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Engaging the community

By 2018, Scouting will be as diverse as the communities in which we live. We believe that Scouting changes lives and we want every young person to have the opportunity to be involved, we need to remove barriers to participation. Today anyone who believes in the values of Scouting can take part, and that includes over 120,000 girls and women, people with disabilities; and LGBT communities as well as growing numbers from minority ethnic communities.

We want to go further to ensure Scouting is reflective of wider society, with the public recognising that Scouting is open to all and this may involve thinking flexibly about setting up new and developing existing provisions.  

There may be areas in your District which do not currently have any Scouting provision; or areas where the current provision is not fully representative of the adults and young people living there.

Understanding your area
Before planning any development work, it is essential to look at the local demographics and establish the need. The Office for National Statistics can provide the most up to date information for your area www.statistics.gov.uk

Compare this data with the annual Scout Census for your Group, District, County/ Area or Region. Are there any groups which are currently under-represented within your local Scouting?

Research should give you a good picture of the make-up of your local area and start to inform how to reach out to your target groups. It may also inform how best to expand and adapt the existing provision.

Taking positive action
Scouting experience has shown there are many ways to engage communities who may be currently under-represented in Scouting, development initiatives fall into three broad models- inclusion, satellite sections and new Groups.

Inclusion

Scouting is guided by values which encourages individuals to think differently. Members promise to respect others, which includes acceptance and inclusion of others even if they are different from us. Inclusion is the preferred method as it offers valuable learning opportunities for all Members to work with other people and build friendships. In a wider sense, this model also makes a positive contribution to society, as Scouting contributes to local community cohesion.

Scouting is inherently inclusive, but sometimes there is space to do more and pro-actively reach out to young people and adults who may not currently feel that Scouting is for them. This may be as simple as youth members inviting friends from school to come along to a meeting with them. 

For this organic growth model to develop Scouting which is truly reflective of the community, it may also require the local provision to reflect and consider if there is anything which could be done differently to reach out. This could be as simple as considering the meeting place. If a Group is currently meeting in a church or mosque, the public may perceive that Group as for a single faith group exclusively. Doing some local promotion about Scouting, sharing posters which display all of the various wordings of the Promise, for example, could be all that is needed to reassure that the Group is open to all.

Satellite Sections

A satellite Section can be advantageous as it uses the existing structure and infrastructure of the Group, such as the Executive and equipment; and support for new leaders is immediately available. Satellite Sections can engender a 'specialist' feel; this may be important in engaging the support of parents/ carers and establishing the Section.

Scouting has used this model effectively to grow the numbers of disabled young people accessing Scouting via a partnership with Scope. Satellite sections were set up in Special Education Needs (SEN) schools which linked to existing local Groups.
Find out more about the project here [coming soon]

For satellite Sections to succeed, existing Members must be open to change; willing to adapt long standing practices and be receptive to new ideas. Satellite Sections need new leaders; who will require support, encouragement and inclusion for the Section to establish effectively and gradually become embedded within the wider Group.

New Group

New Groups may appear attractive as it enables greater flexibility. For example, the new Group to be run in a culturally appropriate style, meet in  a new location or time, such as Saturday morning.  A strong, shared identity  is important to all Scout Sections; yet it is important to remember that even Groups which strongly identity with a particular characteristic eg. a single faith should remain open and inclusive to all.

The District and County should offer support and retain strong links to new Groups to ensure that new Groups thrive and are integrated into the District.


Preparing the District/ County/ Area Team to support development

Establishing the support of all stakeholders is vital for the successful development of new and existing Scout groups. There are a few critical stages to consider in your planning;

Communication
Effective communication between all parties is critical. Building good relationships, establishing open communication about the proposed development work and agreeing the benefits to everyone involved is vital.
It is essential that District and County Commissioners are engaged in the  development.

Flexibility
Scout Districts need to be open to explore and celebrate new cultures and beliefs into their local Scouting to ensure that it grows and reflects the community in which it operates.
Flexibility is necessary to enable growth. Timings, location, uniform and programme may need to be adapted to ensure all Members are comfortable.

Mutual understanding
Ask questions, explore your opinions and raise awareness to develop mutual understanding and friendships. Differences should be viewed as potential benefits, which can add a whole new dimension to an existing Scout group or District.

Ownership
New Groups succeed where they are the result if organic partnerships; wit all adults involved holding clear and realistic expectations, roles and responsibilities and work together effectively.
Contact with key people within the community is essential. Explore all possible contacts, and remember that building new links may take significant periods of time. Finding the right people to set up Scouting is vital and developing a good relationship may take time.

Recruitment and training of adult volunteers and helpers
Adult help and support is essential when expanding or developing a Scout Group and this may take time to generate. To attract adult volunteers you may want to highlight the personal benefits of volunteering; access to training, learning new skills, meeting new people and doing something fun and challenging in their spare time.

Ensure the newly recruited or prospective volunteers can access appropriate training as quickly as possible. This gives them a greater understanding of both the role they are taking on and the support available to them.

Young people and new Group Executive Committees should be recruited in the same way as any new Group. Extra guidance can be sought from the local Growth and Development Officer.

More information on adult recruitment is available here.

 

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