Greetings from Brussels
No, not another holiday or business trip, but the 13th European Scout and Guide Conference where 400 Scouts and Guides from across Europe, and a few guests, have gathered for 5 days to review work over the past three years and discuss future work and topics of mutual interest.
There are eight of us in the UK Scout delegation (four under the age of 27), two youth members from the open call, Richard and Jack, Rachel an elected youth member and Trustee and James. Nigel, International Commissioner, Derek, Chief Executive, Andy, Head of Activities and International Affairs and I make up the delegation. Also here from the UK, but undertaking international roles are Craig, Chairman, European Scout Committee, John, member of the World Scout Committee and David who has been chairing a working group reviewing governance for World Scouting.
We converged on Brussels from all directions: Craig, Richard and James flew in from Edinburgh, David from Manchester and the rest of us took advantage of Eurostar. On arrival at the station, about 1km from the hotel, we were introduced to our transport... a pedalo! Our very competitive cycle to the hotel resulted in a close win for John, and some very exhausted and hot colleagues who had drawn the short straw and were cycling!
Quickly down to business and a meeting of our delegation on Saturday afternoon to review what we know about topics for discussion, some things we wish to achieve (we are looking for some more hosts for HoHo for example). We also had a joint meeting with the delegation from Girlguiding UK.
Unlike other regional scout conferences, this is a joint conference (some sessions members of WOSM (World Organisation of the Scout Movement) and WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) join together to review joint work, agree action plans etc. and then each holds their own conference in between). GGUK’s delegation is led by Liz, Chief Guide, and five other members so we share information on the joint topics in particular, and plan some of the activities we are running jointly; more of which later!
Saturday also provides for some tailored networking sessions. For example all lead volunteers meet, international commissioners, chief executives and those involved in other specific areas such as diversity, programme, adult support, finance, fundraising etc! The benefit of these conferences, as always, is more about the contacts we make and individual discussions we hold and so this is the first opportunity to get these underway. Many other organisations are interested in how we are achieving our success in the UK, and we also are keen to learn how others are overcoming challenges such as supporting adults and diversity.
Getting our bearings
For the official opening, we were led on a short guided walking tour of the area of Brussels we are staying to the Horta Gallery (actually, it was a local train station more than a gallery!) After a rather long and somewhat dull speech from a Commissioner of the European Parliament (I think he forgot who his audience was) the entertainment from our hosts quickly got underway – hopefully there will be no photos appearing on the internet of my efforts at leading our group dancing!
On the way back to the hotel we bumped into Simon, a Scout Leader from Edinburgh who, along with his wife - a BSL, and son - a Cub, were enjoying a weekend in Brussels and wondered what we were up to. Luckily, my attempts at dancing had stopped by then!
Watch this space
As I write this, the opening sessions of Sunday morning are underway, the day started with our delegation meeting over breakfast and, in my case, a brief meeting of those involved with the world taskforce on fees. I do seem to get all the exciting stuff!
Anyway, fun to look forward to with the international evening this evening – more of which tomorrow.