Cross bridges

Implementing the YP

What were the challenges during the implementation phase?

It is tempting to think that once an NSO has designed its  Youth Programme the job is done.  But unless the new Programme is implemented at unit level, it is worth little more than the paper it is written on. These NSOs share the challenges they faced during the implementation phase. 

We had been communicating about the project during the development phase with different kinds of publications and posts. In the beginning the texts were heavy and complex and this scared a lot of our leaders. If we had waited a bit, it might have been easier to communicate simpler and lighter. This could have made our implementation easier. We would not have had to convince leaders that this was an easy tool to use in everyday Scouting. On the other hand, the complexity might have been kept high if we had not communicated continuously and adjusted our communication.

We met the leaders in the local districts to talk about the approach and held hands-on workshops and examples. We ended up talking to approximately 25% of our local leaders to prepare them for the new Youth Programme. Meeting them where they were decreased the distance between the developers of the Youth Programme (the NSO) and the leaders. In our survey about how they use the Youth Programme in local groups, many group leaders expressed satisfaction with our implementation and with the Youth Programme in general especially after the local workshops.

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 Youth Programme resources were therefore not appropriate for the approved age sections and had to be recreated.   Scouting Ireland 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 design stage and to expand it to include training and implementation teams.

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 Youth Programme development process.  This created difficulties in the final development of Youth Programme resources as some of the Programme Commissioners wished to implement programme elements that conflicted with the Youth Programme principles that had been adopted by Scouting Ireland.

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.

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.

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 Youth Programme.

The 20 scout groups who had piloted the proposed Youth 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 Youth 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 Youth 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 the 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 over for them to develop training programmes and materials.   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, for example 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.

A very important part of our programme development process was the pilot scheme where groups were invited to apply to trial the proposed Youth Programme.

The pilot groups made 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 committed 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 needed to be open and transparent.  An open call was issued to all groups.  Selection criteria was decided in advance.  A representative cross-section of groups was required including geographic distribution, large and small groups, urban and rural, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc.  It was important to avoid selecting groups who were all perceived as “high-performing”.  It was also important not to select groups who were currently struggling for any reason, as adding the uncertainty of a pilot scheme could have caused matters to worsen for them to the detriment of their youth members.

The groups who committed to a pilot scheme were taking a big risk.  They were 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 could share experiences and learning with their peers.  They were trialling a proposed Youth Programme in the knowledge that it may not be the programme that would be 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.

Implementation requires different skill sets to those used during the programme development process.  Instead of creativity, the focus shifted to logistics.  This required the recruitment of additional volunteers with these skill sets, but the volunteers who worked on developing the programme were 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.

We had to ensure that trainers and mentors were fully familiar with the fundamentals of the Youth 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.  We put in place structures for the trainers and mentors so that they were fully supported when they came across issues.

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 400 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.

Implementation of the new Youth Programme was not without its challenges.

  • Scouts Australia is a federated National Scout Organisation and with that are challenges in navigating that model.
  • It took three years to review, design, approve, and implement the revised Promise and Law.
  • It took six years to navigate the review and redesign and to commence implementation of the Youth Programme.
  • There is the potential for implementation to be ongoing for another four years.

With a lesser reliance on the sectional structure, the support structures for the Youth Programme are still evolving.

  • Identical structures replicated across all layers of internal governance is making way for a range of support teams with direct engagement with the grassroots membership.
  • Newer support structures are still in their infancy, and the full implementation and realisation may be some time away still.

The implementation of the new Youth Programme was a big undertaking for our NSO. There was a need to balance autonomy and consistency in our approach to implementing our new Youth Programme across the country and in our regions in a consistent manner, so therefore adopting the right implementation method was most important. The review made a decision to send three advance parties of pre-selected transition workshop facilitators, who were also members of the National Programme Team to Australia to attend some of the Scouts Australia new Youth Programme transition training workshops.

The teams were sent to three different training workshops that had a similar implementation method to what we were looking to implement in New Zealand. These were great experiences for the programme team, not only to see a new Youth Programme in practice in another NSO, but also to take the learning from these training workshops and look at how this particular implementation model could be applied in the context of New Zealand.

As we had finished the design phase of the new Youth Programme, we drew our attention to our Adults in Scouting structure and how our adult volunteers and regional areas would support the rollout and implementation of the Youth Programme at a local level. It was important that we considered this from an Adults in Scouting perspective and not just from an adult training perspective as the new Youth Programme represented a big organisational cultural change and how we would support young people and adults through this process.

As mentioned earlier, a key change was the move away from the term “Scout leader” to the term “Kaiārahi”, the Te Reo Māori  for coach, mentor, or guide as this best represented the new change in the role of our Adults in Scouting. We then set about creating a new competency framework aligned with the new Youth Programme for Kaiārahi. This meant a new adult training framework would follow to support adults in the delivery of the new Youth Programme.

We recommend that an NSO implementing a new Youth Programme look at the implementation and approach with adults from an Adults in Scouting perspective and not just from the training of adults.

