Cross bridges

Preparing the Journey

A review of the Youth Programme in an NSO may be motivated by many things. Whether instigated as the result of an intervention from local level, national level, or global level, these NSOs share why they decided to review their Youth Programme. 

What was the impetus to renew your NSO’s Youth Programme?

Our old programme was outdated. We wanted a bigger focus on a development and purpose-based approach to activities, where the focus is on the purpose before what the activities should be. Our Youth Programme focuses on development of the Scouts and their competencies and thereafter on the use of the Scout Method in this process. Activities come last. This is very explicit and a tool for the leaders to make the activities and planning in general that makes the most sense for their Scouts, community, and situation.

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 were not linked to the Youth Programmes other than as vague aspirational notions.  Each youth member carried out the same predetermined 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 NSOs.  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, did not 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. For example, 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.

Scouts Australia proposed and commenced an all sections Youth Programme review in 2012. This followed a history of cyclic reviews for each age grouping (section) over the previous 20+ years. Through the early phases of scoping and research, it became apparent that a larger review was required, with retention problems largely leveraging

  • a lack of relevance.
  • under-prepared adults.
  • boredom, with youth needing to see and own the purpose of their programme.
  • a product that was not meeting the expectations of members and society.

The decision to change the program came when the review revealed

  • a lack of continuity and that  siloing between sections had led to both repetition and significant gaps in the programme.
  • that the fundamentals of Scouting were neither well known nor well recognised.
  • that the key priorities for young people were fun, friends, adventure, outdoors, and new skills.
  • that ultimately, society had changed and evolved, but Scouting in Australia had not kept up.

In 2015, Scouts New Zealand launched a ten-year strategic plan called Better Prepared with five key strategic priorities that would transform and grow Scouting in New Zealand. One of these five priorities, Quality and Relevant Programme, had practical actions identified during the development of the strategy to review and develop a new Youth Programme.

The Youth Programme at that time was determined to be no longer fit for purpose due to a variety of reasons:

  • The programme had not been updated or reviewed for some time, and as such, much of the programme content was no longer relevant to young people.
  • The programme was inconsistent in structure across the age sections, and resulted in silos and inflexible transitions for young people.
  • The fundamentals of Scouting were not sufficiently recognised by youth or adult members.
  • Young people and other stakeholders such as parents, had new and different expectations for what young people could experience in non-formal education. These expectations did not align with the programme.
  • Over time, society had changed and the Youth Programme had not kept up to date with the changes in society.
  • The focus of the previous programme was on the achievement of practical skills and a merit badge system for many different programmes and age sections, rather than holistic development.

This prompted a review and the development of a new Youth Programme under the Quality and Relevant Programme priority of the Better Prepared strategy.


Re-expressing our shared values

Before the review team began to develop what was to become the new Youth programme, one other significant review took place. It signalled to our movement the journey that SCOUTS New Zealand was about to embark on. This was a review and re-expression of both the Scout Law and Promise.

By re-expressing the Scout Law and Promise in contemporary language and installing the widely used concept of Positive Behaviours for Learning in our values model, we could demonstrate our commitment to youth development and to the journey ahead. This values model captures the behaviours and attitudes that are expected of all our members, young and adult alike.

This significant change demonstrates that the development of a new Youth Programme is not just the implementation of an educational system, but a cultural and transformative change journey for the entire movement.

The concrete impetus was an inspirational visit to Ireland at just the right juncture, where the Chairman-elect of the Programme Committee participated in a programme meeting. From the very start, the concept of SPICES was inspiring and made the participants in the workshop determined to implement something similar.

The Youth Programme was reviewed because it was not relevant for young people. The previous Youth Programme did not address activities that interested them. This brought about leaders applying their own knowledge in delivering Scouting. So Scouting was practised differently across the regions. The Youth Programme did not address the vital progression of Scout sections so there was no progression. Scouts just moved on solely based on age. Scouts’ personal developmental growth on the programme could not be monitored. The Youth Programme book was bulked into one book so it did not encourage areas of specialisation in the fields of Cub, Scout, Venturer, and Rover.

In 2009, Singapore’s Ministry of Education launched the 21st Century Competencies framework to develop in students “a series of competencies deemed essential for survival in a globalised twenty-first century world characterised as being fast-changing and highly connected”. One driving force was recognising the importance of this trend in formal education and the need to keep Scouting aligned with the desired outcome of Singapore’s education system. On top of that, the Association recognised the need to continually update and renew its Youth Programme to stay relevant and attractive to the day’s young people while addressing their needs and aspirations.

