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Blog | 24 September 2020

How the Scouts went through ‘digital transformation by pandemic’

Julian Blake, The Catalyst

The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled the Scouts into asking some big questions about its future and responding with answers that draw on creative and super-practical thinking.

With face-to-face meetings suspended, the 113-year-old charity has had to accelerate its use of digital to provide different ways of providing experiences, delivering meetings and rapidly transforming operations.

Responding to the COVID-19 lockdown, in March Scouts unveiled #TheGreatIndoors, a new online package of ideas and activities “to inspire young minds at home". As chief Scout Bear Grylls concluded, the resource would help whole families “stay busy, focused and cheerful”. Meanwhile Scouts internal systems, already being readied for digital change, have accelerated towards new ways of working through technology.

Challenge and response

Chief digital officer Lara Burns pulls no punches when explaining the scale of the Scouts’ challenge. “We can't do what we are here to do,” she says. “Deliver scouting to hundreds of thousands for young people across the country and help them develop skills for life. Our finances are stretched, which will potentially affect our ability to deliver scouting in the long term.

“Staff are working remotely. Board meetings have gone all-digital, and will not go back to earlier ways of working any time soon.”

She says the movement’s rapid move to digital service delivery came from the grassroots rather than the centre. With most Scouts sites closed, the movement led the shift to ‘Scouting by Zoom’, with volunteers delivering weekly online meetings locally.

“At a national level, we used Zoom - and we've been able to repurpose content and launch amazing social action and fundraising campaigns” says Burns.

Read more about the digital impact during COVID-19 on The Catalyst

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