Who will work for obese children’s holiday happiness?

Bea is the CEO of an organization responsible for providing rural camps for disadvantaged children and their parents. The camps take place in a wonderful nature area, and there are a lot of possibilities for activities. A charity foundation is financing the camps, and the parents are only to contribute very little financially.

The charity board is very keen on education, but also about raising family values and family bonds. The head of the board, Willy, sometimes participates in the camps. He likes to join family evenings, and occasionally he reads to the children. However, during his last visit he became aware of the growing amount of overweight children, which does not reflect the original vision that the charity board had of the camp. He is prepared to reduce or even fully stop the funding for the program if nothing changes.

The head of catering has also noticed that obesity is alarming among the group this year, and the doctor who visited in order to treat a child’s broken leg supports this observation and advises Bea and the rest of the team to create a strict diet.

Additionally, Bea noticed that more than previously, the parents and the kids bring mobile phones and iPads, and many of the spend most of their time on the sofa. They dislike the planned outdoor activities and prefer to stay inside with their parents who support them in their favorite pastime. Bea’s favorite staff, Karen and John, have, with Bea’s full content, attempted to engage a group of kids with their parents to take part in some outdoor games. It was not a good success, as some of the kids got lost in the forest. It lasted one hour before they were found just before dusk. The parents blamed Karen and John that they had required the phones to be left behind in the cottages.

This happened the day before the charity board person, Willy, would come and join. Bea and staff had planned to make a nice celebration of the “forest magic”, including cooking over open fire, dancing, and performing a role play. The staff was enthusiastic, not the least the kitchen people who had explored the possibility of cooking under such circumstances and with the involvement of everybody. Some kids had trained dancing, mainly being fascinated by idea of glossy dresses and high heels. Many kids and parents attempted to avoid taking actively part in the activities.

The event with the lost kids led to quite some ambiguity in the whole group, and the reception of the board person Willy was not as enthusiastic as Bea would have liked to see. Parents grumbled, and a few even murmured something about lawsuits. Many kids were back on the sofa with the iPads. Bea learned on second hand that Karen had been approached by another camp manager, and that she considered moving jobs next year. Although working in this camp was popular, and many dedicated people would like to join, Karen would be a particularly great loss.

Willy soon got the signals of anxiety in the camp. It added to his previous concerns, whether the camp was actually able to meet its purpose of being a healthy environment for families under stress and pressure. With his own eyes he could see the problems of isolation, lack of exercise or family bonding, health issues and communication break-downs.

Bea had to react very fast, preferably while Willy was still there.


How would you solve this dilemma?

Bea could prepare a concise plan for the implementation of an “electronics-free camp concept”, the idea being that this camp should specialize in particular family problems and take in only families that would voluntarily and willingly accept the e-detox. The staff should then work with many new activation and motivation methods. Bea would ask the board to support an experimental phase and provide extra resources, as this would require extra staff.

Bea could plan to collect small “think tank” the next day: Willy, Karen, John, the kitchen head Lora and herself. She would suggest that they together would go through procedures and take a fresh view on the camp, indicating that the foundation’s requirements may be out of sync with life modes of the target group of families. Bea would ask Willy to stay for another two days so that he could follow the normal life in the camp more closely. She would like to get him more involved. Every day the group would meet an attempt to agree on a plan for reorganization of activities, food provision etc.

Bea could start social media intervention. She had the emails of all parents and kids, and many of them already were friends on Facebook. Bea would like to use the social media as a remedy in the crisis solving, and she would get Yang, a staff member with high skills in this, engaged in this immediately. Her idea was to combine the needs for activity and healthy eating with the potentials in social media. She had heard about media induced outdoor gaming and competitions, which she found would be relevant for the camp. She would ask Willy to also to engage himself into the electronic community, and she even considered linking to other sponsors.

Bea could look for a job in another camp, where family problems were less significant. She would suggest Willy to consider that John becomes a new CEO. John is a firm, quiet and warm “farther figure”, which is in great need for the families typically attending this camp.


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Thanks to students at the European Master of Tourism Management at the University of Southern Denmark, who have contributed to this dilemma play. (about EMTM: www.emtmmaster.net)