The road ahead
As 2020 draws to a close (thank goodness, we might say), our UK Chief Commissioner, Tim Kidd, looks ahead to 2021 and the prospect of a fresh new start for our movement.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent much of the last nine months on Zoom. And when I’m speaking to our brilliant leadership teams and young people, there’s a phrase I’ve been using: ‘Don’t mourn for the past; let’s look to the future with optimism.’
Of course, that’s easy to say. We’ve not yet understood the full impact of the pandemic on our movement. We know many our groups have been badly hit and many are still struggling. We know our finances have been severely impacted. That’s why we took the tough decisions announced earlier in the month about reducing staff levels, selling some assets and launching our Race Round the World appeal.
Inventing our future
But there’s one thing I know for sure. We have to bounce back. We have to greet the future with determination and resolve and continue our mission to bring skills for life to more young people. If we don’t do that, we’ll simply be giving up – and that’s not the Scout way.
There’s a really powerful idea that I like, which is that we can invent our own future. It’s about accepting there have been setbacks and saying that we will work within the new parameters. It’s about adapting to new conditions, while remembering what we set out to do in the first place: to make life better for our young people.
What we’ve learnt
Of course there’s so much we’ve learnt from this difficult year. We’ve learnt we have more resilience than we knew; we remembered just how vital the hope and encouragement we offer is to young people. And we also discovered that meeting once a week face to face is not the only way to do Scouts.
There are other positives to come out of all this. We’ve had more recognition and support from parents than ever before. Often they’ve been looking over our young people’s shoulders on Zoom calls; they’ve seen how their children have brightened during these precious moments. And they’ve seen the energy, passion and resolve of your our volunteers, determined to keep supporting their children. I know of one Cub, who had to isolate at home while his friends met face to face. The leader still dropped off badges and activities on his doorstep. That’s the sort of commitment that’s had our parents writing in to thank us for what we do, more in this year than ever before.
I know many of us are coping with that uniquely 2020 phenomenon: Zoom fatigue. I agree it’s no substitute for those great moments we all remember of summer evenings in the outdoors. But it’s so much better than not offering Scouts at all. I’m amazed how the power of Scouts can still reach people through the screen. Young people still respond, and that special magic, friendship and sense of belonging we get from Scouts is still there.
Accepting a new reality
We have to prepare ourselves for the likelihood of some restrictions continuing into 2021. And that means making sure we’ve got the skills in place to do that. One leadership team asked an Explorer to support them with Zoom calls – he created an animated flag break and flag down for them, and was just brilliantly at home managing the young people on the call. If you don’t feel you have the skills you need, then now’s the time to learn from others, or see who else can support you with this. I’ve got a feeling Zoom isn’t going away anytime soon.
Staying in touch
One thing I’ve realised this year, that’s more important than ever, is staying in touch. When our leadership teams aren’t meeting up as they used it, it’s so easy to drift away from Scouts. Of course this communication could be by email, social media in the form of Zoom chat, but it could just be as simple as picking up the phone, or going for a socially distanced walk in the park. This isn’t about technology, it’s about contact.
When we catch up, we remind ourselves why we do this in the first place and motivate each other. Try and look for new ways to build connection – whether that’s online or in the real world. The most important thing is that we stay in touch and support each other. That’s the only way our teams will stay together.
Our priorities for 2021
Someone asked me what our priorities are for next year. To me, the answer is simple. Our priority will always be to keep supporting young people. But we need to think carefully how we can achieve this – and this comes in several parts.
The first is that we’ll need to nurture and support those parts of our movement struggling to offer activities to young people. What support, learnings and expertise can we share to be make this easier in our new, topsy-turvy world?
The second is undoubtedly that we need to find new people to support us. This might mean looking at our pool of contacts and parents and asking some to step forward to help us rebuild. It might mean asking some of our Young Leaders and Network members to lend their particular skills and energy to support younger members.
Adult recruitment therefore will be a big one for us in 2021. We need to make it easier for new people to join and make them feel more welcome than ever.
Remember things are different now for so many people. Millions more are working at home, and for many, commutes have disappeared. It may be that people who felt time poor and unable to support in the past are now in a position to help. We need new and different skills, and some ‘digital natives’ may be only too happy to help prepare and deliver online sessions.
A cautious note of optimism
As we enter the new year (and not forgetting a welcome break over Christmas) let’s rediscover that spirit of optimism and togetherness. Let’s keep supporting each other, keep an open mind and remind ourselves why Scouts still matters. We offer skills for life and hope for the future.
Thanks for everything you do.