CEO's blog | Grounded innovation

AMH Final Blog

How we delivered A Million Hands

By Matt Hyde, Chief Executive, The Scout Association   

I’m standing with our Beaver Scouts singing Christmas carols with the residents of a local home for the elderly. While listening to the magical sound of young and old voices blending together, it’s an amazing feeling to know that this is part of our Million Hands campaign, delivering meaningful social action. 

Projects that genuinely make a difference ‘on the ground’ and which can be replicated easily across the Movement are rare. Having led other organisations with federated structures, like The Scout Association, it’s not uncommon to hear criticisms of ‘ivory towers’ or statements like ‘they don’t know what it’s like where the real action happens.’

Different Chief Executives have different approaches to narrowing the gap between thinking at ‘the centre’ and local delivery. But when I joined the Scouts, I felt if I was truly to understand the challenges our leaders face, I actually had to deliver the Programme myself. And so for the past 18 months, every Thursday night, I’ve helped run a Beaver Colony. I was told it would just be one hour a week and…well, you know the rest.

From theory to reality: A Million Hands

Recently our Colony undertook part of the Programme that I was involved in shaping over two years ago – the A Million Hands campaign.

For me it is one of the best examples of what I might describe as grounded innovation – where you introduce something truly innovative, but that is grounded in the realities of what it’s like at a local level.

A Million Hands was developed in response to the part of the 2018 Vision that challenged Scouts to make a positive impact in their communities, prepare young people to be active citizens, embrace and contribute to social change. This ultimately led to community impact being one of our four strategic objectives in our strategic plan, Scouting For All.

Empowering our members

At The Scout Association’s national conference in 2012 it’s fair to say opinion was divided as to how we would pull this off. So in 2013 we asked over 3,000 young people what they wanted to take action on and how.

Based on that research, a group of young people chose four social issues they wanted to focus on, supported by six charities out of the sixty that wanted to work with us. In partnership with the charities, adult volunteers and young people, we designed practical resources to help leaders deliver the Programme as part of the Community Impact Staged Activity Badge or as part of the top awards.

Fast forward to autumn 2015 and following the launch of A Million Hands during Scout Community Week our Beaver Colony started to explore the four issues and choose which issue we were to take action on. Here’s how we did it:

Choosing the Issue

We spent a programme evening running activities across four bases to explore each of the four issues. There are loads of Programme ideas on the A Million Hands website.   

  • For dementia – we ran the ‘Making the Connections’ activity on page 11 of the dementia resource pack.
  • For access to clean water and sanitation – we ran the ‘Water Relay’ activity on page 9 of the water resource pack.
  • For disability - we ran the ‘In the Dark’ activity on page 30 of the disability resource pack.
  • For mental health – we ran ‘What makes us happy?’ activity on page 17 of the mental health resource pack.  

Young people not only enjoyed all the games, they asked questions, went home and continued to discuss these important social issues. Dementia and access to clean water and sanitation came top so we decided this term that we’d focus on dementia.

Planning action

Our Scout meeting place is next to a residential home, but there seems to be no link at all between them. One resident told me ‘oh the Scouts? We haven’t seen them for years.’ The leaders suggested carol singing but the Beavers themselves decided how this would happen: rehearsing carols on a programme night before, deciding who was going to introduce the carols, say some words at the beginning and at the end.

Taking action

The night itself? It was an incredibly moving experience. For anyone who has had a relative or a loved one with dementia or living in a residential home you will know how important moments like this are. You’ll also know the positive impact children can have on the elderly.  The residents told us it had made their Christmas. The Beavers loved it. Parents told us that they, as a family, talked about the issues our young people saw.  

Telling the world

Finally one of the really important parts of the Community Impact Staged Activity Badge is to tell people what you’ve done - like this brilliant blog from an Explorer Scout. In our case, we asked the Beavers to say something that they wanted us to put in a press release. We agreed which quote we would use and then put that in the press release template (also on the A Million Hands website) which went to the local newspaper.

When we design the programme in a way that combines innovation with the lived reality of our members, the results can be spectacular.

What’s next?

By Jack Abrey, Chair – UK Community Impact Group 

It’s amazing to see Matt so engaged with A Million Hands, both as Chief Executive and as a Beaver Scout leader. For a project to succeed it needs this level of support from the top of the Movement. However, local Scouting is where the action truly happens; leaders and young people up and down the country rolling up their sleeves and changing their communities for the better.  

As Matt has suggested, this is a Youth Shaped project, with young people making key decisions and truly leading the way at every step. As a young person helping lead the A Million Hands project, I would now like to challenge every Group that has pledged their support to translate that into action. You can find out a bit more about my take on one of the issues here

To date over 3,700 Groups have signed up to A Million Hands, with over 190k young people taking part. Already, nearly 10,000 hours of action has been taken but only 2% of you have told us what you’re up to!

So if your young people haven’t chosen an issue, planned action, or started to take action, now’s the time! There’s a great quote from Joel Barker that goes: ‘Vision without action is merely a dream. Vision with action can change the world.’

As a project that is driven locally and supported nationally (remembering that it is a fully embedded part of the Programme, supporting the Community Impact Staged Activity Badge) A Million Hands is here to stay. Please use the microsite to tell us what issue your members picked and what action they took.

I’ve seen the difference our young people are making right across the UK and the difference it is making to them. Thank you to everyone who is helping to make A Million Hands a success. It’s incredible when our movement works together as one, living our Promise and truly changing lives. 

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