What keeps you awake at night, Wayne?
During my activity report to the Board of Trustees on Saturday, I was asked by the Treasurer, Chris, 'Wayne, can I just ask what keeps you awake at night?' 'Nothing', I replied, but it did set me wondering on the rather long train journey to Bristol on Saturday following the Board meeting...
During the week I met with Matt, one of our Diversity Ambassadors responsible for communications (that is to say, how Scouting supports young people and adults with communication difficulties such as speech impediments etc).
Matt had sent me some thoughts on how he felt we could work in partnership with other agencies and develop support for leaders, and some ideas for interesting activities and opportunities for young people. I am very interested in his proposals and we met whilst he was in Guernsey to look at how we could turn these into reality in the short term.
Friday saw an opportunity to catch up with Alex, UK Commissioner for Programme, to be updated on his team’s work, and to discuss a number of new initiatives and especially some ideas that have been formulated through the Development, Advice and Support ('DAS') days which we have been holding alongside the DC/GSL conferences throughout the last quarter.
Strategies over dinner
As a few Trustees with long journeys gathered in the evening ahead of Saturday’s Board Meeting, it was an opportunity to catch up over dinner. With Carl, County Commissioner for West Lancs, Peter, Deputy County Commissioner from Merseyside, and David, an NYR from Scotland, we had an interesting and wide-ranging discussion including exchanging some interesting thoughts on how we might better support the development of Scouting in inner cities where it is hardest to recruit adults and where perhaps the uniform presents a greater challenge for young people’s perceptions.
We talked about how we might overcome this to get them through the doors in the first instance. Having germinated the idea, Peter kindly volunteered (!) to take it further.
The Board meeting on Saturday covered a variety of topics including a review of the Board’s Reporting Committees, the Scout Activity Centres' national strategy, the communication on changes to the safeguarding training requirements, the Association's finances, and a review of our Business Objectives (the main work plans that underpin the national activity) for the current year and also our detailed work plans for the coming year.
As part of the routine reports to the Board, Bear, myself and Derek, the Chief Executive, produce activity reports summarising what we have been up to, our work plans and future proposals.
A year ago, as part of the induction for the new Board last year, Derek and I had given a presentation entitled 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly', based on the western film, in which we had highlighted successes and challenges etc. It was at the end of the activity report that referring back to 'the ugly', Chris had asked what, if anything, kept me awake at night. I was able to honestly answer 'nothing' (and not just because I am able to sleep soundly!)
On the long train journey to Bristol following the Board meeting however, with Steve, Director of Programme and Development, I did have an opportunity to ponder some of the frustrations and challenges which, whilst perhaps not being so serious as to stop me sleeping, certainly are frustrating our current efforts.
Thoughts on the train
It was a long journey due to extensive track works but I kept coming back to something we had focused on in recent weeks, notably the difficulty with internal communications, both in terms of us getting the right message to the right people in the most appropriate format for them, and also with fellow members being receptive to the information and being willing to act upon it!
As mentioned before, we have recently created an internal communications team at Gilwell and they are presently working on a strategy which we will be able to share with you in the New Year. Nonetheless, like effective Leadership and Management, I am increasingly convinced that finding the solutions to these key challenges, which, in themselves, are inter-related, is a significant key to achievement of our future ambitions.
Engaging with Local Authorities
And so, as it was 28 November, it must be Bristol and the South West region DC/GSL days. It was another great day with over 200 local managers joining us despite the snow and ice that had affected large parts of the region over the weekend.
Questions were again varied, and a consistent theme that came through the feedback sessions for the first time was the importance, especially in the current climate, of supporting local Scouting in engaging with their local authority.
I have mentioned previously my own discussions with the Directors of Education in several local authorities, and there is a clear opportunity for us to seize the opportunity presented by the severe financial pressures that local authorities are under and cuts that are certainly going to be made to their youth budgets.
Whilst in some respects this is clearly a threat to our local income from those authorities, it is invariably a small proportion of our total budget, and if we can make the case that the relatively small expenditure that we receive is magnified many times through local volunteers then I believe that we will be seen as a more significant part of their solution in extending youth work at a time when it is clearly increasingly needed.
We also have the opportunity of building on the 'Big Society' theme that is being promoted by central government and again fits very squarely with what Scouting is all about. This is something we will look to work on and develop over the coming months.