Adventure is at the heart of everything Project Cordillera does. We explore, investigate and experience as much as we can and share the best of what we’ve found. All of this while trying to have fun and straddling those slippery slopes of ‘development’ and social justice. Our feeling is very much that to be sustainable, we have to build real relationships with our communities – it’s not rocket science and of course, the same can be said of the roads where we live in England.
In my experience, academic training and critical or discursive analysis will only get you so far. That’s not to say that we can ever turn away from these tools – we must be respectful and be open in all discourses. However, if you want to make a difference, be remembered, feel alive or simply be positive, you will have to engage, and often be vulnerable.
The reason why I bring this up is that I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot about Christopher McCandless in the news and online recently. I was 16 or 17 when I read Into The Wild, Jon Krakauer’s book based on McCandless’s epic journey across America and into the Yukon where he ultimately died alone in an abandoned school bus. Apparently, the school bus may be removed from the middle of the wilderness by authorities as it’s attracting pilgrims retracing McCandless’s final days.
This is of course dangerous and somewhat perverse, but it got me thinking me thinking about the spirit of adventure. In McCandless, we share a kindred spirit – adventure with purpose. I’d like to think that if McCandless ever made it out of that bus, he would have made his journey a positive message. I would also like to think he would have been a natural social entrepreneur. It’s a shame that in back in 1992, social enterprise was not the ubiquitous industry it is today.
I think McCandless would have a lot to say about today’s various strains of social enterprise and non-profits, too. Perhaps he would agree with us that too often the social potential, that real human connection, is sacrificed for a ‘scalable’ model. It is true that some projects and problems don’t have the luxury of face-to-face relationships. It also seems true that most small social enterprises focusing on communities are not scalable or economically viable; evidently, 89 percent of UK-based social enterprises sought grants in the last year rather than loans.
We occupy the middle-ground – making a measurable impact and being professional (read ‘economically viable’), while also knowing everyone in our communities by name and delivering a very personal and sincere range of experiences. There’s no manual for this path, but we believe that makes it all the more important.
By Haydn Thomas, Friday 7th March 2014