‘We are a movement, not an organisation. We change with the times’ – Robert Baden-Powell
As we work towards a plan for the future of Scouting, it’s important that we think about Scouting’s role in today’s society, how we can change with the times and how we can make a bigger impact.
A lot has changed over the past year – we live in times defined by two words: Brexit and Trump. Brexit exposed a number of fault lines across the UK – between young and old, rural and urban, London and the rest of the country – leading to some commentators describing the UK as a ‘disunited kingdom’.
At Scouts, we understand the value of people from different backgrounds mixing. And for that reason, we bring communities together. Whether that’s the Explorer Unit where young people come together from different schools, the District Scout camp pulling people together, the extraordinary growth of the Muslim Scout Fellowship, where what binds us as Scouts is our shared values, or an international camp where our values extend beyond these borders to nations across the globe.
When thinking about the future of the Movement, it’s important to consider what more we can do here. We need to show how we bring people from different communities together, not only to continue attracting funding but also to shift old-fashioned perceptions of Scouting and have an even greater impact in our communities.
In January, I attended a Charity Commission event where the Prime Minister outlined a plan to tackle the challenges presented by poor mental health in this country. One in four people have a mental health issue at some time in their life, and this is estimated to cost the taxpayer £105bn per annum. The figures show young people are most affected, with over half of mental health issues starting by the age of 14 and 75% by 18.
A major study published by the University of Edinburgh just before Christmas showed that Scouts were 15% less likely to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and mood disorders later on in life. So Scouting has a major role to play in addressing this massive societal problem.
Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind, said it’s because we embody the five ways to wellbeing – connect, be active, take notice, learn, give.
So by simply ensuring people experience Scouting we can make a positive contribution to this important issue. But we might also want to consider how we bring reflection on mental health to life more in our programme.
Scouting delivers skills for life. As a member of our Movement, whatever your background, you have the best possible chance to succeed in life.
We have shown through our work in Avon with the Pears Foundation, through the 330 sections we are opening in areas of deprivation and the work we undertook with young people from the Roma community in Sheffield, that the skills for life young people gain gives them a better start in life. And we know that the earlier the educational intervention on a person’s life the greater the impact.
Beyond 2018, should we build on these successes and ensure we reach more areas of deprivation or other vulnerable groups? How reflective are we of ethnic diversity in the UK today?
The dominance of digital
Anyone who has seen a toddler go up to a TV screen and try and swipe it with their finger will know that young people are growing up in a digital age.
Like any seismic technological change, some of it’s good and some of it’s not so good.
What is certain is our young people need the digital skills to thrive in a digital age. They also need support and resilience to cope with cyber bullying and to understand the impact that screen time has on their wellbeing. It’s why we introduced the digital badges. But we also need to think about how we can use technology to get young people outdoors like we have seen with Geocaching and Pokemon Go, as well as to make the running of Scouting easier for leaders.
Research suggests that millennials represent the most civically considerate generation since the 1940s. There was a 52% increase in the number of 16-24 year olds volunteering between 2011 and 2015.
We need to seize the interest in youth volunteering and in the younger generation’s desire to change the world for the better. We also need to recognise that with an ageing population, there is huge potential for recruiting more volunteers.
The great power of Scouting is it’s more than just a youth movement – it brings people together from different generations to break down misunderstandings and to show that we can learn from each other. It binds generations together.
A strategy for the future…
These are some of the big issues I think Scouting is well placed to tackle. How can our young people be part of creating a happier, more resilient society? Where differences across backgrounds and generations are celebrated, not just tolerated. Where they have the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of where they come from.
But what do you think? We’ll release our first draft of a new strategic plan for Scouting, based on consultation with over 6,000 people to date, in early autumn. Make sure your Group and District make time to help shape the final version of our plan for 2018-23.