Cross bridges

Designing the YP

What were the challenges during the designing phase?

NSOs reviewing their Youth Programmes need first to get to grips with the elements of design and the research needed to ensure that their Programme will be fit for purpose These NSOs share the challenges they faced from the outset. 

The beginning was based on people with knowledge of pedagogy and teaching so the complexity of the first designs of the Youth Programme were high. This complexity decreased with time and the involvement of other people and the movement towards leaders and Scouts. Groups let go of the project when they felt they had done what they could. Then the project was handed over to a new group of volunteers and with this the complexity decreased.

In the end it was carried by employees to finish the project, implement it,  and keep momentum. Now the present development and communication of our current Youth Programme is volunteer-based.

The main change has been the process, the research, for it has brought us the tools to know the Scout members and, above all, the children, the teenagers, and the young people we had not reached yet, as well as the hierarchy of minimal indispensable learning to achieve the Scouting Mission and Vision.

The second main change has been to promote the democratic process, by conducting different polls and workshops to sensitise people to the importance of stating the new generations as the centre of the Youth Programme design.

The third main change has been the political change. We have run the necessary processes to make the changes in the statutory level for the next National Assembly, so the educational action is assumed as a true political priority.

Finally, all the research results have been published in different Scout and non-Scout media, including academy congresses. This has allowed penetration in the public policies of our country, for we have introduced a law initiative to the Mexican Deputy Chamber, where we are asking for the non-formal education acknowledgement within the secondary regulations of the Mexican General Education Law.

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 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.   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 the Youth Programme in achieving that aim.

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.

At the start of the process, Scouting Ireland professional staff were not part of the programme development process.  As the work became more intense 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.

As the development of the Youth 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 Youth 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.

A small number of pilot groups did not implement some of the elements of the proposed Youth Programme and instead implemented elements of the existing Youth Programme alongside it.  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 the lack of resources, difficulty in understanding and implementing elements of the proposed Youth Programme, and disagreement with certain elements.  In addition, a small number of pilot groups withdrew from the pilot scheme because of 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 Youth 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 to 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.

This project encountered many challenges along the journey. Initially, the review was to be completely conducted by volunteers in the movement, including a then newly formed National Youth Programme Team. As the scale expanded exponentially, the need for paid staff was identified, and since 2014 there has been at least one staff member (and as many as four) dedicated to the review and redevelopment of the Youth Programme at any one point in time.

  • A range of volunteer teams have completed aspects of the review and development
    • 17 different teams
    • Over 100 volunteers from across the country directly engaged in the operations of the review and development.

During the review and design phases there were challenges whenever the norm was being questioned. This included:

  • Each section’s previous structure, operations or theming.
  • Recognising the increasing ‘no religion’ identification in the Australian census.
  • A range of viewpoints and values challenging the need for an indirect spiritual or religious reference, rather than an explicit reference.
  • Long-serving theming had many sentimental attachments regardless of whether the investigations resulted in continuation or removal of these aspects.

Workload of volunteers and staff:  The Youth Programme Review Team faced many challenges in the initial and ongoing development of the new Youth Programme. The initial review and design phase of was conducted by volunteers who were members of the National Youth Programme Team; however later on in the process and as the scale of the project increased, this was expanded to paid professional staff who were hired to undertake much more of the Youth Programme development and relieve many of the volunteers of the increasing workload.

  • The initial volunteer review team was made up of around 20 volunteers from around the country.
  • Two paid professional staff  were involved in the development and design stage of the new Youth Programme.

Initially, the Review Team focussed on following RAP to determine the direction and methodologies that the team would use to build the framework and Youth Development Policy. However, further in the process, it became difficult and increasingly the team looked to what many other NSOs had developed to provide inspiration to our own Youth Programme design.

Early on in the process it was identified that across the movement there was a lack of understanding as to what the term “Youth Programme” actually meant. In our previous programmes the focus had been on the progressive award scheme; however this presented difficulties in our methodology as many adult leaders would programme to the award scheme, rather than to the learning opportunities that were happening in the age sections. This was a significant change to our approach to the Youth Programme as we shifted the focus to the learning opportunities and the understanding of the award scheme being part of a larger developmental Youth Programme.

Another challenge was that many of our members also had a sentimental attachment to some of the traditions and symbolic frameworks they had known and practised for some time. This was a challenge for the Review Team as they balanced tradition and inclusion to ensure the new Youth Programme was of high quality and relevant to young people, but upheld many of the traditions that have made Scouting unique for over a century. There was some resistance to these changes from our adult membership; however these were overcome through our communications and inclusive approach.

One such change was the renaming of the capstone awards for each section in the progressive award scheme to be named after native New Zealand native trees which hold a special place in the environment but also in New Zealand culture. In some sections there is a dual name for the capstone award so it retained the link to the Scouting traditions of the award but also aligned with our principles of the One Programme approach and in the naming after native trees to New Zealand.

A concern  raised early on by adult volunteers was that in following the One Programme approach, young people in the younger age sections could participate in learning opportunities that traditionally would only be made available to young people in older age sections. The perceived issue around this was put to rest as we communicated our messages around the flexible and non-prescriptive approach to the Youth Programme. The NSO had released a new policy defining the age sections and stages of transitions which had already made clear guidelines around these flexible processes.

Overall, the NSO had no idea of the enormity of the task that we set ourselves, and amid many other priorities, it has not been willing to dedicate the resources needed at all levels in order to get through the process in due time. The lack of volunteer and staff resources was, therefore, the greatest challenge. The whole process was challenged by a lack of volunteers, and a lack of support from the national office (and particularly the comms team) for finding volunteers. Midway through the renewal process, a dedicated consultant was hired, which helped a lot.

Best Practices

  • A lot of the challenges were overcome by sheer persistence more than anything else.
  • The RAP process has a tendency to invite NSOs to overdo it. One important lesson was to try and keep things simple, to focus on the impact of the real Youth Programme, which is created by the Scouts and by adult leaders with little time and little pedagogical/psychological training. Focus on making Youth Programme tools that the local level will want to use.
  • The RAP process had a very steep learning curve for the national team, limiting the benefits that could be reaped from it – particularly in an NSA with a high circulation of people at the national level, resulting in the Programme team having to train new people all the time in the details of the process.
  • A more Agile approach, where incremental improvements can be created and implemented in sprints would probably be much easier to use.
  • Cooperation from local resource persons such as psychologist, educationist since most of them were time constrained
  • Robing in Ghana Education Service into the program.
  • Limited human resource in the NSA with expertise.

Best Practices

  • Involve Education Service in the programme.
  • Involve the National Youth Authority.
  • Involve the Africa Support Centre.
  • Run a pilot programme to ascertain unforeseen circumstances.
  • Receive approval from the National Scout Council.
  • Involve regional commissioners
  • Involve the National Youth Advisory Committee.

The main concern was to orient global issues to Brazilian society, that is, to understand what some concepts mean in our country. It was also a challenge to get members to understand the update process as an institutional need.

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