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The Duke of Edinburgh's Award: What, Why & How?

Blacks are proud to work with The Duke of Edinburgh's Award as the recommended retailer for expedition kit. For those people who don't really know much about the Award, or those who aren't sure where to start, we thought an introduction might be useful.

What is it?

The Duke of Edinburgh's (DofE) Award is a programme of self-development for young adults aged 14-25. Established in 1956 by the Duke of Edinburgh himself, it aims to develop the “whole person” by building physical fitness, practical skills and teamworking abilities.

There are three levels of award: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Depending on your age you can start at any level, but many people enjoy beginning with Bronze and working upwards.

Each level is made up of 4 sections:

Physical:  improving fitness by taking part in a physical activity

Skill:  pursuing and improving a skill/interest

Volunteering:  participating in a charitable or community project

The Expedition:  completing a pre-planned route over several day as part of a team

Though these activities are compulsory, you have a massive amount of choice in how you fulfil them. Physical activities include anything from martial arts to mountain climbing, from ballet to BMX. The Skills section is just as varied: learn to DJ, compose or play music, try your hand at circus skills or get your fingers green with some conservation work. The Expedition offers you the chance to plan and pursue an adventure as part of a dedicated team. You can go wherever you want and complete the journey in a number of different ways.

As you progress, each level takes more time to complete and offers a greater challenge. The Bronze Award will take a minimum of 6 months to complete, whereas the Gold will take at least a year.  On average, though, each activity will only take up 1 hour of your week. The DofE is about steady growth and improvement, not cramming everything into a short time.

Why Do it?

There are many reasons to try for a DofE Award. Firstly, it’s fun. You will learn new things, meet people with similar interests and visit extraordinary places.

Along the way you will learn about navigation, camping skills and how to get the best from your time in the outdoors. Many people have discovered a lifelong love of adventure by taking part in a DofE Expedition. And then, to top off the experience, you’ll be given a recognised and respected award for your efforts.

So yes, it’s a lot of fun, but there are also other important benefits to completing a DofE Award.  

Universities take a great interest in DofE Awards when selecting students. Your award will look great in the personal statement section of your application. It’s not just about getting through the door either. Some of the skills you learn as part of your award could be massively helpful to your further education. Or maybe you’ll discover a passion or interest that will help determine what you want to do with your life beyond school.

Similarly, A DofE Award can make the difference when looking for that first job. It can boost your CV and show that you have the characteristics that employers are looking for. Independence, self-discipline, imagination and commitment; each of these is hugely attractive to employers and they are known to be at the very core of the DofE Award.

But, above everything else, it’s important to remember the personal benefits of a DofE Award. You will learn to depend on yourself and work with others, to think outside the box, to discover your passions and what makes you tick.

How do I start?

So, you’ve done your research and decided you want to take on the challenge. What next? There are over 12,500 licensed DofE centres in the United Kingdom and they offer several ways to get involved.

Licensed Organisations

You can find a full list of Licensed Organisations (LO’s) on the DofE website ( This site allows you to find a LO based on your nearest location. Select your region and you’ll be taken to a list of LO’s in that area. After you input your email address and a few personal details your LO will be able to inform you of the closest organisation to you.

National Operating Authorities

Alternatively, you can get involved through a ‘National Operating Authority’. These are organisations such as Scouts or the Army Cadets who you can complete your Award through if you’re already a member. 

Find a full list at the bottom of the page, here. (

DofE Direct

Looking to go for Gold but having trouble finding a LO? 18-23 year olds can sign up to DofE Direct; this allows you to complete your Gold DofE without attending regular sessions at your local centre. DofE Direct is more flexible and gives you the ability to upload evidence for your sections to eDofE, the online progress tracker. In addition to this, you’re supported by a DofE leader who will contact you by email or over the phone.

We hope you all get the most out of The Duke of Edinburgh Award and we wish you the best of luck in whatever you do and wherever it takes you.

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Neil used to be a bookworm, an "indoor" type if ever there was one. After finishing a PhD he writes short stories about spooky places and odd people. Living in Switzerland, the Canadian Rockies and the north east region of the USA convinced him that there was something to be said for this whole outdoor thing. Now he runs everywhere he can, competing in races most weekends and endlessly planning the next great adventure to some far flung part of the world. Recent trips include Costa Rica, where he tried and failed to surf; Vietnam, where he almost got stuck in an underground tunnel; and back to Canada, where he came face-to-face with a bear. Watch this space for further updates on Neil's global bumblings and the occasional athletic success.

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