Inspiring Connections Outdoors (formerly Inner City Outings) (ICO) is a community outreach program of the Sierra Club. Our volunteer leaders, trained in recreational, outdoor and safety skills as well as environmental education provide wilderness adventures for people who wouldn’t otherwise have them – including low-income youth of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, hearing or visually impaired individuals, and the physically disabled.
To introduce people to the wilderness, ICO volunteers donate their time to community agencies that want to provide an outings program for their members. The agencies may include schools, church and neighborhood youth groups, rehabilitation centers, and outdoor clubs. ICO furnishes the equipment needed to conduct safe wilderness experiences: daypacks, backpacks, water bottles, cooking gear, sleeping bags, water purifies, and first aid kits. Most ICO groups offer the outings completely free of charge.
Outings may include dayhikes, backpacking, car camping, canoeing, whitewater rafting, bicycling, and cross-country skiing.
In some communities, ICO volunteers conduct leader training programs for youth participants to become leaders. Trainees work with certified ICO leaders and learn how to plan a trip itinerary, use maps and compasses, and determine necessary food and equipment.
ICO volunteers believe that the wilderness exists as a resource for all people and that all people should have access to it. Through Inner City Outings, participants are introduced to the wilderness, the Sierra Club and its values. ICO participants discover the beauty of the wild lands we treasure, and how to enjoy these areas without harming them. They develop interpersonal skills and self-esteem through active involvement with nature. Fostering teamwork and cooperation are also major aspects of the ICO experience. And participants learn outdoor skills that enable them to face challenges outside their urban environments
The first ICO group was established in 1971 in the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter. There are now over 40 groups. In the United States and Canada, ICO volunteers conduct as many as 1,000 outings a year, serving approximately 15,000 participants.
By bringing people of diverse backgrounds into the environmental community, the ICO program strengthens the ranks of the environmental movement at large.
The Inspiring Connections Outdoors program is made possible by its volunteers who give generously of their time and skills, and by donations of money and equipment made by its supporters. Outings are conducted at relatively low cost, but financial support from foundations, corporations, and individuals is always needed and appreciated.
For more information on how you can support or participate in your local ICO program, contact: