Review of my first year as County Commissioner

Date: 1st Oct 2019 Author: Joe

It has been a pleasure to represent you all as your County Commissioner for the last year. I have no idea where that time has gone.

I thought I would spend some time with a retrospective review of my time in the role, thinking about the priorities I had set for myself and reflect on the highlights, of which there have been many.

I first want to thank everyone in the for their hard work and dedication in continuing to give such wonderful opportunities to the 5,000 young people across the County. My eyes have been opened by some truly amazing and inspiring leaders running programs that truly raise the bar. My horizons have been raised as a result as I discover that just about anything is possible for our young people.

County Commissioner Priorities (using the Three Pillars of Work from Skills for Life) 

People

District Commissioner – Enfield Enfield Scout District is one with a remarkable history, with one of the largest, diverse, thriving districts in London – North of the Thames. As with many parts of London in recent years matters such as rising house prices have pushed young families out of the area and thus the pool of young people to join Scouting has declined. My first action as CC was to introduce Charlie Rowell as a caretaker District Commissioner, who filled the role with aplomb and steadied the ship. I am very glad he accepted the role which he filled until the early part of 2019 when he retired down to Kent where he is now Deputy District Commissioner in Deal, Walmer and Sandwich. His wife Heather is District Administrator there too (thought they were supposed to be retiring!)

On 1st February 2019 I was thrilled to introduce Katie Davis as the new District Commissioner. She has taken to the role with grit and determination and has already implemented some important changes. She is working on how best to grow and develop scouting in Enfield with a District Development plan prepared and held a District Development Workshop led by the Regional Support Team.

County Team By far the most challenging of my priorities. I feel we have worked well as a team and have drawn up our own County Development Plan which, once it has had the final review at our next County Team meeting, I hope to share with you all. All the County Team (bar one for health reasons) plus all DC’s have had role reviews and remain in post. There have been some new additions to the team, Charlie Cumber took over as ACC International, and Chris Nagle became our County Training Manager. Katie Davis and Charlie Rowell moved roles and sadly Charlie Cumber is finding his other commitments (especially to a leading role at the next Scout Moot) too onerous and is looking for a role share with others or will have to withdraw as ACCI (we have a potential new candidate I am pleased to say). There remain vacant roles and whilst I had hoped to be further forward with advertising these, they are now my priority in the coming months. So, look out for the adverts and feel free to reach out if you wish to discuss any of the roles.

Recruiting more Adult Volunteers Every meeting I have at Group or District level the question of recruiting more leaders gets raised. There is no magic wand or pool of leaders we can tap into. What we can do is share with you best practice from successful Groups and Districts and introduce you to the Regional Support Team (RST) whose role is to help in this arena. Family camps are often hugely successful – if you don’t run them – perhaps because you don’t know what/when/how to organise one then pay a visit to another Group’s event and find out how they do things. It could just be the game changer you are looking for. Advertising externally has mixed results depending on the quality of the campaign and should also be considered. The RST can run an adult recruitment day too at either District or Group level, coaching you how best to find new leaders. This continues to be an important part of my work, which leads to the next and perhaps most important aspect of County Scouting – Growth.

Growth Growth in the number of young people and adults is an ongoing challenge. Our official County Census figures for young people dropped from 2018 to 2019 (5,071 to 5,024). Largely this is a result of a previous administrative error and I consider us to have been largely stable, which reflects the national position. We do however want to strive to reduce waiting lists and bring in more young people.

It is a well-known equation that: Great Leaders + Inspiring Programmes = More Young People and new adult volunteers

It is for this reason that we are striving to share great programme ideas, offer more training opportunities, running a skills training event next year, visiting more groups and sections than ever before. For me though it is ultimately about great programmes – both weekly evenings and residential events that open the world of adventure.

