This is an excerpt from Aerial Adventure Environments by Elizabeth A. Speelman,Mark Wagstaff,Scott H. Jordan & Kathy Haras.
The development of professional associations brings together individuals who want to ensure that the industry is able to grow in an appropriate and healthy manner. These associations provide professional development opportunities such as annual conferences and training workshops. They also tend to offer credentialing through certification and accreditation processes that include the development of standards for holding professionals and organizations accountable. Such credentials also enable organizations in the industry to seek and acquire appropriate levels of insurance, which may be required in their country. In addition, the development of industry standards enables professional associations to advocate for the industry and develop relationships with regional, national, and international regulatory agencies. In these ways, professional associations strive to serve as the voice of the industry.
Professional associations come in a variety of forms and sizes. Some pursue a specific mission related to a certain type of activity. For instance, the International Adventure Park Association, which focuses on aerial adventure activities, was developed in Germany to bring together manufacturers, builders, operators, and members of the public. Similarly, the African Ropes Course Association serves zip line and ropes course operators in South Africa and requires members to abide by its code of practice. And the Malaysia Challenge Course Association sets industry guidelines for challenge course installation, inspection, maintenance, and training in its home country.
Other associations address a broader scope of activities by advocating for the recreation and tourism industry more generally. In Costa Rica, for example, the Asociación de Operadores de Aventura (Association of Adventure Operators) advocates for all adventure tour operators in the country. Similarly, in France, the Syndicat National des Exploitants de Parcours Aventure advocates for various leisure activities, including aerial adventure parks. In addition, the Association for Experiential Education includes standards for challenge courses in its accreditation standards for adventure programs, and multiple camping associations (e.g., American Camping Association, Australian Camping Association, Canadian Camping Association) advocate for standards and best practices in the AAI because their facilities often include AAEs.
This list is simply a sampling of associations that support the AAI from around the world. The three main associations that will be referred to most frequently in this text are the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), the Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA), and the European Ropes Course Association (ERCA). Let us take a quick look at each one.
Association for Challenge Course Technology
Founded in 1993, ACCT is an international trade organization dedicated to standards, government relations, credentialing, professional development, and member advancement (Association for Challenge Course Technology, 2019). For its mission, this U.S.-based association seeks to “establish and promote the standard of care and measure of excellence that defines professional practice and effective challenge course programs.” ACCT has developed and continues to update standards for the installation, maintenance, and management of AAEs. In addition, it holds an annual international conference to facilitate connection and development among its members and industry professionals; it also advocates for the profession through regional, national, and international networks.
Professional Ropes Course Association
PRCA was founded in 2003 as an “industry association that supports the development and regulation of the ropes challenge course, canopy zip lines, and aerial adventure parks industry” (Professional Ropes Course Association, 2019). It is a U.S.-based organization with a mission to “develop end-user applicable” standards and documents and “define, document, and outline the construction/operational practices for the Ropes Challenge Course, Zipline, and Aerial Adventure Parks industry.” In 2014, PRCA developed the first set of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) safety standards for the industry-ANSI/PRCA 1.0-.3 -2014 American National Safety Standards for Challenge Courses, Adventure Parks, Canopy Tours and Zip Lines: Design, Performance, Inspection, Installation, Equipment, Operations, Training and Certification. Its holds an annual conference and advocates for improvement in the industry.
European Ropes Course Association
Unlike ACCT and PRCA, ERCA is not based in one country. As a result, a part of its mission is to “foster professional exchange within Europe and strive for the harmonization of professional standards on a European level,” and this work includes standards development, training, and research (European Ropes Course Association, 2019). ERCA provides accreditation for both trainers and inspectors.
Putting It Into Practice
Find Your Place in an Association
Whether you are new to the profession or have been working in the industry for some time, there is a place for you in an association. Networking with others who are doing the same type of work, either in your area or abroad, can expand your perspectives on what you do. In addition, learning from others who work in different parts of the industry can challenge your knowledge and maybe even your assumptions! Taking part in workshops or even leading a workshop at an association conference can provide you with an opportunity for growth. Perhaps you can even share your experience and knowledge through service on an association committee.