The Irish Scouter sat recently in a coffee house in Dublin city centre, indulging in a bit of people watching, whilst awaiting the arrival of others.
The smell of freshly ground coffee hung heavy in the air, mixed with the faintly sweet aroma of pastries. Cups and saucers clanked and steam spouted from a coffee machine the size of a combine harvester.
All sorts of people were coming and going. Smartly attired, prosperous looking ladies, carrying multiple oversized glossy carrier bags. Small groups of people in business clothes, ties slightly askew on the men. Others, dressed more casually and in the company of friends, family, perhaps catching up after a period of being apart.
On the street outside, it was typically Christmassy in an Irish way; a grey day punctuated by green garnish on railings and the rich yellow of lights in windows. Cold, but not freezing. Damp, but not wet. On the other side of the road, the government buildings looked sparsely occupied as a bored looking security guard strolled up and down a short stretch of pavement, outside an office door.
There is the odd advantage of being Irish and living abroad. For example, changes in society that are not obvious on a day-to-day basis for those living in the country, can sometimes look a little starker to the returnee.
And this Christmas, Ireland felt a little more positive than it has in several years. The first signs of resurgence in consumer confidence were evident. The champagne and single malt whiskies being ordered in fashionable bars. The glossy bags from upmarket shops, the expectation from retailers that Christmas 2015 was going to be one of the best in some time (and it was).
The bus home smelt new (it was in fact brand new and built just a few weeks previously in Ballymena). The wifi on board was free – and it worked. The bus jostled with lots of ‘151’ registered cars as it wound it’s way along slightly careworn roads out into the suburbs (one consequence of the cut in spending during the economic downturn apparently – the countries roads are suffering).
It looks as though Ireland is emerging at last from a protracted period of recession. This has been talked about for some time, but this Christmas, it finally felt like the long awaited ‘tangible evidence’ was beginning to manifest itself.
Of course, there is a long way to go. Many people are still without work or in difficulties with mortgages, struggling to make ends meet even when working. Taxation in Ireland is now higher than it is in Sweden, yet many citizens of the former will wonder about the correlation between tax and services – it would appear to differ considerably between those two countries.
But, what has all this got to do with Scouting? Well, obviously Scouting operates in communities and is a force for good in wider society. These shifts in economic circumstances will bring some changes, many of them will be positive. How can Scouting capitalize on changes in economic fortunes and be prepared to manage any challenges they bring?
It struck the Irish Scouter that; whatever about the macro issues that very smart people on the National Management Committee and their advisors will be taxing their brains with in the coming year, there is perhaps something that every scouter can do. As hard-earned cash returns to wallets (albeit in limited quantities), how can we all do more to support fellow scouts in business, by putting some of our business their way (and vice versa).
Is it time for Scouting Ireland to facilitate some sort of initiative that enables this idea to take root? It is already very common among others in society. Members of the GAA (for example) will support a car dealer, supermarket, a pub that is owned by a fellow supporter. Indeed a big source of employment for former minor GAA stars in Ireland is in sales, where their employers often see their previous exploits as a door opener with many prospective customers.
All things being equal, should scouters look to support other scouters when it comes to business and if yes, well how do we all find out where to channel our business (or find that potential dream employee)?
This is where Scouting Ireland at a national level can perhaps help by coordinating some sort of database (perhaps one that can be completed by interested parties online, to minimize the admin). The Scouting Ireland Business Network on the networking site ‘Linked in’ is a good indicator of the level of interest that may exist for this idea. It may even be a suitable starting point.
A network into which any member could plug themselves and avail of help, advice or a special deal, based on the shared values and inherent trust that exists between scouters. (Let’s face it – we probably trust even those scouters we secretly consider to be a pain in the ass, ahead of others whom we do not know at all).
Young scouters looking for a first job. Scouters established in jobs seeking a career move and looking for advice from a more experienced person in their field. A scouter in the market for a new car, a computer upgrade, a great wedding venue, a trusted tradesperson.
The key phrase here is of course ‘all things being equal’. Giving someone a job just because you know them/ are mates with them, when other, clearly better candidates are to hand makes no sense. If you are doing it with other people’s money, it’s also corruption.
However, recommending a scout you know for an interview because you’ve seen all the resumes and her CV looks head and shoulders above the rest, not only helps out a fellow scout, it helps your business too.
Equally, buying a car or a computer upgrade from a fellow scouter may not be a cast-iron guarantee of a lifetime of trouble-free motoring /web surfing but it surely greatly increases the odds of buying from someone you know will be more likely to do that little bit extra for you, in the event that something goes wrong.
Depending on which report you read, there are anywhere between six and nine thousand adults involved in Scouting in Ireland. We come from all walks of life and all parts of the country. It is reasonable to assume that, no matter what product or service you need or what advice or help you could use on matters to do with career or what college to join/what apprenticeship to take up, there will be a Scouter somewhere who can supply what you need, or knows someone who can. There will be a scouter who has already completed the course you are thinking of signing up to or is a successful tradesperson in the area you are thinking of getting into.
There will be Gardaí, dentists, bus drivers, retailers, lawyers, gardeners, entrepreneurs, engineers and just about every other career too. These people will be at all stages of career and the chances are they will be willing to share some thoughts with a fellow scout or scouter who is thinking of following a similar career path.
This idea of a ‘business network’ for Scouting in Ireland could dovetail nicely with efforts to raise the profile of scouting with employers generally, to help more employers see just how valuable and employable scouts are.
With the economy slowly returning to a point where things can once again look a little brighter for the country and it’s citizens, this may be the opportune time for Scouting to create a network that helps members to help each other, not just on the campsite, in the mountains and on the water, but also in the marketplace.
The Irish Scouter wishes everyone all the very best of everything for 2016.