Discover GPS in a Nutshell
We had two NSOs who had joined together to form a single NSO, so we needed a new single youth programme for the new Scouting Ireland.
In each former NSO there were four programme sections. Each section had its own separate youth programme, with different aims and objectives, symbolic frameworks, outcomes and awards. While each NSO had the same sections (Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers), the programmes for the corresponding sections were also different in each NSO.
The development of the youth programmes in each NSO mirrored the introduction and development of each section over the years. The Scout section was introduced first, followed by the Cub section (pre-Scout), then the Venturer section (post-Scout) and finally the Beaver section (pre-Cub). The sequence of the introduction of the sections was the same in each NSO although the actual year of introduction varied. Over the years following the introduction of each section, the section programmes developed in isolation from each other and were reviewed and revised separately and to different timescales. Integration between section programmes was achieved by the development of “Link” programmes which sought to bridge the transition gap between programme sections
The section programmes were focussed on measuring concrete achievements relating to various practical skills rather than individual personal progression relating to developmental goals. Developmental goals were included in the aims of each NSO, but these weren’t linked to the youth programmes other than as vague aspirational notions. Each youth member carried out the same pre-determined tasks in order to progress. There was no flexibility within the youth programme for differing needs or abilities. There were many badges (particularly “merit” badges) associated with the programmes, with more than 250 merit badges in the scout programme of one of the NSO’s. Merit badges provided an element of choice for the young person, but the requirements for the individual merit badges were usually prescriptive and, similar to the progressive scheme, didn’t allow for differing needs or abilities. Many of the badges and requirements were very outdated and, with some exceptions (notably the Cub section), the programmes lacked symbolic framework – e.g. in the Beaver programme of one of the NSOs the various elements of the programme were named after colours (Red, Yellow, Green, etc.) with no overarching context for these colours.
The fundamental basis of the new youth programme are the areas of growth contained within the aim of Scouting Ireland – social, physical, intellectual, character, emotional and spiritual (or SPICES as they have been branded within the youth programme). Learning objectives (relating to the areas of growth) were introduced to the youth programme for the first time. Final learning objectives were written for the final youth section and then appropriate interim sectional learning objectives, which build towards the final objectives, were written for each of the stages of development. The learning objectives and stages of development are reflected in the youth programme however, as a result of decisions made on age sections, these now span the age sections.
Character Development & Symbolic Framework
The aim of Scouting Ireland was expanded to include character development and symbolic framework was added as an element of the scout method of Scouting Ireland.
Personal Learning Journey
In the old progressive schemes, the youth members carried out the same pre-determined tasks in order to progress; in the new Programme the focus is now on the individual youth member (in cooperation with their peers) choosing their own learning journey, their own activities and being responsible for their own development.
An overarching principle of the new youth programme is that scouter should take particular account of the individual developmental needs of the youth member as they undertake the youth programme, using flexibility and common sense as required regardless of all other guidelines set down in the Youth Programme.
The old youth programmes were developed separately for each section. The new youth programme was developed as a single integrated youth programme for all sections and youth members. It was branded as “ONE Programme” to emphasise its integrated and coordinated nature.
Integrated Progressive Programme
The youth programme scheme is progressive from one section to the next. The scheme is designed to enable youth members to progress with the sectional learning objectives and ultimately the final learning objectives.
The single youth programme incorporates five complementary structures for guiding the young person on their learning journey –
Personal Progressive Scheme
The Personal Progressive Scheme is based on identifying personal challenges to enable the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes through programme activities, which will enable progress towards the learning objectives in each area of growth – social, physical, intellectual, character, emotional and spiritual.
Adventure Skills are a range of skills areas that enable youth members to participate in Scouting adventures in a safe and competent manner. There are nine skills areas each containing nine increasingly advanced levels which span the age sections, and which include specific requirements relating to the relevant skills area. External recognition is an integral element of the adventure skills and they are aligned with external awarding bodies requirements where available.
Special Interest Badges
Special Interest Badges enable the youth members to design their own challenge in five different category areas. They encourage the youth member to set their own targets for improvement within a specific framework, and have their achievement verified by an appropriate person.
Nautical badges enable any scout to access the symbolic framework of sea scouting. These are mapped into all sections as opposed to previously where the focus was on the Scout section. It also allows for individual youth members to access the sea scouting framework without having to be in a sea scout group.