The reasons to renew the Youth Programme:

  • To fulfil the requirements and challenges stated by WOSM, mainly on the growth matter.
  • Once the political decision was taken, the most important step was to analyse the relevance and suitability of Scouting in Mexico.
  • Understanding the word relevance as the Scouts’ ability to respond to the country’s needs and interests and considering the new generations as the main axis. This will be the purpose (what for) of Scouts ranging from the individual to the social impact.
  • Suitability means the need of significance Scouting must have for people from multiple social and cultural segments, considering their abilities and interests. The challenge is to develop a flexible model that can adapt to diverse needs and features within different contexts.

The youth program adopted by the Scouts of Brazil is based on the educational conceptions of the Working Group of the Interamerican Region, which took place until 2005. Its most noticeable part – the progression system – was designed and had the first documents published in 2010, that is, completing 10 years.

What were some strategies adopted by your NSO for the renewal process? (inclusive of communication, HR, training)

It was very involved and volunteer based in the beginning where a lot of people were contributing. It took seven years from the first thought and until the first badges were launched. Thereafter, there was an implementation period of three years.

The Design Team was a professional multi-disciplinary group from fields as Pedagogy, Psychology, Anthropology, Economy, Marketing, and Philosophy, composed of Scout members, former scouts, and non-scout members.

The Implementation Team has been composed by the executive and voluntary members (not necessarily professional) of our National Scouts Office.

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.

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.

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.

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 experts who we felt would be of help to us in developing our Youth Programme.   These e experts from other NSOs played a critical role in our process bringing expertise and independent viewpoints.

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 attended 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.

The Programme Development Team organised a number of national events to engage interactively with youth and adult members of Scouting Ireland regarding the proposed Youth Programme.

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 Youth 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.

Scouts New Zealand formed a review team and following the Renewed Approach to Programme (RAP) produced an educational proposal in the form of a Youth Development Policy (YDP). The YDP laid out the principles and guidelines in designing and developing a new Youth Programme, but also from a governance perspective ensured our progressive new Youth Programme became a policy and would require governance approval to redevelop in the future as opposed to a standalone Educational Proposal. This YDP is also aligned with the Youth Development Strategy of Aotearoa (New Zealand) which government, community organisations, and the community use to support young people to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and confidence to be positively engaged in today’s society.

Initially, the National Programme Team, made up of National Section Leaders for programmes in the age sections, was the main review team for the development of the new Youth Programme, especially as the review team adapted the Scout Method to the age sections. There was an appointed project lead and professional staff support was also provided to assist the review team in the initial Youth Programme development. This changed over time as design and development moved into implementation, where it was clear that more resources were needed to fully develop and implement the Youth Programme due to increased workload. A new staff member was hired specifically to support and develop the Youth Programme and became an integral member of the design and development process.

Early on and throughout the design process the review team engaged with external experts in youth development to advise and give feedback on the Youth Programme design. New Zealand has a peak body for youth development and during the development of the Youth Development Policy, we engaged members of the body to support us in the design of the Educational Proposal. We also actively engaged with other NSOs, in similar cultural contexts to New Zealand to learn about their new Youth Programmes and provide inspiration to the development of our own.

The programme review team engaged in over 50 programme workshops and conferences over the course of the development phase. This included programme development workshops, regional meetings and events, age section programme workshops, and the national leadership conference. These workshops were not only about designing and developing the new Youth Programme, but also presented opportunities for the review team to engage with young people and adult volunteers across the country to gather feedback and inspiration to further the development process.

The review team engaged regularly with the governance networks of the organisation, including regular updates to the National Board and National Council.

Throughout the development process, the review team engaged and consulted with young people around the design of the Youth Programme. The principle of Youth Leading, Adults Supporting was of utmost importance to the new Youth Programme design and implementation.

Things like the new expression of the Scout Method and the educational ideal were approved by the National Board, but there is no associated strategy for implementation or revising.

The National Executive was tasked by the National Scout Council to lead the review process. The National Executive Committee involved the National Youth Program Committee which was responsible for design and content.

The Revised Youth Programme aims to be faithful to the  fundamentals of Scouting. Four strategies were put forward to guide unit leaders in their implementation journey: (i) strengthening the practice of the Scout Method, (ii) strengthening the young person’s learning, (iii) building an effective and competent Adult Leader Team, and (iv) leveraging on the Association Line Support Structures and Sourcing for Resources.

A series of consultation and engagement with all levels of the NSO was organised in the form of a concept paper, workshop, an open discussion, and the pilot implementation. These resulted in the publishing of the Youth Programme Policy which documented the ideas and thoughts behind the revised Youth Programme as well as the requirements of the Progress Schemes. Two versions of the Progress Scheme were included – a Youth’s Guide which only shows what to do, and a Leader’s Guide which spells out the desired educational outcomes for each tier of the Scheme. Unit leaders are encouraged to take a holistic approach in their assessment by considering their cumulative progress by tier and not by individual requirement.

A technical team was set up with representatives from the National Executive Board, the National Office, and the National Board of Directors, supported by a team of consultants. For the specific analysis of the program, the specific teams of each age section will also participate.

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