishing to fulfil their corporate social responsibility.
Balancing all these needs, perspectives, aims etc along with following best practice in my own industry and creating safe, enjoyable and rewarding working environments for myself and staff was always a challenge but one that we got very good at meeting.
As a result we were able to secure venues that had never been used before (Millenium Dome/O2 arena, Bristol Hippodrome were some of the most memorable). Put on events that had never been done before (for that particular charity) like 200ft night climbs with a cliff face sleep over (this raised £30k+), unique variations on traditional events (like abseiling from inside the roof of a theatre onto the stage!).
I guess the initial stimulus for the business was to improve standards - not for the benefit of ‘the industry’ but to improve the experience for the individual. If I could make the venue managers life easier then they’d be more likely to say yes to an event, which would take the pressure off the fundraiser and allow people to push themselves and raise money that would go onto to benefit many people that were supported by the great charities that we worked with. It was about having the ‘bigger picture’ in mind - the benefits of the benefits.
For some charity abseils are like a monotonous production line of people and if a participant was scared then they moved onto the next - for me (and I was lucky to have staff that shared my beliefs) I understood the fears and aims of those participants and knew that for them the completion of the abseil was often much more than a fun little activity to do. It was the culmination of a lot of pressure, a fear to be faced, it was the keeping of promises to a lot of people. In that moment when the next participant steps forward I have a very short amount of time to figure out what makes them tick, what approach to take - firm? direct? emotion or logic based? why are they doing this? who are they doing this for? It takes a lot of mental effort to do whilst at the same time handling technical elements like harness checks, tying in ropes etc.
It was always a privilege to help these people achieve what they set out to do - to provide a great experience to the donor/participant, to create an interesting event that was easier for the fundraiser to recruit for, to address all the concerns that a venue may have before they raise them.
We didn’t just do charity events - we delivered gorge walking, climbing, canoeing, kayaking, abseiling, walking, biking and scrambling sessions, we rigged publicity stunts, theatre productions, provided safety rigging for a film, provided safety consultancy for large charity events and safety advice for outdoor centres and climbing walls.
Whilst we gained a reputation for pulling off epics, being highly organised, finding solutions rather than excuses, it’s always been about inspiring and enabling people to achieve.