Chief Scout Award
This is a superlative award available to youth members in each section with age appropriate requirements to complete an expedition, an intercultural activity, adventure skills and special interest badges. The Chief Scout Award in the three older age sections are linked to the external International Award in the form of the national Presidents Award (GAISCE) and Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Incorporated throughout the programme is the Plan-Do-Review process. The programme development team followed this process as we developed the new programme. Plan-Do-Review is the process recommended in the youth programme for planning programme cycles, activities and events. It is the also the process that the youth members follow in carrying out any of their own projects and activities.
4. What were some strategies adopted by your NSO for the renewal process? (inclusive of communication, HR, training)
Renewed Approach to Programme
From the outset Scouting Ireland decided that the process would follow WOSM’s Renewed Approach to Programme (RAP) process. This enabled us to concentrate on the process of developing the programme without needing to worry about how we were going to do it. It also eliminated disputes about the validity of the methodology being utilised. We made one small change in how we used RAP – we swapped the order in which we carried out the Educational Activities and Scout Method stages, after consultation with the youth programme unit in the European region.
National Youth Programme Committee
The National Youth Programme Committee, which included programme commissioners for the various areas of youth programme and regional youth programme representatives, played an integral role in the process from the outset. They participated fully in monthly working weekends and approved progress on an on-going basis. In addition the Training and International departments accepted invitations to participate in the process.
It was decided to follow an open process from the outset. An open call was made for volunteers to become part of the programme development team and to assist in the process. Regular updates on the process were communicated to Scouting Ireland membership via national mailings, newsletter articles, etc.
The national youth representatives from the two oldest age sections – Scouts and Venturers – were fully involved in the programme development process from the start. They participated fully in monthly working weekends and were encouraged to join working groups which some of them decided to do.
It was important to the programme development team that we would stay true to scouting principles and working methods while developing the youth programme. Therefore, the scout method was used throughout the programme development and allowed for a better synergy and relevance to the work that teams were doing.
Early in the process we attended European region youth programme events where we met volunteers and professional staff from other NSOs, the European region and WOSM. We connected with youth programme experts who we felt would be of help to us in developing our youth programme. We corresponded with them and invited them at key points in the process to working weekends, workshops and conferences. These youth programme experts from other NSOs played a critical role in our process bringing expertise and independent viewpoints. They also became good friends with members of the programme development team and good friends of Scouting Ireland.
External experts in education, child development and other relevant areas were also invited to participate at relevant stages of the programme development process and contribute their expertise.
The programme development team attending regional meetings around the country, and also organised regional meetings, to seek input from Scouting Ireland members at different stages of the process and to provide updates on progress.
Programme Development Workshops and Conference
The programme development team organised a number of national events to engage in an interactive manner with youth and adult members of Scouting Ireland regarding the prosed programme. These included a workshop on stages of development and the scout method, and a programme development conference prior to the national assembly at which the youth programme proposals were decided. In each case youth programme experts from other NSOs attended to assist with the events.
National Management Committee
Regular updates were provided to the National Management Committee and, at the conclusion of each stage of the process, completed work was submitted to the National Management Committee for their approval.
When the proposed learning objectives and age sections had been agreed, an open call was issued to Scouting Ireland groups inviting them to apply for a pilot scheme to trial the proposed programme. Twenty of Scouting Ireland’s four hundred scout groups were selected to participate in the pilot scheme and received training and mentoring on the proposed programme. These groups then became an integral part of the programme development process, feeding back their experience of implementing the various elements of the proposed programme and helping to refine the proposed youth programme accordingly.
Once the programme and training resources were completed, a three-year implementation commenced. A network of mentors was established throughout the Scouting Ireland regions. The mentors attended seminars and were provided with the tools required to assist scout groups in transitioning to the new “ONE Programme”. Scout groups were invited to apply for a transition slot and a transition timetable was created for the four hundred Scouting Ireland groups. Each scout group was required to nominate a changeover coordinator for whom changeover resources were developed. Training and planning days were organised for each scout group which were attended by all adult members and youth representatives from the age sections. Regular implementation bulletins were produced to keep the members of Scouting Ireland informed of progress with the implementation plan.
