All the fun of a weekend in Essex
After an afternoon at Gilwell on Friday, I ventured a little deeper into Essex to Skreens Park, Essex Scouts' County site for the opening of their Essex Weekend.
This was a great opportunity for leaders and their families to gather for a mainly social weekend and to try out many of the activities they usually provided for young people. For me it was a chance to chat to many adults and to answer a few questions.
I also took the opportunity to recognise the very important role played by non-uniformed volunteers by presenting County Chairman, Paul, with his Silver Acorn. I have to say that I was very grateful to have the excuse of an early start on Saturday to return to my bed at Gilwell rather than stay to camp on a very chilly May weekend. A wimp I know but there is only room for one adventurer in our partnership!
The Development Grants Board is, for me, another of those many initiatives that has helped to achieve our current success. Last year alone it provided £1.2m of grants to local Scouting, including 38 major projects and a pilot Building Fund which supported nine local group headquarter developments to the tune of £300,000.
I was therefore delighted to open their Development Conference on Saturday where over 100 volunteers and local development officers had gathered to share good practice, identify barriers to development and look for further opportunities.
Many of those represented have already achieved above average growth in the past few years and so it was a good opportunity for me to challenge them to consider how we take Scouting even further forward, particularly in ensuring that we truly reflect the community in which we operate and offer our unique brand of everyday adventure to those young people who would particularly benefit from it.
The nine groups that have benefited from the Building Fund pilot also made displays of their projects, and the lessons learnt. These experiences are being collated with a view to evaluating how we can better support local building projects generally. I was quickly struck, by the similarities in the design and manufacture of at least half of the projects and it was clear that some quick wins may be achieved more effectively with support from the centre. Watch this space.
Not much peace for the wicked, or so my wife Julie keeps reminding me, and so it was off back to Gatwick for a meeting with Alex, UK Commissioner for Programme, to discuss the implementation plans for our proposed changes to how we organise ourselves centrally to support the delivery of our programme locally. More of this another day.