Campaigning: should we or shouldn't we?
I was just taking a look at the Speaking up for Scouting article on identifying our campaigning priorities and was interested to see that many of the initial comments by members are questioning whether or not this is something we should be actively developing.
It is perhaps difficult to cast our minds back just a few years to when the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) procedures were first being implemented and the Government of the day were adamant that the voluntary sector would not be exempted from the proposed fee.
At the time, it was estimated that this alone would cost Scouting £750,000 per annum and with our number of annual CRB enquiries now hitting 70,000 one can only begin to estimate what it would cost us today!
The fact that this fee was avoided and the Government persuaded to provide them free to the voluntary sector was only as a result of a highly effective campaign, orchestrated by a small number of staff and volunteers at the time, to enlist local support in lobbying Members of Parliament directly.
I mention this because it is an example where effective lobbying in respect of proposed legislation, one which we could all get behind a common view on, heralded a significant benefit for all in Scouting.
Similarly, the recent campaign against rain tax (albeit effecting only certain regions of the UK) would have had a significant direct impact on many Scout Groups had we not successfully lobbied with other organisations to avoid it.
Effective campaigning might also assist us in a number of ways that may affect our ability to recruit additional volunteers. For example, in my recent blog about volunteering by civil servants, it is interesting that there is a variety of different policies with regards to paid leave for things like residential experiences.
This is not unique to the civil service and so, perhaps, concerted lobbying and campaigning to encourage employers generally and Government in particular to recognise the value of volunteering could have a significant impact on our ability to recruit and retain good volunteers.
I fully agree that Scouting must remain non-party political and indeed to campaign on a topic for which the Movement is not generally united in our view could be significantly damaging. That is why the highly successful Public Affairs Team is going to some lengths to ensure that we obtain the views of members, such as through the questionnaire and the focus group discussions.
Just imagine how we might significantly change the ability to deliver Scouting to all those 30,000 young people on our joining lists if we were to successfully campaign for Government to endorse paid leave for all Scout Leaders to undertake five days' residential experience each year!
Wishful thinking perhaps but there was a large number of doubters who didn’t believe that CRB checks could be made free to volunteers…