Understanding of Youth Programme
It became apparent early on in the process that there was a widespread lack of understanding by scouters of the purpose of the youth programme and of the objectives of the programme development process. Many were of the view that the role of the programme development team was to simply produce a unified badge scheme for our new unified NSO. From some there was enthusiasm for the idea of directly linking youth programme to the aim of Scouting Ireland; from others there was a perception that the process was unnecessarily complicated for what they described as basically a camping and hill-walking organisation. As a result, the programme development team changed their approach and, in addition to and in parallel with the role of developing the youth programme, the team took on the task of informing and educating Scouting Ireland members about the aim of Scouting Ireland and the fundamental role of youth programme in achieving that aim.
When the process moved to the development of educational objectives, there were objections from some scouters to the use of the word “education” to describe scouting. While it was accepted that scouting is a non-formal educational movement, many felt that the use of the word “education” was too closely associated with formal education. Likewise, many felt that they were not “educators” of youth members, as they felt that was a description that applied to teachers in formal education. After much debate, it was decided to switch to using the word “learning” instead, which was accepted without any objections. Therefore, educational objectives became learning objectives in Scouting Ireland.
Scouting Activities for all Age Sections
From the outset the programme development team proposed that traditional scout activities such as camping, hill-walking, pioneering and backwoods would be available to all age sections in a manner appropriate to the stage of development and ability of the young person. This was a radical departure for the youngest age section of Beaver Scouts who traditionally did not camp overnight and whose programme focussed on nature and crafts. A concern was expressed that six, seven and eight-year olds were too young to participate in traditional scout activities. Another concern was that if the younger members participated in these adventurous activities at a young age, there would be nothing left to look forward to in the older age sections. There was also a concern that the scouters in the younger sections might decide that they were not interested, or did not have the capacity, to enable the younger members to partake of these activities. These concerns required engagement with the scouters in the younger age sections regarding the development of young people and progression in youth programme. Ultimately, it was the piloting of these practices in the pilot groups that demonstrated success and enabled these changes to be implemented.
Difficulties between Volunteers and Staff
At the start of the process, Scouting Ireland professional staff were not part of the programme development process. As the work became more intensive and time-consuming, the need for professional staff support was highlighted by the programme development team and accepted by Scouting Ireland. Existing and new professional staff were assigned to the programme development process.
However, misunderstanding and differences of opinion arose between the professional staff and volunteers as the process progressed, possibly due to the professional staff not being part of the process from the outset. Ultimately, these difficulties were addressed by the introduction of formal project management methodologies to the programme development process including work breakdown, assignment, tracking and reporting structures.
In addition, professional staff found themselves caught in the middle of the confusion between the pilot groups and programme development team volunteers. Some of the pilot groups expressed frustration at various stages of the process with lack of resources, difficulty in understanding and implementing elements of the proposed programme, and disagreement with elements of the proposed programme. As the volunteers were not engaging with the pilot groups to the same level as the professional staff, there wasn’t an appreciation by the volunteers of the importance of the concerns being raised which in turn was frustrating for the professional staff as it made it more difficult for them to support the pilot groups.
As the development of the programme progressed it became apparent that the workload was far greater than had been estimated at the start of the process – the development of the programme was taking longer than expected; there weren’t enough people involved to work on all of the required tasks; it was difficult to manage the increasingly complex process. A number of steps were taken to address these challenges –
- professional staff were assigned to the process including newly recruited staff
- additional volunteer staff were recruited to assist
- a project management approach was introduced to –
- plan, carry out, monitor and report on work
- manage work assigned to staff and volunteers
- manage risks and issues
- manage communications.
Difficulties with Pilot Groups
A small number of pilot groups did not implement some of the elements of the proposed programme and instead implemented elements of the existing programme alongside elements of the proposed programmes. They did not have good results from this “pick and mix” approach and shared their unhappiness. Some of the pilot groups also expressed frustration at various stages of the process with lack of resources, difficulty in understanding and implementing elements of the proposed programme, and disagreement with elements of the proposed programme. In addition, a small number of pilot groups withdrew from the pilot scheme due to various local issues. These latter groups were replaced with other pilot groups.
The proposals to change the age sections became the most controversial aspect of the programme development process. The proposals were based on aligning age sections with the stages of development of the youth members. The main objections related to raising the starting age from 6 to 7; changing the scout age range from 11-16; having a section which included young people above and below the age of 18 (even though such a section already existed).
