Chief Commissioner's blog | Extending our reach
Wayne talks about the strategy to develop Scouting in as many diverse areas as possible...
Scouting in inner cities and more
Those of you following my travels and ramblings this year will have noticed a focus on developing Scouting in some of the areas that might be described as the most deprived. We are getting to the stage of pulling together the lessons learnt from a variety of projects across the UK.
What makes Scouting grow?
I’ve written previously about the keys to growth and these apply as much to inner cities as they do to rural areas, although there are clearly some specific issues that require a different approach.
You can read about some of the DCLG/Youth United funded projects in this month’s Scouting magazine also.
Learning from our past experiences
Interestingly, over the past few days I have also been reviewing the archive files of the project called Scoutreach, which was run by TSA between 1975 and 1982. It will surprise very few people who follow the history of our Movement and local communities to know that while things may look and feel different in many aspects, the re-occurring challenges remain.
When it comes to inner cities in particular, the main challenge is sustainable volunteering. By this I mean those that are able to volunteer for long enough and regularly remain exclusive. Perhaps a bigger challenge today than 35 years ago, is the availability of places to do Scouting, particularly as more community facilities regularly close or become too expensive.
Not sitting back and waiting
So what to do about it? As I mentioned, over the past year or two in particular we have been piloting a number of initiatives that aim to address this; in particular for young people not in employment, education or training (NEETS).
In Speke, Merseyside, we successfully employed a development officer to recruit a team of 10 volunteers to get a new Group up and running, which is still continuing and thriving. Key to this success has been the full support of the District and County teams.
Finding places to meet is a growing problem (not just in inner cities) and so a number of pilots are being developed. Speke Scouts, for example, meet in the fire station and others meet in a supermarket, schools and academies. We are also developing a nationwide project aimed at supporting local Scouting in ensuring we have appropriate places to meet.
In Ardwick, Manchester, as part of the Youth United-funded Greater Manchester initiative, a new group is largely run by students from the local university who are supported by the members of the local community. You can read more about that in a previous blog.
To help sections start up
A key part of the development work being assessed also is the level of start-up funding for meeting facilities, uniform and equipment etc; pilots have benefitted from a range of awards from £100 to £5,000.
The role of assisted volunteers
Perhaps one of the more challenging philosophical issues for us is the degree to which we are willing to pay people to deliver Scouting. In Cornwall, in a project funded by the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, we have developed the concept of assisted volunteering. Under this, an individual is paid £50 per week on the basis of a 12-hour week on a project-by-project basis, supported by a team of volunteers led by an ACC; their role is to identify volunteers to run a new section and support them through the initial stages.
In Avon, we are about to take this a step further, with the potential help of the Pears Foundation, by employing six to eight part-time development interns, based on the assisted volunteer model. They will be responsible for setting up and running Scout sections in particularly disadvantaged areas of the city.
In East London, in a separate locally-led project, youth workers were used to run a Scouting provision on a local housing estate, which has successfully established itself and expanded.
So where are we going?
Nobody can be more passionate than me that remaining a volunteer-led and managed Movement is of utmost importance and goes to the core of the values that underpin our Movement. But I am equally passionate that the life-changing opportunities and skills that Scouting can offer are needed more today with youth unemployment concerns and the number of NEETs and those especially in areas we find it most difficult to sustain Scouting.
To succeed we have to think differently than we have previously.
I am convinced that we can strike the balance by remunerating members of the Movement that need to work to sustain their income, eg students, young parents and others who need to work in their otherwise ‘spare time’, while remaining volunteer-led at all levels.
We will continue these pilots in the short and medium term and, if successful, seek to expand and extend our reach even further.