Adaptive Climbing Victoria utilises
Vicsport’s Innovation Lab

Adaptive Climbing Victoria (ACV) have utilised Vicsport’s Innovation Lab over the course of five months to build their capacity to entice more climbing gyms to become involved in their discipline and attract new para-athletes to their sport.

A sub-committee of Sport Climbing Victoria, ACV was founded in 2018 to service the needs of people with a disability who already participate, or wish to participate, in climbing – whether that be recreational, competitive, indoor or outdoor climbing.

However, ACV found adaptive climbers faced several barriers to participation and they came to the Vicsport Innovation Lab to ask, “How might we empower members of our community with disability to become leaders (on and off the wall) of inclusion of people with disability in climbing?”

Supported by VicHealth, the Vicsport Innovation Lab assisted organisations in the development of new ideas that will increase sport and recreation participation by less active Victorians. From May – September this year, Participation & Innovation Manager Tom Dixon and Events & Membership Coordinator Meredith Hodson assisted ACV in exploring their proposal through innovation and ideation techniques.

“Often in sport, we are very action-orientated so having a space where we can brainstorm and plan is really helpful,” said Meredith. “ACV have already been doing great things in the sport by advocating individually and as a sub-committee but to be able to support them and offer some guidance and tools to increase their impact was an exciting prospect.”

As part of the Innovation Lab process, three online workshops were held with attendance from Vicsport, ACV, Sport Climbing Victoria, Disability Sport & Recreation and Paralympics Australia. These sessions helped define the group’s hopes and fears as well as outline adaptive climbers’ needs. A focus group with five adaptive climbers (including ACV’s Araminta McLennan) was also run to understand and define some of the key features of the adaptive climber customer profile.

“The process was really fun, engaging and challenging in the best way,” said Araminta. “It was beneficial in helping us to reshape how we approach our goals as well as reassess problems and achieve solutions. Tom and Meredith were incredibly passionate and connecting with Disability Sport & Recreation and Paralympics Australia was really valuable in providing new perspectives and learning from their previous experiences.”

“Understanding the ‘customer profile’ by getting those involved personally with the sport to provide anecdotes was critical,” added Meredith.

“We interviewed participants about the ‘jobs’ that adaptive climbing does for them - in other words - what does the sport accomplish for them. Answers included building confidence, feeling included and achieving personal goals. Then we asked about their ‘gains’ – positive outcomes of being an adaptive climber – which included being accepted within gyms and among other climbers as well as having a community. Finally, we discussed ‘pains’ – the negative aspects of adaptive climbing – including gyms being difficult to access and feeling burnt out from self-advocacy.

“From all that, we garnered a full idea of why a participant would choose adaptive climbing, what fuels them and what detracts from the experience. We can then ensure that whatever we design, it fits into their values and their needs to provide a fulfilling experience.”

Following those extensive workshops, the original mission statement of “how might we empower members of our community with disability so that they become leaders (on the wall and off the wall) for inclusion of people with disability in climbing?” was altered. Brainstorming dozens of ideas, the group settled on “how might we build an epic profile of adaptive climbing so that climbing gyms would be crazy not to get involved?”

“Through our discussions, we saw how much work ACV put into their sport and how much self-advocating is a part of that,” said Meredith. “With the new mission statement, we flipped the onus onto getting gyms to become more involved.”

“Our original mission statement was very climber-specific but it became clear that a broader acceptance of adaptive climbers by gyms would lead to a domino effect in terms of equity in opportunities for aspiring adaptive climbers,” said Araminta.

Using their updated mission statement, the group moved into a rigorous ideation session held over Zoom where over 100 idees were generated.

“Firstly, we thought of what we could do with unlimited money and came up with some radicals ideas including creating a Netflix series featuring adaptive climbers and providing portable walls that could be brought to participants,” said Meredith. “We then did the opposite, seeing what could be achieved with no money at all, which helped to distill those big ideas down to the bare essentials. For example, the essence of the Netflix idea is awareness so how do you do that with no money? You could create a Facebook page, invite your friends to follow and begin to grow it organically.

“We then did a consolidation which saw ACV pick their favourite ideas and place them on an axis scale, deciding what was easiest and hardest to achieve and what would have a high and low impact. Breaking down what was achievable, we put together an action plan that included timeframes, ranging from 3-12 months.

“It was fascinating to see ACV go from having a few ideas to thinking outside the box and getting excited about new possibilities. The group was so engaged and really embraced the innovation process. They are a dedicated team and I’m looking forward to seeing adaptive climbing become the next big thing in sport.”

Araminta and ACV will now look to implement the plans created during the Innovation Lab process.

“We’re working on a gyms engagement project to expand venues for adaptive climbing and we hope to have a presence at the Disability Sport & Recreation festival next month,” said Araminta. “Dreaming big, we want to become the go-to advisory group for adaptive climbing in Australia and our athletes have some high hopes as well… Paralympics anyone?”

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