The proposed age sections were the only element of the proposed youth programme not adopted by Scouting Ireland’s national assembly. A subsequent national assembly considered several proposals on age sections and adopted a compromise proposal. While not aligned to stages of development, the compromise age sections did achieve the objective of having a more even distribution of ages in each section.
An additional problem arose once the age sections were decided, as they included an additional age section. This meant that a significant amount of extra work was required to complete the youth programme and produce resource materials for this additional section.
Development of Programme Resources
The implementation phase started from a challenging position. The principles of the proposed youth programme had all been approved, but with a different set of age sections (including an additional age section) that did not correspond to the developmental stages for which the programme resources had been developed and piloted. The programme resources were therefore not appropriate for the approved age sections and had to be recreated. After an enormous four-year effort to develop the proposed youth programme, it was now necessary to kick off an aggressive process to develop new programme resources. There was increased pressure as the proposals had been adopted by the national assembly and the members of Scouting Ireland were now expecting a new programme that they could implement in their groups. Scouting Ireland therefore set a two-year deadline for completion of the youth programme development process, with a further maximum three-year implementation period. It was decided to continue with the tried and tested “working weekends” method that had been so successful during the designing stage and to expand it to include training and implementation teams. Everyone working on the development and implementation of the youth programme would meet once a month for a full weekend’s work. The various groups worked on their assigned tasks and were able to interact and coordinate with other groups as required. Working group leads would meet regularly to review progress and ensure a coordinated approach.
After the adoption of the youth programme principles and the new age sections, a number of volunteers from the core programme development team decided to resign after five years of work. This created an additional challenge of filling these roles, but this was quickly resolved.
In addition, a number of new programme commissioners were appointed at this time, who had not previously participated in the programme development process. This created difficulties in the final development of programme resources as some of the programme commissioners wished to implement programme elements that conflicted with the programme principles that had been adopted by Scouting Ireland.
Additional Programme Structures
It was decided that a superlative Chief Scout award should be introduced for each section. Such an award existed in the scout sections of the previous organisations (although achieved by very few youth members).
It was also decided that nautical badges should be introduced to enable sea scouting and its symbolic framework.
The programme development team now had the challenge of introducing two additional elements to the youth programme scheme while ensuring that they were in line with the overall principles and objectives of the youth programme.
Programme Resource Materials
The production of programme publications and badges was a huge logistical and commercial challenge for Scouting Ireland. Stocks of existing materials had been allowed to run down, but now there was a requirement for an up-front investment in new materials with no clear estimates of demand, but an expectation that there would be a significant initial demand. It was decided that scout groups would only be permitted to purchase materials once they had completed transition training for the new programme.
The twenty scout groups who had piloted the proposed programme and age sections were in a position where they were running a programme which was now going to change. They would be required to make a second transition to a new programme within the space of a few years. It was very important to the programme development team that these groups would continue to be provided with support through this process after all that they had done for Scouting Ireland in piloting the proposed programme. However, this meant that resources had to be allocated to this task which were also much needed to carry out the development of programme resources.
It was difficult to get the training and adult resources departments involved at the start of our process. They were still delivering training as normal and we were asking them to commit additional time to the development of youth programme. They also didn’t recognise the importance of their involvement, reasoning that once the youth programme was developed it could just be handed to them for the development of training programmes and materials. This was probably due to a lack of understanding of the nature and extent of the change that was being proposed. It subsequently made the development of training programmes and materials a lot more difficult and time-consuming at the implementation stage, as the training and adult resources team now had to be educated on the changes proposed and convinced of the requirement for the changes.
While a comprehensive implementation plan was prepared, there were difficulties with the actual implementation. Based on surveys carried out early in the programme development process, assumptions were made about scouters’ levels of experience and knowledge of scouting and youth programme principles. However, during the time taken to develop the youth programme, the profile of scouters had changed considerably.
We had a large pool of trainers organised to deliver training to scout groups on the new youth programme. We also had a large pool of mentors to support scout groups in the transition. However, while the trainers and mentors were all experienced scouters, they had only recently been provided with training on the new youth programme and many of them were still familiarising themselves with concepts that were new to them, and still working on understanding these concepts without having had an opportunity to put them into practice.
As a result of various youth programme and age section decisions, it became apparent that several Scouting Ireland policies were now out of step with the new programme e.g. Camping and the Out of Doors, and Overseas Travel. A review of all relevant policies was carried out and revisions were drafted and adopted as required.
