This month’s blog entry is about Accountability in Scouting. By this I am thinking about the way we run Scouting on a day to day basis within groups, districts and counties, rather than doing actual events or activities. In my opinion, it’s something we all know about but it doesn’t seem to be seen as a priority.
Most of us have seen in our Scouting experience, a group or even a district that was once full of young members, lots of leaders and lots of activities going on. Then for various reasons whether it be people moving away, people not having the time any more or new people coming into the group, the group then starts failing, numbers drop, leaders leave or nothing gets done. Whatever the reasons and there can be many, someone needs to be making enquiries as to why this is happening and where suitable someone needs to be held accountable for this.
Now there are many reasons why a group can be failing, and they can often be reasons outside the hands of those running Scouting. New clubs could start up, there just might be a lack of children in the area, scouting might just not be popular in that area and so on. What I am talking about is examples like this one I came across 10 years ago. A group where someone started as GSL, who then ran the group as if it was his, who then had family members put into the main leadership positions. The group which was thriving previously, eventually went from having double sections to a Beaver Colony, Cub Pack and barely a Scout Troop. The reason being that all the leaders did was football competitions and games, so they lost lots of young people and leaders. But I’m sure we can all think of similar examples in our districts or counties. But people should be made accountable for this. Incidently when the example leaders above moved away and left the group 8 years later, the group started to grow in membership again. The last I heard they were thriving again.
Why is nobody from district or county then going round to groups and asking ‘Why are your numbers down by half?’ or ‘Why does this group no longer attend district events?’ or ‘Why are your leaders leaving?’. Now I am sure in some places this is happening, whether it be GSL’s, ADC’s, DC’s etc. But it doesn’t happen everywhere or in many places. Why can’t we have one person in each district or county, responsible for checking on groups once a year making sure recruitment is good, leaders are happy, balanced programmes are in place or nobody is finding it hard to cope. Any problems can then be rectified whether that be through advice and guidance or more training in certain areas. One of the leading reasons why leaders leave is because they don’t feel they get support or guidance.
Why can’t a strong group buddy up with a neighbouring group that is struggling, why can’t districts or counties use experienced section leaders to help out new or struggling leaders in other groups where possible. One benefit to Scouting would be to have a record of everyone’s leadership experience. In every section or place that I have been a leader in the past 15 years, the number of young people in that section has been over subscribed, I have recruited more leaders, the programme has always been full and varied. But nowhere is there a record of this. Now if experience like this was recorded, someone could look at my record and get me to help someone whose record shows they might be struggling.
In any paid job, there is standards and targets set to be achieved, in most cases if these standards are not met, you can often be sacked. Now Scouting is based on volunteering and we don’t want Scouting to be like going to work, unless you really enjoy your work. But there has to be some accountability in getting to a certain standard. As a young person’s organisation, we all have a responsibility to all the young people to give them the best possible programme of activities. If young people enjoy their Scouting experience, many will stay in touch with Scouting, whether it be staying in to become leaders, or making sure their own children join in with Scouting.
People might now be thinking, leave it to those that are already supposed to be doing this. But this isn’t happening, at least not from the many contacts I have around the country. I know it means introducing another role at a certain level. But we have to take this seriously and stop ducking, if we can ensure a certain standard surely this will benefit young people, leaders and groups alike.