Training Chris Nagle has worked tirelessly on developing a new program of training opportunities for adult volunteers in scouting. This is no mean feat and the outcome for GLN is a clear path for all new and existing volunteers to work through all their mandatory training (which has to be in place in first 5 months for each role) and for roles that require it – complete their wood badge training (within 3 years of starting each role). You can complete your wood badge training in 3 full days of training – Up and Running, People Power and Programme Skills. Each day’s training alternates between Saturdays and Sundays and divides into two parts so that the course alternates between mornings and afternoons too. This gives ultimate flexibility and is as inclusive as this training has ever been. For the many adults already partly through their training there is the opportunity to attend just the afternoon or morning that they need. Unfortunately attending just for one module is too disruptive to the rest of the course.

I had hoped to be able to offer bespoke training modules to Groups delivered locally. This is much more of a challenge due to the relatively small pool of trainers that we have in County. I plan to revisit this in the coming year.

We have worked hard on the new Manager and Supporter Training (M&S) which we are running jointly with Greater London North East Scout County and in association with Greater London Scout Region. The whole course requires attendance at two weekends which we have currently being advertised this autumn (28/29 Sep and 16/17 Nov), sign up now for a fun and interactive training event. Again, when these are run next year the days and sessions will be reversed to offer flexibility. Don’t forget you could attend any other London County’s M&S training too.

Remember that for this training to be signed off on your Scouting record in Compass as complete, you will still need to be validated by your Training Adviser. If you don’t know who that is, ask your GSL or your Local Training Manager.

Adult Awards The process has been overhauled since the start of the year. Historically GLN has not been blessed with many recipients but this has changed in dramatic style. At a recent All CC’s meeting, GLN was singled out for special mention in this area and indeed are in the top 10 of all English Counties for the total number of awards presented in 2019 (and we are a mid-sized county). So well done to all the recipients, thanks to everyone who has nominated people using the new process and especially the DC’s and Awards Panels who must process them and Mark Wilson as our County Awards Panel Chairman. Keep them coming!

Programme

Use of new Tools and Resources Hopefully via your District Teams and your HQ emails, you should be aware of the Quality Programme checker resource that helps you carry out a self-review of your programme for a term of a year – to help you think about the coming programming period.

In the early months of my tenure I tried to encourage sharing programme ideas through our newsletter North Circular. This hasn’t been as successful as I had hoped so we are looking at other options. One of which will be sharing scanned versions of ideas from previous editions of Scouting magazine. Yes, you can see many old magazines on the Scouts website – but we have extracted the programme ideas from the last 5 years or so and split them into folders for each section, so you don’t have to rummage aimlessly.

The replacement for Programmes On Line is already here for the cub section – and it is brilliant if used to full effect. The beaver section has only recently entered its beta-stage, which means it is accessible and usable but isn’t yet in final form. Scouts and Explorers to follow in 2020/21. Have a dive into it now so you can see what the future holds for your section as it is becomes available.

I have already had a deep dive with all the DC’s looking at each Group in detail. We can see which Groups could benefit from taking advantage of some of these new tools and resources. Don’t be shy in trying out new ideas or even surfing the net and You Tube for other options.

Online Scout Manager OSM has become a common staple go-to resource for the management of your Groups data. If you aren’t yet using it, I strongly recommend that you consider it, it makes running a Group and Section so much easier. At the county skills event next May we aim to offer some demonstrations with an OSM masterclass that would suit a complete novice to an established user.

World Scout Jamboree 2019 It’s history now however this was another successful event. Our GLN Contingent led by John Nelson and his team (Becca, Callum and Rachel) did an amazing job taking 36 Explorers to America for a life changing experience. For the first time in GLN history other than the County/District donations all the rest of the money for the trip was fundraised by the Unit. The total cost was c£160,000 which was a massive target to achieve. Keep your eyes out for a WSJ Report any time soon.

Perception

Skills for Life Skills for life is a dynamic development plan for Scouting for 2018-2023. It is a fantastic body of work that for each development objective it sets out the tools for how we can improve our day to day scouting. I have reviewed this with as many Scouting managers as I have been able to, and in Barnet took the whole District Team through it too. If you aren’t familiar – download a copy and use the tools that have been created to help us all become better leaders. 

County Website The county website has finally had a much-needed revamp thanks to the hard work of our County Communications Manager, Joe Wilson. This took longer than expected due to the volume of work that the web designers hadn’t expected due to the new Scouting rebranding and the beta testing that the site went through with some of our GLN members. 