Programme Development methodology
When developing or renewing youth programme it is very important to use a structured programme development methodology – preferably developed or approved by WOSM. This allows the team to focus on the task rather than mechanics of developing the programme. It also removes an opportunity for criticism by those opposed to change. A methodology also provides a structure for a new team/volunteers/staff to familiarise themselves with programme development concepts. Scouting Ireland followed the Renewed Approach to Programme (RAP) methodology when developing our youth programme and will follow the Guide to Programme in Scouting (GPS) for our upcoming review.
It is also important to be open to adapting the methodology to local needs when required. Do not become a slave to the methodology at the expense of what is best for your NSO. If you need to adapt the programme development methodology, it is important that this is done for the right reasons and in accordance with your NSO’s aim and the scout method. It is also important to get agreement and approval from your NSO for any adaptation, so that it is not subsequently used as a criticism to undermine the proposed programme. It is a good idea to discuss any proposed adaptation with the youth programme unit in WOSM or in your scout region.
Ideally your NSO should have an organisational change management strategy, but if not, it is a good idea to put together a change management strategy for programme development. It may not be clear at the start of the process what level of change is required or desired, but it is important to put the change management process in place at the outset and it can be adapted as required as the development of the youth programme progresses. The following are areas that we would suggest should be addressed –
- Gauge the requirement for change and appetite for change in your NSO. This will inform the approach taken to manage the level of change that might be required.
- It is important that the leadership of your NSO understands and accepts any proposed change agenda. They need to be your allies and champions throughout the process.
- A communication and engagement plan will be required to ensure that you bring your NSO with you on the journey – this is also addressed in the Project Management section below.
- Change management needs to be a workstream within your project management plan – it overlaps with the communication and engagement plan and with the implementation plan.
- Change management needs to be an on-going part of the programme development process from the outset including –
- preparing the NSO for change, including communication and understanding of why
- building the capability of the NSO in the process of change and in areas of change
- assessing the level of impact in areas of change
- assessing current skill levels and future needs
- implementing the change with a people-centric approach
Use a project management approach from the start of your process – even if you only have small team to start with it is important to have a structured approach to managing the work. It is not necessary to use a formal project management methodology and it is probably advisable not to, as you don’t want the management of the process to take up more time than the actual development of the programme. The fundamental process we would suggest is Plan-Do-Review which we followed throughout the process and which we built into our new programme. We would recommend the following tasks –
- Clearly define and document the scope of the youth programme review at the start and identify the key stakeholders and decision-making process.
- Create a plan for the programme review including a breakdown of the various tasks – this may be difficult at the start if your team is still becoming familiar with the programme development methodology, but a high-level plan should still be drawn up which can be refined as you progress.
- Identify high-level goals or milestones to be met as the project progresses – the completion of the various stages of the programme development methodology are ideal for this.
- Create a visual roadmap or timeline for the process including the various tasks, workstreams and milestones – again, this may be difficult to fully develop at the start, but if can be refined as you progress. Set realistic expectations in your timeline and don’t forget to allow for holiday periods and for volunteers to have some downtime – particularly if you are undertaking a complete programme review.
- Create a communication and engagement plan, identifying all the stakeholders that you need to engage with, what form that engagement will take, and how regularly it will happen.
- Create a risk management plan, identifying any potential risks that you can foresee for the programme review and what mitigations can be put in place for those risks.
- Put in place a mechanism for on-going management of the process including assigning and tracking tasks, organising meetings, managing issues and risks, coordinating volunteers and staff, coordinating working groups, liaising with other teams (e.g. training and adult resources), engaging with stakeholders, approval mechanisms, etc.
- Create an implementation or rollout plan to include engagement, awareness, training, programme resources, transition, etc. Note that while this is the final task, it is important to start planning at the start as your engagement with the members of your NSO while you are developing the programme is actually the first stage of implementation.
- Create your change management plan as described in the previous Change Management section.
- Carry out the actual work of developing the programme using the programme development methodology and the various project management plans and mechanisms above to guide you.
- Take time to review progress at regular intervals, to revise plans as required, and to obtain any necessary approval for changes to plans if needed.
- When you have successfully completed the renewal of your youth programme, take time to review the process and document what went well, what didn’t go so well, and learnings for the future.
