Featured Image Credit: Rachel Sarah
Whether we like to admit it or not (some of the negative comments in response to our recent piece on race and the outdoors suggest that some are still unwilling to face up to this), the outdoors has been sorely lacking on the diversity front for a long time now.
The Black Lives Matter movement has put the race issue front and centre in our community’s space like never before. It’s brought home how we all need to do more, and how outdoor brands need to step up and pull their weight to redress some of the world’s imbalances.
With this in mind, big credit to the people behind the Kit Collective; a project which has come about off the back of recent events. The initiative’s main aim is to address the lack of diversity in the industry, and create more opportunities for minorities in the outdoors through the provision of quality gear.
For the launch of the project, Kit Collective are working closely with Mosaic Outdoors and Black Girls Hike UK. These groups engage with people in the BAME community who are interested in venturing into the outdoors. Initially, the Kit Collective will be focusing on hiking but I’m told they will be branching out into more activities in the future.
Created by a group of outdoor enthusiasts, from a diverse range of backgrounds, the team is using their voices, experiences, and relationships with brands to make a positive, tangible difference to our space. I caught up with two of the initiative’s co-founders Rory Southworth and Janice Lo, over email, to find out more about their aims and vision moving forward.
Can you tell us about the aims of the Kit Collective?
Janice: “We want to create more opportunities for ethnic minorities to take part in outdoor sports and connect brands with initiatives which support the cause. We work with outdoor community groups to understand their specific needs and support them in their work.”
What inspired you to set up the Kit Collective?
Rory: “I feel the best change often comes from the community, but with the support of the industry. I wanted to support the groups that are doing amazing work to connect Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities (BAME) communities to the outdoors and utilise my working relationships that I have with a number of premium sports brands in a collaborative effort to both promote great initiatives and support these groups with better access to quality kit. It was from this concept that I found five others that wanted to make positive change and together we created the Kit Collective.”
Janice: “As a person of colour who has worked in the outdoor industry for six years, I understand first-hand how hard it is for some people to get into outdoor sports. Having a welcoming environment and access to great quality kit is crucial in having an enjoyable experience that can then lead on to further participation in the outdoors.”
Do you think outdoor brands need to be more proactive when it comes to promoting diversity?
Rory: “It would be great to see more representation from not just outdoor brands, but all brands in general.”
Janice: “Being more diverse needs to be ingrained in companies’ culture.”
Rory: “We are always looking for more brands to come on board to support and promote the activities done by the groups we work with.”
How can our readers help the Kit Collective to achieve its aims?
Rory: “Initially people can spread the word about this project and the community groups it supports through social media (@kitcollectiveuk). If you know of any community groups who could benefit from support or any quality brands who want to make a difference, encourage them to get in touch.”
Janice: “We’ll also be looking into ways in which other people can help the cause, so stay tuned on our social media.”
There’s still a long way to go and long-term collective action is the only way forward. The team welcomes brands and community groups to get in touch and get involved. They encourage the outdoor community to share the news and stay tuned for updates.