It still relies heavily on you, the members, submitting interesting articles and reports, some will feature in North Circular, others will sit directly on the website. So, lets hear about all your camping adventures this summer! 

Inclusivity and Diversity GLN is, together with GLMW, the most diverse County in the UK. We should be leading the way in terms of offering fully inclusive scouting whilst at the same time respecting the diverse nature of our young people. Whether this by way of race, gender, religion, ability or language. There is much more we can do and making reasonable adjustments should be one of the first thoughts when planning an event, not as an afterthought. I hope through some thought provoking articles, activities and events we can demonstrate that it is not difficult at all to make scouting accessible to all. 

Community Impact A Million Hands is an initiative that is here to stay and encourages Groups and Sections to take part in a community impact project. Did you know that HQ can provide your District with a Community Impact Day helping you to consider ideas for you at either District or Group level to take part in? This is one of the Skills for Life strategic objectives identified by the many young people who had an input into the plan. It is of higher importance to the current generation of young people and an opportunity that is easy to embrace. 

Highlights and Lowlights The role of CC is demanding and rewarding in equal measure. I have had the pleasure of seeing the smile on both young people and adults faces as they have been presented awards for their efforts. 

My personal highlights have been distilled down from what was initially a surprising long list to these real gems: 

  • Reducing the number or long outstanding pre-provisional adult scouting roles (from 236 to 102) and provisional roles (from 160 to 102) 
  • By presenting 90 wood badges we have reduced the number of adults who need to complete all their adult training from 503 to 413 
  • Katie Davis accepting the role of DC Enfield and seeing her really flourish and start to make her own mark on the development there 
  • Adult Awards – we have awarded nearly 100 of them to adults across GLN in the last 12 months. The look of surprise and delight on some individuals is beyond words 
  • Southern 50 Trophy Presentation – I had never been to Southern 50 before and was told to watch for the “Southern Shuffle”. Those who did the 50-mile walk could barely walk forward to collect their certificates and trophies. What an amazing event, I hope I did a good enough job to be asked back again! 
  • GLN Website – looks modern, fresh and can really make an impact 
  • Chris Nagle being appointed as County Training Manager – revolutionising the way we deliver wood badge and M&S training 
  • Visiting a Silver and Gold D of E Expedition and Practice Expedition (13 different groups of young people) on the River Severn 
  • Visiting Danemead and Matt Brett to hear the development plans for the campsite (that 3 of our 5 districts part own) 
  • Jack Petchey Awards – great to see lots of young people and hear of their endeavours (do you know we don’t get enough people nominated for these – including adults?) 
  • World Jamboree Contingent raising their funds and having such a life changing experience in USA 

What has not been so positive is the alarming rise in safeguarding cases escalated by GLN to HQ. It is great to know that the right processes are in place to stamp such matters out (and I urge you to continue to raise any concerns you may have at any time via your line management). 

You might also like to know that I have had to suspend 109 adults in the last 12 months for not having a valid DBS. This is unfortunate and wastes a lot of time at HQ, your District Commissioner’s time as well as my own and can also leave Groups without leaders for an unnecessary period. This could be avoided if you all checked your compass record or action your renewal when prompted automatically from HQ. We could all put our valuable time to better use as a result. Mandatory training is another area where individuals should take control of their own records and ensure a renewal is actioned ahead of an expiry date. GDPR is a one-off online training module that takes no more than 30 minutes. Others that need to be renewed are Safety, Safeguarding and First Aid. 

Conclusion I have really enjoyed the challenge in my first year. I have delivered or exceeded most of my targets but still have much to do, some I have made little impact so far but will be focussing on them in the coming months. 

For those who know me, I am always willing to listen and do what I can to assist, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. 

Thanks again to everyone for all their efforts both great and small – and I look forward to meeting whatever challenges arise in the coming 12 months.

Yours in Scouting 

Andrew Donn

County Commissioner Greater London North 

 

Put your phone down and what are you left with? Just teamwork, courage and the skills to succeed.’
Bear Grylls, Chief Scout Bear Grylls