The benefits of youth shaped forums and committees
Samuel Shackleton, District Youth Forum Chair of Wolverhampton North Scout District, shares his insights into the reasoning behind youth shaped forums and committees
Committees – young people sitting on adults’ meetings?
In Wolverhampton, North District, in 2014, two Explorer Scouts were voted to sit on the District Executive Committee to represent the young people of the District in key decision making and event planning. And so began our journey towards making committees more youth shaped.
When Abigail Allan, our first Youth Commissioner, was appointed in 2016, one of her first priorities was to make committees more accessible. She said:
‘It’s fair to say that the first step in making anything more accessible is to make sure that people know what it’s about: its purpose, who’s there and why they’re there, and what all the jargon means. With this in mind, our first thoughts on new ways to make the District Exec accessible for young people was to create a short, one-page introduction to the various roles present and key terms used in meetings.
‘We then linked this in with a cheerful-looking role description sheet for our District Youth Reps and created the role of Group Youth Reps, who sit on their Group Exec. We’re now looking at establishing mentors on those Execs, giving each of the young people someone experienced to help the young people find their feet and voice.
‘It’s important that the young people on the Execs are effective (non-voting) members; they’re not just there to tick a youth shaped box. The more accessible Execs are to them, the more productive the meeting will be and the more they gain out of them – useful life skills.’
Forums – adults sitting on young people’s meetings?
Our Youth Forum came about after our District Youth Reps were tasked with developing ideas for our St George’s Day celebration. What begun as a survey for each section to complete, grew into a meeting of Explorer Scouts facilitated by a couple of adult volunteers.
Using the ideas suggested by the sections, they created a full plan for the day and, but for a few logistical points, organised it, liaising with adult volunteers to run the activities. The success of this led to the formation of a regular Youth Forum for the District, which has since met twice, quarterly.
While the invitation was first open to Explorer Scouts and Young Leaders, we’ve now expanded it to include Scouts too. Although the first two have followed a meeting format to get it up and running with regular attendance (not forgetting pizza and chocolate attractions), our next Youth Forum will move from an hour long session into a day of adventurous activities for Scouts and Explorers, with the potential of incorporating these meetings into camps in the future. Not only does this reward the young people who attend, it means they get more out of their commitment to the District.
I chair these meetings along with an Explorer – with a couple of representatives of the District Team in attendance (eg DYC, DC, DESC). Our ideal approach is for at least two Scouts and Explorers to attend from each Group, and for them to discuss the pre-published agenda within their sections in advance of the meeting. At the Forum we can then discuss their thoughts and come up with ideas and plans for, for example, restarting a District swimming gala or having an Explorer and Young Leaders Camp in 2018 (both ideas from young people attending the first Youth Forum).
We only have to look back to our St George’s Day celebration in April 2017 to see the impact this had. Firstly, the young people in the district enjoyed a day that followed a different pattern to previous years. It featured activities and games that they’d thought of and fed back through the survey. Also, less strain was put on leaders and committee members in the planning stages and it enabled Explorers and Young Leaders to become more involved in local decision making.
Youth Shaped Scouting – partnerships between young people and adults
The common theme between committees, forums, and all of youth shaped Scouting is partnership: young and not so young; Scouts and Explorers; Leaders and Commissioners; sections, Groups and Districts; all working together. We know youth shaped Scouting isn’t a new concept, and has been happening to various degrees since 1907. Some people may be unsure of what you’re doing and why, especially if something’s always been done one way for many years (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?) but we know that things can always be improved.
Forums aren’t something unachievable, and aren’t only something for a District or County stage. Why not bring your Lodge Leaders and Sixers together at the start of each term to develop and plan your moving on ceremony, or allow your Explorers to facilitate a parliament-style debate for your Scouts?
if you're taking part in events this month to celebrat #YouShape, make sure you let us know on social media.