16,408 reasons to be cheerful

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With total membership going above 525,300 and some stunning increases in the number of Explorer Scouts (teenagers) and especially young leaders, the past 12 months has been another great one for Scouting in the UK. Thank you.

So many great stories

Improving the lives of young people is very much what we are about, so news this week that we have achieved our 7th consecutive year of growth is especially welcome. We have countless great stories to tell, with strong growth across Scotland and Wales and in counties in England such as Shropshire, which reported a 15.3% growth in their membership. They achieved this through a variety of integrated actions which saw the opening of 15 new sections and one new group in the year.

You will be hearing much more about many of these stories over the coming months and I would just like to take this opportunity to say a very big thank you to everybody for ensuring that increasing numbers are  benefiting from the significant difference we know that Scouting makes to their lives, and to our own lives as volunteers too.

The importance of effective GSLs

Interestingly, Tern Valley District in Shropshire was one of the Districts participating in a national pilot project aimed at ensuring that every Group has an effective Group Scout Leader.

The project is only a year old but already the results look exceptionally encouraging with significant growth in Districts where plans have been put in place to ensure that there are effective GSLs, properly supported and as part of a district development strategy. Lessons have already been learnt, and of course not all is perfect by any means, but we will continue to follow these Districts and expand the pilot.

Keeping the engine room running

I am often asked about the reasons for Scouting’s success and they are of course many fold and in a large part down to the energy and enthusiasm of our volunteers who deliver the programme and support them directly. 

Our success over the past 10 years or so, however, has also been due to the fact that we have made the most of our 'engine room' - that is to say the infrastructure at HQ locally and the support that underpins much of what we do, including ensuring that we have the resources to support us. 

I spent my two days at Gilwell last week in a variety of meetings and discussions across a wide number of these areas, such as reviewing our budgets. Whilst it is true that our finances are very strong and we are benefiting from not being reliant on Government funding, we know of course that we can always be ever more efficient and that the benefit of doing so enables us to invest greater resources (including money) in front line resources like the Development Grants Board for example. Other meetings included Safeguarding, where ensuring that we get this difficult area right is a priority, and the development of the youth programme.

And finally – the importance of those contact details

At a conference this week organised by another of my interests, Guernsey Community Foundation one of the presentations was from a trustee of a charitable trust who was asked to explain how they go about distributing their funds. She said that the main route they use is to look through a list of local charities that have areas of work that meet their objectives and contact them through the details given. 

When was the last time you checked your website details or indeed contact details in a local directory (including the phone book) and ensured that they were current?  Indeed, do the emails actually go to somebody who is able to acknowledge them and act accordingly? Food for thought perhaps when you are looking through the 'to do' list for quick wins.

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