Who we are

The San Francisco Bay Chapter of Inspiring Connections Outdoors (formerly Inner CIty Outings) is a group of people dedicated to getting urban youth into the outdoors.  Our leaders organize a variety of outings, including hiking, car camping, snow camping and backpacking. We are active partners in the growing national movement to take urban kids out of the city and provide them with outdoor adventures. Our volunteers give their time because they know from their own experience that spending time in the natural world can be transformative. 

We are a 100% volunteer organization with a current group of about 45 active members, aged 20 to 70. In addition to leading outings our staff does recruiting, fund raising, training, outreach, equipment maintenance and money management. We lead 25 to 30 trips per year. 

What we do

ICO organizes and leads outdoor trips at little or no cost to the participants. Our backpacking leaders are trained and certified by the Sierra Club in outdoor recreation and wilderness first aid. We also provide volunteers, transportation and the equipment needed for safe outings. We measure our performance in youth-days (one  youth, one day, outdoors) and average between 800 and 1000 youth-days per year.

Through this program ICO promotes interpersonal skills and self-esteem by involving participants in teamwork, teaching them self-reliance outside an urban setting, and introducing them to the beauty of the natural world. We create opportunities for personal development of participants from different cultures by fostering respect of self and others, and providing urban youth with outdoor skills training and leadership opportunities.

How we got started

The idea began in San Francisco  in 1971, when a small group of Sierra Club outings leaders decided to take a group of urban youth backpacking. The ICO Program was formally recognized by the Sierra Club in 1974, and since then has spread to 50 chapters in cities throughout the United States, involving hundreds of dedicated volunteers serving over 14,000 participants every year. In 2014, the name changed to Inspiring Connections Outdoors.

Where we are going

Since we are an all-volunteer organization, our continued success depends on the energy and enthusiasm of new recruits. We need to continuously improve our effectiveness in attracting and engaging new volunteers in order to grow our program. We would like to offer our leaders more training opportunities in the areas of environmental education and cultural sensitivity.

We are looking to expand our efforts to include a youth leader training component for our teenage participants to become leaders. Trainees will work with certified adult ICO leaders and learn how to plan an outing: determining the necessary food, transportation and equipment, and learning the outdoor skills required to have a safe, successful trip.