- Celebrate the conclusion of the process.
A project management approach might be seem to be a very formal approach for youth programme but that does not mean it can’t be fun. In fact, it is important to ensure that the process is fun and engaging – volunteers are giving up their free time and while the approach needs to be professional, they also deserve to enjoy the process.
Engagement & Communication
When you are renewing your youth programme it is important to bring your NSO with you on your journey and to share the excitement of the youth programme as it builds. As recommended above, it is a good idea to create a communication plan and identify all the stakeholders such as the national board, national teams, youth fora, scout groups, adult and youth members, parents, government bodies, other NSOs, your scout Region and WOSM.
Regular bulletins will help to keep membership informed of progress.
It is worth engaging with the membership of your NSO at the start of your process to gauge the level of understanding of the process and of youth programme in general, as it may impact on the nature and extent of your engagement and communication plan and your change management plan.
Surveys of youth and adult membership on various aspects of the development of the programme can provide valuable input to the process as well as helping people feel that they are part of the process.
Organising workshops for members of your NSO is a good way to engage, consult and inform as you work through the process. It is important to use the same principles that you are developing in the youth programme when organising the workshop including the use of the scout method, youth involvement, small groups, learning by doing, etc.
As proposed materials and branding are developed it is a good idea to organise presentations/stands/roadshows to showcase these at regional/national meetings and events, including youth meetings, assemblies and events.
It is important to establish the decision-making mechanism for your process and to then engage with the relevant decision-makers on an on-going basis e.g. national board, national assembly, etc. Again, where possible, use the same principles that you are developing in the youth programme when engaging with decision-makers including the use of the scout method, learning by doing, small groups, youth involvement, etc.
Open calls are a great way of involving membership in the programme development process as they are a good potential source of additional help for your team and also demonstrate openness in the process. Make sure to have clearly defined role descriptions when making your open call and a clear selection mechanism following the principles of Adults in Scouting.
Renewing youth programme requires a lot of work by a lot of people. You will need a core team, ideally Patrol sized. You will also need several working groups who will be responsible for working on different aspects of programme development at different stages of the process. These could be all drawn from a large pool of volunteers or could be assembled on a task by task basis as you progress. If you assemble a pool of volunteers, the roles that the volunteers play can evolve and change as the process progresses. You will find that people will drop out of the process as time goes on and you will need to recruit replacements, so it is best to be prepared for an on-going renewal of your team of volunteers. Make sure to follow the principles of Adults in Scouting.
The relationship between volunteers and professional staff is critical to the programme development process. Your NSO will have its own approach to whether the process should be led by a volunteer, a professional staff member, or jointly. Regardless of who leads the process, the core team should be comprised of volunteers and professional staff using a partnership approach and with full involvement of both from the outset.
The involvement of professional staff is critical to programme development as they will be able to work on developing concepts and documents initiated by working groups. They are also important for interaction with external stakeholders including other NSOs, scout regions and WOSM and keeping up to date with trends, changes and research in both scouting and the wider non-formal education and youth sector. They are also better placed to engage with government officials, NGOs and suppliers during the working day.
As this process is about the development of youth programme, it is critical to fully involve youth members as equal participants in the process. Consideration should be given to how this can be achieved in a youth-friendly manner and whether separate open calls are required for youth participation. Make use of your NSO’s youth representation mechanism, as well as national and regional youth representatives, to ensure youth involvement and consultation in the process. You will need to consider safe-guarding processes, youth-friendly venues, ease of travel arrangements, etc.
Training and adult resources should be included in the process from the start. It is the responsibility of the programme development team to develop the programme, but it will be the responsibility of training and adult resources to train, mentor and support the adults in your NSO in implementing the programme. Having them involved in the process from the start provides them with a fundamental understanding of the programme that will enable them to design and develop training programmes, materials and support. This will be critical for the success of your implementation plan and for the on-going success of the youth programme.
Make use of the programme development resources and supports available to your NSO from WOSM and your scout region.
Identify other NSOs who have been through a programme development process and contact their national youth programme departments. Attend international events on youth programme. From these contacts identify youth programme experts from other NSOs who can give you the benefit of their experience in areas of youth programme that need to be addressed in your NSO.
Invite external experts in education, child development and other relevant areas to participate at relevant stages of the programme development process and to contribute their expertise.
