This month we need to speak about retaining young people

I have just received our census figures for the end of the 2014-15 Scout year and disappointingly we have reduced our youth member number to 8881. Last year at census time, after a 5% growth we reached 8907. During 2014-15 we reached 10,600, so obviously retention of youth is still a major issue in some sections. Our Leader numbers increased to 1976.

Retention of all our members is really important to the sustainability and growth of Scouting; experience shows that where adults and young people enjoy and take pride in their Scouting, everybody benefits.

So what can we do about it?

To improve the retention of youth members we can…

Retaining youth members

In 2012, research was carried out in The Scout Association (UK) to look at why young people stay in or leave Cub Scouts and the following are some key highlights to what was found, many of which can be applied across the Sections within the Queensland Branch:

Getting outdoors

Cub Scouts love being outside. Whether it’s playing a game, lighting a fire, trying an adventurous activity or simply walking to the park, getting outside is vital to Scouting. This doesn’t have to mean high adventure, and is just as important in winter as in summer.

Fun, challenge and badges

We already know that badges make Scouting special, and that achieving them can be the highlight of a child’s time in Scouting. As well as having fun, our members want to be challenged and relish the sense of achievement that being awarded a ‘difficult’ badge can give them.

A supportive atmosphere

Throughout the research young people talked about their leaders and why they make Scouting great. Leaders who are supportive, enthusiastic and inspiring, and who listen to what the young people want to do, are key to successful Sections.

Leaders working together

No-one is a superhero. Scouting is most successful when a team of adults work together, each bringing different skills with them. So together they can be kind and understanding, good at communication, organised, full of energy and sensitive to the needs of different children. All this and they can still have some time to enjoy themselves.

Progressing to the next Section

Helping members transition between the Sections will enable them to carry on enjoying the fun and adventure of Scouting for even longer. This can mean giving parents and young people information about different Mobs, Packs, Troops, Units and Crews and making sure they move up as soon as they are ready rather than holding on until the last possible moment.

The Branch Team will be beginning analysis of the census numbers, Group Section numbers gains and losses to try to establish what is happening.

WOSM has released the new World Scout Youth Involvement Policy which is found on the website.

Given this month we are looking at retaining young people in the Queensland Branch it is important we all remember the Basic Principle Scouting is a Movement of young people, supported by adults; it is not a Movement for young people managed by adults only, thus Scouting offers the potential for a learning community of young people and adults, working together in partnership of enthusiasm and experience.

As Adults in Scouting we all need to remember young people are valuable members of our society, they are active citizens who are contributing to resolving the challenges our communities are facing today. If we retain our youth members this involvement not only provides the opportunity and space for young people from diverse backgrounds to have a say in the issues that affect their lives. Within your Group, all Scouts can participate in selecting activities, evaluating group life, and deciding on common rules. Remember the Patrol System, as it is not only a way of working in small groups – it is actually a system for involving young people in decision making. This is one method of retaining our members.