Two key briefs in Scouting Ireland are up for election at the forthcoming meeting of National Council. What challenges do the new incumbents face? The Irish Scouter shares some thoughts..
Outsiders might be forgiven for assuming that Scouting Ireland convenes a meeting of it’s ruling National Council every time the wind changes direction, but to be fair 2015 was quite an eventful year for the now twelve year old association.
It was a year that saw the election of a new Chief Scout (after some fairly dramatic and unprecedented scenes) and a new National Secretary, both newly elected incumbents and long-standing members with strong credentials. Both received strong mandates to drive the positive change that members are looking for after a long period of stagnation.
With two National Council meetings in 2015, it seems like another in just a few weeks time has come up quickly, but nonetheless in April, delegates will gather once again. In doing so they will vote to replace another two-fifths of the National Officer team (accounting for five of the twenty seats on the National Management Committee) when both Chief Commissioner positions come up for election.
Scouting Ireland has two Chief Commissioners, one to head up Youth Programme, the other to lead the Adult Resources agenda in the association. Each area has a standing committee, the National Youth Programme Committee (NYPC), consisting of various representatives from different programme areas and the National Adult Resource Committee or (NARC) covering areas such as Training and Awards.
These committees and the various team leads within have terms of office co-terminus with the relevant Chief Commissioner, so in effect both committees will see an influx of new blood in the weeks following the elections in April.
CANDOUR ON CANDIDATES
It is early in the process but the campaigning has commenced and to date one clear candidate appears to be a potential favourite for the Youth Programme role.
Two strong candidates are lining up for the Adult Resources position, including the incumbent, both with credible track records and equally strong profiles.
With portfolios that are of critical importance to the association and it’s ability to deliver into the future on Youth Programme (the primary reason Scouting exists) and Adult Resources (a primary enabler to help deliver the former), strong candidates with the ability to do the job, the willingness to make that commitment AND the humility to ensure that members are listened to, their views are acted upon and they are in receipt of regular and open communication, will be central to the process.
Whatever sideshows inevitably open up for entertainment value in the coming weeks, it would at least appear that some serious players are ready to take up the challenge, if elected to do so.
The days of ‘popularity contests’ featuring well known but ultimately ‘also-ran’ candidates look to be increasingly a thing of the past in Scouting. Members now expect ability, clarity, transparency and humility from anyone who puts their name forward for a key leadership role in the association.
Whoever takes over the Youth Programme brief will have big shoes to fill, but will also have some strategic challenges to grapple with. Teenage membership continues to slide in Scouting, making the association look more and more like a baby-sitting service and less like a youth movement.
Rover Scouts is ticking over for the handful of dedicated scoutaholics who will climb over hot coals to attend any Rover event, but has largely floundered as a bigger idea. Venture Scouts equally remains in the doldrums, with the overwhelming majority of the population in the age range oblivious to the joys of being a venture scout – and many Scout groups rather lukewarm about having something so appallingly informal contaminating their den.
Quality of Youth Programme fluctuates wildly by group and youth participation, the thing that Scouting’s technocrats love to warble on about at every given opportunity, remains, in reality, a somewhat precious and sparsely spread commodity.
Some of these challenges will need some Adult Resources focus. Training for adults for example had arguably become unnecessarily complex, putting some scouters off. A new, simpler training programme is underway and with it, hopefully a clearer link between commitment and progress for scouters.
Scout skills and the paucity of knowledge among Scouters (the Irish scouter admits to being a bit rusty in some areas here too) is an issue to be addressed, but perhaps most critically, the concept of youth participation and an adult scouters commitment to that IDEAL, is something that training for scouters needs to press home. When scouters genuinely embrace that concept, the skills deficit becomes a gap, rather than a crisis.
Young people can figure out a lot more than many scouters given them credit for.
In some ways it almost seems that the more the ‘Youth Programme’ side of the house focuses on ‘kidults’ and the older and older ‘youth members’ seem to get (is the upper age range for a ‘youth’ member currently 26 or 36?), the less members we seem to attract in these areas. Yet, by contrast, on the adult resources side are we at risk of overlooking younger adult scouters (aged 18 – 26) because we are running around trying to accommodate all the people in this age range who are still trying to pretend they are children?
WHO AWARDS AWARDS?
The adult awards process is opaque, sexist and politically driven. Too many awards go to recipients who ‘know’ people and too many scouters who work hard and deserve recognition miss out because they don’t ‘know people’. Paperwork is copious and if a word is out of place, it gets rejected. Women under index, relative to their portion of the membership and ‘troublesome’ types (people with an opinion) get blackballed. There is an opportunity to lift the veil in this area, remove the dead hand of the clique from the process with some new blood on the awards committee and ensure that scouters get recognition for hard work, even when they are not political favourites.
ICING ON THE CAKE
Both the Adult Recources brief and the Youth Programme brief are broad and need strong leaders to head up the teams. But both also have the benefit of time spent by large numbers of volunteers; often working quietly in the background and undertaking what is frequently valuable strategic thinking, but can also be on occasion somewhat less than glamorous work.
No doubt the newly elected incumbents will be looking to try and retain some of the talent present currently on both teams that drives the successes where they happen. But equally, some new blood and fresh eyes will be welcome to ensure the teams do not become staid or devoid of innovative thinking at a time when energy and new ideas are going to be important across both.
The members of National Council used two elections in 2015 to place two star performers into two key roles. The ‘hat trick’ as it were, will be to manage the same again in April and in doing so create a line up of leaders at the top tier of our management structure that has so far not been seen.
Scouting Ireland’s national structure may finally be coming to a position where it can finally fire on all cylinders at once. Just imagine the possibilities.