Scouting’s role today in the ‘shared society’ by Matt Hyde

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On Monday I attended the Charity Commission AGM where the Prime Minister, Theresa May, delivered the keynote speech. She highlighted two main issues. Firstly, how we build ‘a society that works for everyone’ to ‘overcome divisions’ – what she termed the ‘shared society’. She particularly emphasised the vital role of civil society organisations to respond to the country’s challenges. Secondly, she focused on the important issue of mental health, announcing, amongst other things, a new green paper on children and young people’s mental health.

For a movement that prides itself on bringing communities together and equipping young people to be happy and successful in life, both narratives should be of interest to Scouting.

Our contribution in promoting better mental health

In a 2013 survey, young people involved in Scouting told us that the number one issue they wanted to take action on was mental health. Mental health subsequently became one of four social issues that formed part of our A Million Hands initiative where, through our partnership with Mind, thousands of young people have been inspired to take action on this critical issue - people like Astrud Turner who wrote about her experiences in this blog.

Then late last year the University of Edinburgh released a piece of research that demonstrated how through participation in Scouting and Guiding you were 15% less likely to suffer anxiety or mood disorders later in life. This was a weighty piece of longitudinal research with a huge sample size. It highlights the importance of building resilience in young people through the Scout (and Guide) method. 

Helping demonstrate the benefits of Scouting

The University of Edinburgh research and the social action undertaken through A Million Hands are two powerful examples of how civil society organisations, in this instance Scouting, can make deep, meaningful and long-lasting impact on citizens and wider society. It’s why our role and relevance is as great today as it has ever been and why the importance of volunteering is so critical to the well-being of the country.  

My hope in the coming years is that there will be sufficient investment and policy commitment to unlock the power of civil society organisations to respond to society’s challenges. The goodwill of people giving their time generously in the service of others cannot be taken for granted and requires a policy agenda that cultivates a strong voluntary sector.

Why youth organisations have a vital role in shaping the future 

And there is a particularly important role for youth organisations. It was good to hear the Government’s renewed commitment to the #iwill campaign, which seeks to increase the number of young people volunteering and which The Scout Association has championed since its formation. There is a thirst from young people to build a better society and all youth organisations – uniformed and non-uniformed – have an essential role in responding to the challenges of the country.

This means there needs to be evidence-led funding to get behind initiatives that we know work, as well as securing a seat at the table for us to influence how young people can play an active role in building the sort of country they want to grow up in. Scouting has a proud track record over the past century of stepping up to the plate at challenging times and so is perfectly placed to make a significant contribution now and in the future.  

How you are contributing to positive social change

For people involved in Scouting, it is thanks to the phenomenal work you do locally that makes Scouting so well placed to contribute to this debate and inspire positive social change. Thank you to every Scout volunteer for making this possible – as our Chief Scout, Bear Grylls says, you are ‘shining lights in your communities’ and an inspiring example to everyone in the country.

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