What's in the pipeline then?
Having boasted last week that nothing keeps me awake at night, I paid the price this week! With snow and ice closing the airport in Guernsey (yes, we even had snow in Guernsey – well, 20 mm at least, which of course caused chaos), I had to resort to a sleepless night on the floor of the crowded ferry for an eight-hour sailing to Portsmouth…
As I mentioned, just last weekend we had shared with Trustees our work plans (business objectives) for the coming year. So with so much time on my hands, I thought I would share with you over the next few weeks what is in the pipeline, or at least some of the projects and thinking behind national activity to support local Scouting.
Leadership and management – making it happen
As you know, underpinning our objectives for me is the provision of effective leadership and management, so we have a number of work strands in this area.
These include reviewing our management training for adults, ten-minute guides to key tasks (recognising that time is precious, but better support is vital), and looking at the role of the GSL through pilots in eight Districts across the UK (how do we ensure each group has one, what support do they require to be effective, etc?).
We have also started the work of identifying support for some of the tasks that volunteer managers find most difficult, such as effective reviews, moving adults on to more suitable roles, dealing with complaints, and safeguarding issues.
Supporting the Cub Section
We have spent a lot of time in recent years looking at the relative decline in the Cub section (as a result we introduced additional support material, held various workshops, helped with moving-on initiatives and new programme ideas), but we are particularly concerned by the apparent drop-off at the age of nine, and so will be commencing some work on what lies behind it.
We are also doing some additional work around matching membership to local demographics, which will improve our understanding of relative levels of membership.
Early opportunities for developing leadership
Something that makes Scouting different from the rest, for me, is that we offer young people 'leadership' opportunities, whether through Sixes or Patrols, Executive committees/officers or the Young Leaders' Scheme.
One of the possible disadvantages of the changes we made to age ranges is the potential loss of opportunities for teenagers to gain personal leadership experience, especially as Patrol Leaders, so we are looking at ways of addressing this in the older sections in particular, as well as the Scout Troop.
Keeping volunteers longer
Our recruitment and retention strategy has now been approved. Although we clearly need to recruit more people, we are actually doing fairly well against national trends, so we will be building some initiatives that support the key findings which are that 45% of our recruits come from parents of existing members, and another 45% from former members.
These include things like The Big Adventure, support for local recruitment initiatives and promoting existing resources such as the Six Step approach.
The focus now shifts to retention, which we have focussed less on in recent years, and this will start with some research into why adults leave us (we all have anecdotal evidence, but little of substance on which to base some actions).
Understanding the impact
Talking of research, a major piece that we will be reporting on shortly is the Impact of Scouting, an independent project we have commissioned and which we hope will give evidence of the difference Scouting makes to our communities and our members. We hope to then use this with potential partners, local authorities and donors, amongst other key influencers.
Another project due to report later next year is one looking at who pays the national membership fee, which will help to address one of those frequently asked questions about the impact the fee has on restricting flexible volunteering (eg, the group pays the fee for a leader irrespective of whether they are occasional volunteers or help each week, and whether it is right that Active Support members also pay).
Ask those burning questions
Next week, I’ll expand on our National Activity Centres strategy and update you on some of the other work plans. I'd also be very pleased to try to answer any burning questions you may have. Just post them in the comments section below and I'll try to cover over the coming weeks.
Now, back to catching up with the sleep, and avoiding ferries...