How things change. May’s General Election seems ages ago now. Yet when I started doing the round of District AGMs it was all so topical. But I would like to start by talking about another election – the US Presidential election of 2008 – when Barak Obama first ran for President and as part of his campaign he used a poster which was no more than his picture and the single word “Change”.
And that was very clever – most people can think of something they would like to change – few people are entirely happy with the status quo – all want to change something. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “There is nothing permanent except change”. The trick of course is getting enough people to agree on changing the same thing in same way at the same time. And it’s the same in Scouting. The Scout Movement has changed so much in recent years. And this year we have been required to make even more changes.
Scouting is not naturally pro-change – it has traditionally tended to attract and retain people who like structures and hierarchies – who are comfortable wearing a uniform – willing to repeat their Promise in public, often several times a year. This provides certainty and continuity, clear values, and as a result Scouting is trusted and valued by the public at large – so why change?
Because, as another American President, John F. Kennedy, said
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”
Everything changes. The question is whether that change is positive or negative. While physics says you cannot have perpetual motion – and everything must come to rest as some point – even a stationary object will eventually rust or rot or decay if left to its own devices. Some things might mature with age for a while but not even the best cheese or wine can mature for ever. So – change is natural – but natural change can also be negative. You kick a ball & it will eventually stop moving and come to rest. You paint a beautiful picture but it will ultimately fade or tarnish. So to counter those negative changes we have to do something about them by making positive ones.
Imagine you have just moved into your ideal home. Either you can preserve it just as the architect intended it to be on the day it was first built, to maintain it for all time as a monument to the people who designed and built it or you can improve it – redecorating – extending – landscaping – modernising – to meet your current and future needs, building on the investments that others have made by investing your own capital in it for yourselves and those who come after you. Which would you do?
Going back to Barak Obama, in the course of his campaign he also said
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
And it’s the same in Scouting. Society is changing, the population is ageing and growing. As it grows it is becoming more risk averse, it is more diverse in all sorts of ways, education is, on average, improving, people are far less deferential and less inhibited than they were. If your house is going to continue to serve you and your family it will need to be put to different uses, with new rooms, doors and windows in different places, the installation of new technology, and adaptations to suit your age and your health.
And so it is with Scouting. If our Movement is going to remain relevant, useful, valued & satisfying, it will have to adapt to the needs not just of its current members but of its future ones too. That is why we are currently seeing so many changes in Scouting.
We have a new Programme for young people – new badges – new requirements – and I hope you are all becoming familiar with it and are deciding how you will offer your young people the challenges and opportunities afforded by it. To support that programme there will also be changes to the adult training scheme as we help one another appreciate the new programme and the ideas behind it.
There are changes to the Scout Network as it becomes a District rather than a County provision – all members aged 18-25 will automatically be enrolled in Network – to allow and encourage them to take advantage of a wide range of opportunities as they transition from being young members to adult leaders.
Next year the annual Membership Fee will no longer payable by over 18s. This means that the Subs charged to young people will increase slightly but it now means there is no longer a financial disincentive for us to recruit more adults as leaders, commissioners, section assistants or Network or Active Support members. Also next year Executive Committee Members (our Trustees) will finally be recognised as full members of the Association – resolving an issue that has been fudged for many years.
On the subject of Executive Committees, we will continue to work at enabling more young people to be involved in our decision making structures, either within their own sections or at Group, District and County level as we strive to make Scouting more youth shaped with the establishment of District and County Youth Councils and the appointment of Youth Commissioners.
And on top of that we this year have the Cub Scout Year of Adventure – a special year long programme of activities for the Cub Section as they prepare for next year, 2016, and the celebration of the centenary of Cub Scouting.
So, these are not changes we have chosen to make locally. The Movement is changing and we need to change to keep up, in order to better serve the communities of which we are part. In fact, we are already changing in many ways as we strive to achieve our strategic objectives of Growth, Inclusivity, Becoming Youth Shaped and Increasing our Community Impact through the implementation of our County Development Plan.
And we have certainly seen some of the effects of that change in recent weeks and months here in Gloucestershire as sections have closed and then re-opened to meet changing needs and requirements, some leaders have come, some have moved and some have left. Change is often difficult, risky and not always successful. Change is sometimes scary and sometimes painful. It is never easy, but it is absolutely necessary.
Thank you very much indeed for all you have done over the last year, for all the changes you have made and all the changes you have tried to make which maybe didn’t work so well. Thank you for trying. And thank you for sticking with it and not giving up. Please keep trying to change, adapting to the changing needs of our members and the society in which we operate. Thanks for everything and I look forward to seeing and hearing more of your achievements over the coming year.
We are periodically reminded that Baden-Powell once remarked that he had founded a “movement not an organisation”. So perhaps, the better champion for change is not Mr Obama, but B-P himself.
Paul D. Trott