Growing inner-city Scouting: no myth...

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Greater London North is a county showing how we can grow Scouting in tough inner-city areas as well as the leafy suburbs, so it was great to beat the weekend’s snow and ice to join them for their county development day and learn about some of the keys to their success.

Supporting those who support others

First up however was an early morning flight to Manchester on Saturday and a drive north to get to Preston, where I attended the North West Region county team meetings (ACCs, chairs, administrators and other support roles) and sat in on some of their panel discussions. 

This was also an opportunity to catch up with several people and to join the CCs in the afternoon for their own discussions, including one on awards.  This was particularly helpful as they were also joined by Richard Butler, who has the unenviable task of chairing the awards board. 

We were able to discuss many of the points raised in the recent blog along with solutions to some of the problems highlighted.

Be prepared

A somewhat tortuous journey late Saturday afternoon and evening through the snow and ice but I managed to get to Cheshunt, just off the M25, in time to open Greater London North’s development day on Sunday morning. 

GLN has grown its membership by over 22% since 2007, proving that Scouting really does have a future in helping those young people most in need of our brand of everyday adventure in and around London.

Keys to success

CC, Roger Colebrook puts this success down to a number of different factors, none of which are a real surprise, except that they have ensured that they really happen:

  • A focus on development at all levels, particularly encouraging the opening of new sections/groups.
  • Centralising the joining enquiry handling process and looking across district boundaries.
  • Supporting leaders in delivering a balanced programme with the production of ‘Programmes in a Box’ for example, which has now been picked up as a national initiative following its success. Thank you Russ. 
  • Working with districts to ensure they have a development plan and are themselves fit for purpose and able to support groups. This has resulted in a number of mergers and boundary changes.
  • They were early to recognise the importance of the GSL role - in 2011 they appointed 28 new GSLs out of a total of 93 groups.

Clearly an awful lot more has been happening, but this gives a feel for some of the steps, along with their own full time development officer, which has made a really big difference. And they assured me that it was only just the beginning.

What do groups want from districts and counties etc?

As part of the preparation for their weekend, they undertook a pre-conference survey with over 120 leaders participating and contributing to questions focusing on district/county activities and the support that they sought from district and county. 

This triggered a number of quite interesting results, most notably for me that only one third wanted district/county events with groups competing against each other, whereas 80% wanted activities where they were participating alongside people from other groups.

Other popular responses included providing activities that leaders were not able to offer themselves, and helping inexperienced leaders to offer activities that they did not feel able to do. 

You can find out more about the county and their successful approach to development by visiting their website at www.gln-scouts.org.uk. Well worth a visit, congratulations Roger and team.

Support from UK government

It was coincidental that I spent my weekend in the North West and London areas as both of these are the main beneficiaries of the £10m of funding offered this week to uniformed youth organisation through Youth United by the government.

This comes off the back of the endorsement by the Duchess of Cambridge and the support of Prince Charles who just this week, visiting a group of Scouts in Lewisham, recognised the significant part that we play in changing the lives of some of our most disadvantaged young people.

We are working with Youth United on how this money can be utilised within the targeted areas in a way that supports our exiting development plans and allows us to speed them up, rather than be over-bureaucratic and a diversion which is something we refuse to do simply for funding -  a policy that is serving us well. We also continue to push government towards helping us in many more practical ways too, but more of that another day.

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