Tim's Takeover: How do we Provide Everyday Adventure?

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I have admitted a few things about myself in the previous two blogs – and perhaps it is therapeutic. In any case, I feel the urge to admit to a few more of my failings – so, be gentle with me. This week I consider how we can provide active Scouting and skills to our young people.

What do young people want from Scouting?

We know from our research that young people join Scouting to 'do things': in essence they join to take part in our very own brand of everyday adventure. Top of the list when young people were asked why they joined Scouting was camping and canoeing. It won’t surprise you to know that the main reason that young people leave Scouting is that they don’t get these activities.

Now it might be that, like me, you are not great at skills and activities. I remember as an 18-year-old Assistant Scout Leader that I spent an entire summer being taught how to canoe so that I would be able to take the Scouts canoeing later that year. I had many additional lessons splashing around the River Cherwell in Oxford and lots of the Scouts also joined in.

The great day came and the British Canoe Union examiner came to test me and the Scouts for our BCU one star award. The Scouts all passed with flying colours and I failed (to be fair to the examiner he seemed more embarrassed about me failing than I was!).

As a result of this, the Scouts had to take me canoeing rather than me take them. And, perhaps this is fine. Maybe sometimes it is good to accept that we can’t do it all and there is no need for us to be super human.

So what’s the problem?

It strikes me that we have to consider how we continue to give young people active Scouting. It’s part of our growth challenge that I mentioned last week. As we get more adults involved with Scouting to help deal with our increase in young people, how do we make sure that these adults feel confident with the basic skills of Scouting?

If we are truly open to lots of people – and our local Scouting really reflects the local community that it serves, then we will have adult volunteers with all sorts of new skills. But we may also have adult volunteers who feel unsure of the skills that many of us take for granted – and that might happen as we attract new volunteers from outside Scouting.

If, like me, you served a sort of apprenticeship with experienced leaders who were only too pleased to pass on their skills, then you are lucky (and you should do the same thing for the next generation of leaders!). But not everyone experiences that luxury. Indeed we should not take for granted that it might happen automatically – particularly where we are starting new Groups.

So what’s the solution?

Well, that’s where you come in. I am interested in your ideas on how we might keep Scouting active and help adult volunteers to become more confident with basic skills and activities.

I think that it is worth considering how we encourage leaders to use the skills of others – for example the parents or carers of the Beavers, Cubs, Scouts or Explorers. As a Scout Leader I ran a number of evenings where all I had to do was provide the coffee and biscuits for the parents who came along to teach cookery, plumbing, carpentry and electrical safety. Sometimes to do this our leaders may just need the confidence to realise that it is fine to use other people.

It might be worth considering how we use the skills that our young people already have. We don’t have to teach them everything. It might be just the confidence boost that a young person needs – the chance to show her or his skills to others (now then, what did Baden Powell say about 'learning by doing'?).

Maybe we should each of us invest the time to teach another leader just one skill that we have. If we all did that, can you imagine how easily the skills would spread? It might even be a bit of fun!

Over to you

So how might we get better at helping adults to be confident with skills? Let’s have some unusual and simple ideas – and preferably things that you do locally that actually work.

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