Outward Bound was founded in 1941 during World War II to provide young sailors with the experiences and skills necessary to survive at sea. Named after the nautical term for a ship’s departure from the certainties of the harbor, Outward Bound was a joint effort between British shipping magnate Sir Lawrence Holt and progressive German educator Kurt Hahn. Hahn believed education must encompass both the intellect and character of a person. In creating the first Outward Bound School, he expanded the concept of experiential learning to include real and powerful experience to gain self-esteem, the discovery of innate abilities, and a sense of responsibility toward others. Outward Bound has since become the premier adventure-based education program in the world.
In 2008, Outward Bound launched its first West Coast urban-based "Center" in San Francisco ("Bay Area Center") following the successful establishment of other Centers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia in the 1980s and 1990s. Urban-based Centers reach more underserved urban youth populations through a menu of programs that promote personal transformation using the natural and historical settings of cities and their surrounding areas.