The implementation of our new Youth Programme was set back due to the impact of the COVID-019 global pandemic. We had scheduled many transition workshops in various parts of the country before this was halted due to a nationwide lockdown imposed by the government. This meant that we could not convene any community-based Scouting activities, which included our new Youth Programme transition workshops. Our focus shifted from supporting the implementation of the new Youth Programme to supporting Scouting to move online and a continuity plan.

We officially launched our new Youth Programme at the 22nd New Zealand Scout Jamboree. This was an opportunity for the Youth Programme Team to showcase and build excitement among young people and adult volunteers around the new Youth Programme and start the transition process for many groups.

A big challenge of this was to ensure that the Jamboree programme aligned with the principles of the new Youth Programme and so much effort was put into working with the Jamboree Programme Team to ensure that their programme met the direction of the new Youth Programme.

A very important part of the implementation phase was the pilot groups who would trial the new Youth Programme, closely supported and monitored by mentors and the national youth programme team. We selected around seven pilot groups in Wellington and Auckland to trial the Youth Programme. These groups were supported by national staff and volunteers. The pilot groups attended a transition workshop and were closely monitored afterwards with an appointed mentor to the group to monitor their progress in the transition.

The pilot groups were also supported with drafted programme collateral and resources for them to explore and develop an understanding and application of the new Youth Programme principles. It was very important that the pilot groups selected were in close geographic proximity to each other so they could easily collaborate and form a support network with the other pilot groups and address any issues that arose in the pilot implementation. While these groups were centred in urban areas, we next focussed our implementation on more rural areas of New Zealand so we could better understand how our implementation could be applied to more remote areas of the country.

During the implementation phase the New Zealand government announced a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-019 global pandemic. This halted all community- based Scouting, including the scheduled transition workshops for the new Youth Programme. During this period, our national team focussed on supporting all groups in a new online method, including the implementation of a new digital youth programme system called Mahi Tahi. This system was used to support all groups to continue with their Scouting activities online and at home, and would be used as our new digital system overtaking our previous.

The major benefit of this system is that young people could use it to engage with the Youth Programme. This was also supported by weekly programmes developed by the National Programme Team which aligned with the new Youth Programme, meaning all groups across the country could experience parts of the new Youth Programme, even though their group had not transitioned.

Scouts New Zealand developed an implementation strategy for the new Youth Programme. This strategy is inclusive of all Scout groups and zones across the country and describes how we will support them through the transition to the Youth Programme. The implementation consisted of the following principles to guide us through the strategy:

  • Groups transition as a cohort.
  • Groups transition as a whole, not as individual sections.
  • Youth and adults must participate.
  • There will be a process to opt in.
  • Groups will work through a readiness assessment prior to transition.
  • No youth member will be disadvantaged.
  • The transition process must be engaging and participatory.
  • Differing learning styles and developmental ages must be accommodated.
  • Groups will be supported to the best of our ability.

The National Support Centre hired a project manager to coordinate the implementation phase and transition workshops. The implementation of the Youth Programme is to be a staged approach in different phases. Scout groups opt in to transition to the new Youth Programme, demonstrating their willingness and preparedness to transition.

We held an open call for volunteers to participate as new Youth Programme workshop facilitators and group mentors and held a series of capacity building workshops to train the facilitators and mentors in the new Youth Programme and the responsibilities to support. The implementation of the new Youth Programme is being driven from the National Centre as a centrally delivered model, in close collaboration with regional bodies. This centrally delivered model will be supported until the point where we reach 50% of all groups, which represents around 70% of total youth membership. After this point, groups will transition and be supported from a regional level.

Groups were invited to a transition workshop where young people and adults learned about the new Youth Programme and as an intergenerational team, develop their own plan to implement the Youth Programme in their local group once the transition workshop is finished. This is then supported by a “group mentor” who checks in with the group on a regular basis to ensure that the transition to the new Youth Programme is going well and mentors them through any challenges they may face.

The transition workshops were intentionally not framed as “training” as the intention of the transition workshop was more about transformation, change management, and immersing in the new Youth Programme.

The National Executive Committee was responsible for the implementation through regional commissioners. We ran the reviewed Programme on pilot basis before the main implementation. The feedback process was slow and in some rural areas, the English language materials and literature had to be translated. We divided the country’s regions into sectors and conducted workshops quarterly, collecting information after the quarter for assessment and evaluation for planning next quarter (we used assessment documents such as questionnaires for evaluation). We also ran Youth Programme workshops for our leaders

We published  progressive badges, encouraging Scouts to serve their communities through the Programme while noting their progress and the motivating activities they performed.

In the Youth Programme Policy, a Self-Rating Toolkit is provided for unit leaders to guide themselves on the actions to take to make progress towards implementing the Revised Youth Programme. The toolkit can be completed individually, as a panel of unit leaders, or in discussion with a Unit Development Leader (an experienced volunteer leader assigned to mentor a less experienced one). The Toolkit helps to identify the actions and their priority to help them plan their way forward to implementation.

We are starting the process, but we have already realised that it is not easy to get the adults to adhere, especially when it is necessary to participate in the analysis and discussion of concepts.

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