We would recommend working weekends as a method of working and as a mechanism for helping to ensure a coordinated approach to the development of the programme by all those involved. Once a month arrange for all the people working on the development of the programme to gather at a central location and spend the weekend working on their tasks in their working groups. Regular meetings of the core team, working group leads, etc. can then take place over the weekend. It is hugely beneficial to be able to move easily between working groups to discuss, share and keep track of progress. Different working groups can easily interact with other working groups when and if required. Mealtimes, breaks and evenings provide a very valuable opportunity for sharing and debating of ideas, concepts and different approaches.
In Scouting Ireland, we launched or pilot scheme at a working weekend camp of all the pilot groups. There they all participated in induction training and had an opportunity to contribute their ideas to the process.
We have the benefit in Scouting Ireland of living in a small country where anyone can get to a central location within approximately four hours and this enabled us to have these monthly working weekends. Monthly working weekends may not be possible for all NSOs, but it is worth exploring if variations might work – perhaps distributed working weekends would be possible where all teams gather on a single weekend in multiple locations possibly using technology to connect.
A very important part of our programme development process was the pilot scheme where groups were invited to apply to trial the proposed programme.
The pilot groups make a commitment to trial the proposed youth programme and to do their best to be open to new approaches and new ways of doing things. They commit to honest appraisal and feedback of their experience and to becoming a part of the programme development process. The selection process for the pilot scheme needs to be open and transparent. An open call should be issued to all groups. Selection criteria should be decided in advance. A representative cross-section of groups is required including geographic distribution, large and small groups, urban and rural, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc. It is important to avoid selecting groups who are all perceived as “high-performing”. It is also important not to select groups who are currently struggling for any reason, as adding the uncertainty of a pilot scheme could cause matters to worsen for them to the detriment of their youth members.
The groups who commit to a pilot scheme are taking a big risk. They are trusting the programme development team to provide programme materials, mentoring and training; to listen to their feedback and adapt the programme if required; to keep them informed on an on-going basis; and to facilitate a community of pilot groups where they can share experiences and learning with their peers. They will be trialling a proposed programme in the knowledge that it may not be the programme that is finally adopted and implemented.
Running a pilot scheme requires resources. Scouting Ireland assigned a full-time professional staff member as liaison to the pilot groups. The liaison could be contacted by the groups if they had any questions or difficulties. They visited the groups regularly and provided training and mentoring as required.
It is important to stay true to scouting principles and working methods while developing the youth programme. Therefore, the scout method should be used throughout the programme development process and particularly including the element of fun. The use of the scout method also allows for a better synergy and relevance to the work that the various teams are doing.
External research and internal evaluations are important in both keeping the work grounded in broadly accepted theories and acceptance of those ideas. Where possible, external and objective research should be used to ensure that the work stays on track and true to its vision and values.
Decision Making Structures
Determine what decision-making structures are required for the programme development process at the outset. Can the decisions be made by the youth programme department or do they need to be approved by the national board or the national assembly? Even if they do not need to be approved by the national board or the national assembly, would it be prudent to bring the proposals to those bodies for approval to maximise widespread acceptance of any proposed changes?
Ensure regular communication to relevant decision-makers throughout the process so that there are no surprises when formal decisions are required. Messages need to be simple, clear and transparent. Strive to develop proposals that are likely to achieve widespread approval rather than being potentially divisive. This does not necessarily mean that principles should be compromised as widespread approval can also be achieved through consultation, engagement and education in a partnership approach with youth and adult members throughout the programme development process – this is where change management is important.
Implementation requires different skillsets to those used during the programme development process. Instead of creativity, the focus will now shift to logistics. This may require the recruitment of additional volunteers with these skillsets, but the volunteers who worked on developing the programme are still essential for tasks such as approving programme materials, finalising training materials, sharing knowledge with trainers and mentors, and monitoring and assessing the on-going implementation.
Don’t make any assumptions about levels of ability or understanding of scouters in your NSO. Carry out research towards the end of the programme development process to identify the actual situation and plan your implementation accordingly.
Ensure that trainers and mentors are fully familiar with the fundamentals of the programme, the rationale behind any changes, details of any new approaches contained within the youth programme and strategies to assist scout groups to make the transition. Put in place structures for the trainers and mentors so that they are fully supported when they come across issues.