The District Commissioner rang yesterday afternoon, and told me that the Deputy Commissioner was ill, and could I come with him to the Regional Commissioners' meeting in Gothenburg? As I do miss being in the midst of policy making, or rather discussion, I got on my bike and got picked up by the motorway, as he drove past Falkenberg.

Gothenburg District consists of 47 groups, which is slightly different to our little, piddly district of 7 active groups. Lina, who has been the DC for Gothemburg for the last 5 or so years, is very young, very knowledgable, very passionate, very opinionated and very verbal, which makes meetings very interesting, but slightly long. Apart from us, there were also representatives from three other largish districts in the region and a member of the national scout association's committee. The purpose of this meeting was to recap and evaluate the national commissioners' meeting at Gilwell, Sweden, last weekend.

A few years ago an Itinery for the Future was designed and accepted by the Association. It focuses on raising the credibility and status of scouting, and of course boosting the number of members. A lot of the work the Association has done so far has been good, but at the moment the general feeling out on the field is that we need time to carry out the changes, try the new courses and evaluate the new program, before we go on to the next step in the process. All over the country the feeling is that getting kids to go into scouting is easy, but to get adults and responsable teenagers to become scoutleaders is difficult.

The feeling is also that the paid project managers, and administrative personel in Stockholm are pushing in a direction of professionalist scouting, which in the long run will scare good, idealistic leaders off. As someone said a while ago: "Soon enough you will have to have a degree in education and psycology to be a scout leader".

The Association is also pushing to VET everybody working on a national activity during next year; something that most are very sceptical towards. The meeting was of the opinion that it lulls people into false security and is more a cosmetic action than one that will have a real impact on the security for the kids. The police register only shows if you have been convicted of crimes, and it is questionable wether it is accually legal to use the police register like this. And where do you draw the line? Does one conviction for driving under the influence disqualify you from scout leadership? Petty theft? As Lina pointed out: if she leads Explorer Belt, it would be more likely that she comes across a leader collegue that runs of with the money (as they have a budget of around 5000 euro) than that they molest the participants who are 17 or older.

Another question is also: Who handles the information? As noone in the Scout Association is legally bound to silence, sensitive information might get into the wrong hands and get missused. Personally, I think that continuning the attitude and information strategy, and make sure that scoutleaders around the country are aware of, and continuously discuss risk assessment and code of conduct. It might be fine in countries where there is a massive amount of perfect people to chose from, but in Sweden, that is a country of 9 million people, spread out on an area twice the size of the UK.

The general opinion was that the district managements are not opposed to change, but we'd like to implement and to inspire our groups to take the changes aboard as well, and most of us do have a life outside scouting too (even if it sometimes is difficult to believe!) The members have firmly stated to the National Association that we'd like to remain a non-profit, idealistic movement, with leaders who do what they are good at because they love it, not because it is a job. The disadvantage is of course that changes takes longer, as we can't work 40 hours a week implementing them.
(Photos: Marcus Agbrant)

1 comment:

Nick Wood said...

Getting adults to volunteer is getting harder and harder. I guess it's something to do with liability and the prospect of getting sued if something goes wrong. Also, there is something to be said that some (not all) parents treat Scouting as a cheap babysitting service and we provide an opportunity to get rid of the kids for a while (sorry for being cynical, but it does happen).
The way to get adults into Scouting is to reinforce the fact that we have fun and it's a great giggle! It is hard work at times, but the sense of satisfaction is great as well.
A colleague at work asked me this morning what I did at the weekend and was kind of surprised when I said I'd been hiking with the Scouts!

I think the training we get is veering towards the way we deal with kids, but the traditional stuff is still there as well (thank goodness!). The psychology type stuff is necessary as we need to know how to deal with the issues today's kids have.
I don't think the 'professional Scout Leader' will ever happen however as there would never be enough people to fill the rolls in a paid capacity.

Here in the UK, we have a background check when we join the Scouts as Adults. We have a check done by a government department (Criminal Record Bureau - CRB) and by the Scout Association itself. The SA have done their own background checks for as long as I can remember.
We have to have new CRB checks every 5 years and also if we change Group or District or if we get involved with an activity like a Gang Show.
It is a pain to keep having to be checked and of course the checks are only really valid on the day they are done, but I can see the point behind them. We have to ensure the people looking after the young people are fit to do so. Our checks look at all areas of a persons background. So a person with a record of financial irregularities is not suitable to be a Group Treasurer or even a section Leader, but they may be a great assistant Leader and it would be unlikely they would be unlikely to come in contact with money.
The CRB checks are done by a government agency, so all that data should be safe and secure (although the way our Government loses information at the moment...).
As to the Scout Association's checks, I've never heard of any information being leaked. Indeed 'A Scout is to be Trusted'. OK perhaps a little simplistic but it seems to work!

We do what we do because we like doing it. All the other associated stuff is a nuisance at times, but sometimes very necessary. If the parents keeps sending them and the kids keep coming back, we must be getting it right!