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Blog | 27 November 2019

Scouts and Girlguiding working together

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Have a think about some of the benefits of teamwork. It’s likely that it all boils down to the same thing: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ This fundamental merit applies to all group activities, from sports and media to the government and the business world.

Scouts and Guides
Photo by Chris Barr

Yet working together only works when everyone involved has a common goal. You only need to switch on the TV or open a newspaper at the moment to see athletes, musicians and other team-players having a hard time seeing eye-to-eye, while politicians struggle to find common ground even with peers in their own parties. It’s important that we find ways to try to celebrate what we share...

To many, Scouts and Girlguiding do the same thing, except that one’s for everyone and one’s specifically for girls and young women. In the here and now, our organisations have different offerings. However, both of us want to bring everyone together to learn more about the world and to develop the skills we need to improve or protect it. There’s a notion that both are competing to attract members from the same pool of young people and volunteers. The reality is that we’re simply trying to reach more people than ever before, with some happily joining both organisations. 

Wanting the same thing and not being in competition gives our two teams the opportunity to collaborate and achieve more than we could alone. Lots of members out there have had the same idea: there are now more than fifty joint Scouts and Girlguiding units across the UK. Scouts and Girlguiding have worked together for many years to raise funds for activities, equipment or venues by taking part in events together, such as Gang Shows, where members of both groups rehearse and perform onstage. In fact, the two organisations have been connected now for more than a hundred years – ever since Robert Baden-Powell asked them to cooperate – and today, tens of thousands of Scouts are also members of Girlguiding. 

To find out how joint Scouts and Girlguiding groups work, we spoke to some of the people behind them. We wanted to see which elements of Scouts meetings and which elements of Girlguiding meetings found their way onto the joint group agenda, what the joint groups achieved together, and what advice they would give to Scouts and Girlguiding groups thinking about linking up. 

Nicola Surrey is a member of Black Notley Scout and Guide Group in Essex. She said:

‘We have separate sections for Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers. At the same time, as one group, we’re a charity in our own right, with a management committee and constitution. We were gifted the land where we’ve built our Scouts and Girlguiding HQ in Black Notley, which we run and maintain by fundraising together. All festivals, activities and other events include all of our sections, so that they have quality time together to mix. The sections have their own separate meetings too. 

Together, our sections are very active in the local parish. We take part in the parade for remembrance and try to do our bit to keep the area clean and tidy. Recently, Beavers and Rainbows helped plant flowers, Brownies and Cubs picked up litter, and Guides and Scouts took care of hedgerow cutting and other maintenance. We also camp together, taking part in international camps and also hosting family camps every few years. 

Our group works well because all our leaders from Girlguiding and Scouts are friends, who work well as a team and enjoy spending time together. Sections looking to link up should bear in mind that you may work together a lot and should have similar goals in mind for what you want to get out of the relationship.’

Scouts and Guides
Photo by Chris Barr

When we think of Scouts and Girlguiding, it’s hard not to think of adventure – camping out with companions and sitting around a fire. Some joint groups, however, have been able to take the traditional camp to the next level. Ben Rhydding Scouts and Guides Group in West Yorkshire, for instance, have forged an international partnership with a Dutch Scouts and Girlguiding group from The Hague in The Netherlands. Every year or so, these two groups take turns to host a giant camp for everyone, mixing both the traditions of the organisations and the cultures of both countries. Established since 1976, the Ben Rhydding group even put their diverse membership to good work running the Hag Dyke hostel in the stunning Yorkshire Dales. If adventures with new people from all walks of life are your thing, this could be the kind of group to copy!

Something Scouts and Girlguiding have always shared is a passion for helping vulnerable people, whether by fundraising together or being active in their communities. Together, these organisations can make a splash addressing national issues, like poverty or homelessness, and also more local concerns. Some have set up shop within hospitals, where they can help out patients and their families. Many such ‘Hospital Units’ across the UK are joint groups, so that they can appeal to patients who are Scouts and Guides with the support of both organisations. The Leeds Hospital Guides and Scouts unit is an example of such a group – a welcoming and friendly unit that allows young people to come along and get involved as much or as little as they please. With a relaxed uniform policy and a programme focussed on cultural and practical-based activities, they can provide a pleasant stop-off point for many young people on their road to recovery, or an engaging session for siblings and relatives who are there to care for loved ones. This is a great chance for them to make some new friends and take part in a programme that’ll provide some relief from the stresses and strains of their time at the hospital. 

Both Scouts and Girlguiding UK are happy to encourage collaboration wherever possible. For instance, they can provide help and support setting up Hospital Units like the one at Leeds General, as well as support for joint groups who would like shared permits for nights away, which can be tricky to arrange. The two organisations’ collaborative project, Space to Grow Together, is a grant-funded project to help Scouts and Girlguiding groups grow and diversify membership in order to increase opportunities for young people to engage in social action.

Dave Yates is the Strategy and Change Manager for both the Scouts and Girlguiding UK – a collaborator-in-chief with a unique perspective on the relationship between the two charities. He says, ‘When this project first started, we didn’t know how much collaboration there was on a local level, so we reached out to volunteers. We wanted to find the real stories and bust the preconceived ideas or ‘myths’ that might stop them working together. This led us to discover collaborations that were entirely organic and volunteer-led, and not the result of any organisational initiative. Now we had the real narratives, we could help volunteers with any issues. For instance, a husband and wife Scout and Guide leader team might take their groups away together. This is convenient, collaborative and cost-effective. But both leaders would need to be DBS-checked by both organisations, which is time-consuming, costly and complicated.’ 

On 2nd November, a joint Thanksgiving service was held at Westminster Abbey, where Scouts and Guides celebrated all that they’ve achieved by working together. We’ve heard stories of Guide and Scout volunteers mucking in, making new friends and flying the flag for both organisations in the best possible way. Whether they’re competing in the fearsome Hurdlestone Challenge or preparing for a Gang Show, our volunteers and members are showing the world how to do something that’s a bit of a struggle for lots of us right now: working well together.

So, keep doing what you’re doing! Volunteers across the UK have set a great example by seeking out collaborations with other groups in their areas. By dropping them a line and seeing what they’re up to, or even going along to someone else’s meetings, you might find there’s lots that you can share, whether its equipment, facilities or expertise. At the very least, they might know some fun activities or new skills you can take away for your group. 

A huge thank you to all Scouts and Girlguiding volunteers out there for being the collaborative spirit of both organisations and inspiring more of us to do the same.

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