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Different thinking for a different world

Different thinking for a different world

More than a year on from the start of the pandemic, figures emerge that capture its seismic impact. Some are tragic, like the numbers of those lost, that 1 in 4 young people feel ‘unable to cope with life’ (Prince’s Trust, January 2021), and that early years child development has regressed (Ofsted, November 2020). However, our sense of community has never been stronger. 4.9 million people volunteered for the first time and 750,000 people signed up to volunteer through the NHS’ GoodSAM app.

For Scouts as an organisation, there have been similar highs and lows. Our income was greatly reduced as a result of the pandemic and we had to make some very difficult decisions, including reducing our staff team by a third and agreeing to sell Baden-Powell House and Scout Adventures Downe activity centre, two assets that hold special meaning and memories for our members. These actions weren’t taken lightly, and we hope to honour the legacy of these people and places in how we move forwards, acknowledging how painful the situation’s been for everyone involved.

There have been successes: after realising 500+ Scout groups were at threat of closure, we held our national fundraising campaign Race Round the World. It raised an incredible £737,118 and over 20,000 people took part in the virtual race around the globe. Through the campaign, and generous grants from Pears Foundation and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), we were able to offer a £1.5 million Recovery Fund for groups most affected by COVID-19. We were then awarded a grant from the DCMS COVID-19 Youth Sector Support Fund for £2.147m of unrestricted funding, which has put us in a much stronger position for the coming year.

The pandemic also forced us to turbo-charge the acceleration of our digital capability. 80% of groups continued to offer meetings online, taking part in over 1.2 million hours of Zoom calls. We held The Great Indoors Weekender, the UK’s largest camp at home, meaning 120,000 young people (Scouts and non-Scouts) enjoyed a weekend of digital activities. We also held our first digital AGM.

Finally, events at home and abroad made us reflect on how we live up to our values and must strive to do better. Inclusion and acceptance are at the heart of what we do as Scouts, and race equity in particular has been a renewed focus for us as we make sure the power of Scouting can benefit all communities across the UK and beyond.

Going forwards, we have a plan to reach those who’d benefit most from Scouts. Research suggests that the earlier a young person accesses non-formal education, the more positive the impact on their prospects. We’ve undertaken extensive work to pilot a new programme for 4 and 5 year olds with a wide range of young people and adults, and the evaluation from early years experts has been fantastically positive.

We’ll soon begin slowly inviting groups to start our first early years sections, supported with training and resources. This should help us not only reach more young people but also new volunteers from diverse backgrounds, as parents and carers of this age group are likely to come along with their children.

This isn’t the only way we hope to attract new volunteers. Another key aspect is our ongoing national recruitment campaign, #GoodForYou, which highlights the many benefits of volunteering with Scouts – from gaining skills to improving health and wellbeing.

Of course, we won‘t forget our incredible, existing volunteers. We’ll make sure volunteering with us is easier than ever before, and even more fun. We’ll start a major transformation programme to make joining easier, and we’ll design training that’s more flexible and straight forward.

There’s much to do. But together, we can rebuild a new world that works better for everyone in it.

Matt Hyde OBE
Chief Executive, Scouts