Promoting greater social cohesion, inclusivity and improving social mobility is the aim behind the The Scout Association’s new strategy for 2018-2023, released today (15 May).
Through its ‘Skills for Life’ positioning, the Scouts will show young people how the skills they learn scouting can be applied to their future careers. This move is supported by research carried out by the organisation, which finds young people today are particularly concerned about their prospects when it comes to getting a job, being accepted for an apprenticeship or further education.
“In a job interview you might be asked, ‘tell me a time when you’ve led a team?’ and young people may not necessarily think to their experience in Scouts, but actually we’ve got 14- and 15-year-olds assisting leaders on hikes or running camps,” David Hamilton, director of communications at The Scout Association, tells Marketing Week.
“They are inventing menus and having to buy the ingredients, managing budgets and leading young people. All of these are skills we know employers want, so it’s about helping young people talk about these skills.”
The Scouts is also determined to reach out to diverse communities in a bid grow its membership by 50,000 by 2023. Whereas in 2013 the Scouts were present in just 67 recognised areas of deprivation, today that number has swelled to 834 areas, with the intention to reach a further 500 communities by 2023.
Engaging with diverse faith groups is another key area of focus, supported by the growth of the Muslim Scout Fellowship and the creation of the UK’s first Buddhist Scout Group in Manchester at the end of last year.
“We want to focus on areas of deprivation because we know scouting gives young people great role models in life and if you can intervene early in a child’s life you can give them positive role models and that can make a lasting difference,” says Hamilton.
“We are actively looking at how we can grow scouting in areas where we know young people can benefit the most from what we do. One of our fastest growing areas is Muslim scouting, so we have thousands of Muslim Scouts around the UK who are joining and we want to reach more into lots of different communities in the UK.”
The organisation is also hoping to increase its gender diversity, encouraging more girls to join at every rank from Beavers to Explorers. Currently, the 462,000 scouting population of six- to 18-year-olds includes 102,000 girls. Some 27% of the wider scouting community, which runs from six to 25, is female.
Work does, however, still need to be done to raise awareness of the diversity and inclusivity of the scouting community given the outdated perceptions of the organisation that still exist, acknowledges Hamilton.
He explains that while scouting is still often associated with traditional skills like camping and outdoor pursuits, a big part of the new strategy will be to highlight the modern parts of the programme, which the organisation hopes will appeal to greater numbers of young people.
“If you think about the scouting programme it’s all about trying things for the first time, whether it be archery, cookery, coding or zorbing. Actually, young people are finding things they might not have considered before,” Hamilton adds.
Part of this focus on the modern relevance of the brand has required a redesign of The Scout Association logo. Designed in 2001 pre-social media, the old logo had small text which did not show up well online and led to inconsistencies between branding. The new logo does, however, maintain a sense of heritage by retaining the Scouts’ characteristic purple shade and fleur-de-lis emblem.
The Scouts now considers itself a digital-first organisation. Over the past four years, the association has ramped up its digital engagement, attracting 300,000 followers on Facebook and more than 60,000 on Twitter. The Scouts also works with a number of high profile ambassadors, such as astronaut Tim Peake whose video, created in association with the Scouts, has clocked up over 100,000 views.
Growing the movement
The Scout Association has set itself ambitious targets to grow its membership by 50,000, recruit 10,000 more section leaders and attract 5,000 more young leaders by 2023.
The organisation has identified a number of factors crucial to growing participation over the next five years, including retaining more young people as they move through Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers and the Scout Network.
Recognising that there is a drop-off in membership as young people join senior school, the Scouts is looking into how it can retain those members by linking its programme to employment and further education opportunities. The organisation is also planning to reinforce its ties with other youth organisations such as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and has recently signed a new partnership with the National Citizens Service.
We want to focus on areas of deprivation because we know scouting gives young people great role models in life.
David Hamilton, The Scout Association
Central to easing the current waiting list of young people hoping to join a Scout group will be recruiting more frontline volunteers, particularly from diverse backgrounds. This will include encouraging previous generations of Scouts to re-join the organisation as volunteers.
The Scout Association has also committed to explore different models for extending its programme to children under six. While it is currently unknown what form the new programme will take, it could involve working more closely with schools or following a similar model as has been adopted in Northern Ireland, which runs a group for children aged four and five called Squirrels.
Hamilton believes that bringing scouting into a child’s life sooner could provide a real solution to the mental health crisis among children.
Statistics from mental health charity Young Minds reveal that one in 10 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder, equivalent to roughly three children in every classroom. Figures released yesterday (14 May) by the NSPCC also show a sharp rise in the number of children under 11 referred for mental health treatment by schools over the past four years.
Scouts are 13% more likely to demonstrate mental resilience than children who do not take part in scouting, according to The Scout Association’s 2017 Impact Report, which also found Scouts were 17% more likely to demonstrate leadership skills, 17% more likely to work well in a team and 19% more likely to show emotional intelligence.
“Recent research from the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow also show that people who were in Scouts as a child are 15% less likely to have anxiety or depression later on in life,” says Hamilton.
“In scouting, people work together, they solve problems, so we know that some of those activities will have a really positive impact on young people’s lives. Scouts are also more likely to be physically active, which is also key to better mental wellbeing.”