History of systematic approach to Adults in Scouting

Scouting started in 1907 and “Adult Leader Training” as it was later known is almost as old as the Movement itself. Although most of his time was used to spread his ideas and “support the natural growth of Scouting”, BP, in the very early days, also attended to the training of Scoutmasters. He personally conducted two courses, in 1911 and 1912, which consisted of a series of talks during evening sessions. The main lines and characteristics of what was to become “Wood Badge Training” were established as early as 1913. Training was provided through the patrol system and a balanced mix of theory and practice. This however was not formalized into a training pattern. 


Only after the First World War, when Scouting resumed its incredible growth, did BP really address himself to the question of adding proper training to the benevolence and enthusiasm of leaders “to make quite certain that when I am gone, the future leaders of Scouting will really understand what it is all about and what my intentions have been”.

To achieve this goal, a programme and a place were necessary. The place, Gilwell Park was found by BP in 1918. Thanks to the generosity of Mr de Bois Maclaren, it became the property of The Scout Association (UK) in 1919, to be developed into a camping ground for Scouts and a training centre for Scout leaders. The first training course started there on 8 September 1919 and was run along the basic lines laid down in 1913. “Aids to Scoutmastership” was also published the same year. 


All elements were there to make a complete pattern with a theoretical part to cover the fundamental principles, practice in a one week camp and an administrative part to be completed in the field. From the very beginning, through the place, the method and the quality and personality of those who conducted these courses - including BP himself - Scout leaders had a unique and direct exposure to the not so easily defined ‘Scout spirit’ from which they developed a sense of vision of the role of Scouting, their role in the Movement and a very high level of motivation. Cub Scout training started in 1922 along similar lines and Rover Scout training in 1927.


BP did not go much for certificates or diplomas and those who took training at Gilwell Park received ‘the Wood Badge’ on completion of their course. This consisted of two wooden beads. The first Wood Badges were made from beads taken from a necklace that had belonged to a Zulu chief named Dinizulu, which B-P had found during his time in Zuzuland in 1888. On state occasions, Dinizulu would wear a necklace 12 feet long, containing, approximately 1,000 beads made from South African Acacia yellow wood. This wood has a soft central pith, which makes it easy for a rawhide lace to be threaded through from end to end and this is how the 1,000 beads were arranged. The beads themselves in size from tiny emblems to others 4 inches in length. The necklace was considered sacred, being the badge conferred on royalty and outstanding warriors.

When B-P was looking for some token to award to people who went through the Gilwell training course he remembered the Dinizulu necklace and the leather thong given to him by an elderly African at Mafeking. He took two of the smaller beads, drilled them through the centre, threaded them onto the thong and called it the Wood Badge.


This tradition has been maintained throughout the years and in many associations, the Wood Badge is still awarded to Unit Leaders upon completion of their Advanced Training. All this, of course, refers primarily to the development of the Movement in the United Kingdom which - at this stage - can hardly be dissociated from the growth and development of Scouting worldwide. Immediately after the second “International Conference” (now World Conference) in Paris in 1922, a number of delegates crossed the Channel to attend a Scout Course. Gilwell Park had gained an international dimension which, with the agreement of member Associations, it would retain officially for almost fifty years.

During the following years, under the leadership of their “Deputy Camp Chiefs” (DCCs) - who were appointed by the Camp Chief at Gilwell Park - National Associations developed their own training, mainly on the Gilwell model. Indeed this has been a very important contribution to maintaining unity in the Scout Movement and The Scout Association, through Gilwell Park, has rendered invaluable services to World Scouting.

During the first twenty years, however, there was no scheme for training the Deputy Camp Chiefs, that is for training those who trained the Unit Leaders. Potential Deputy Camp Chiefs were simply asked to attend a second Wood Badge Course and so were Group Scout Leaders and Commissioners.


In 1947, an experimental course for Deputy Camp Chiefs of the United Kingdom was held at Gilwell Park. In the years which followed, other associations - notably Canada - held similar courses. But it was not until 1956 that the first official “Training the Team Course”, as it was then known, was held at Gilwell Park under the direction of the Camp Chief. This course was successful and in the following year, the 16th World Conference, held in Cambridge, looked forward “to considerable development along these lines”.


This development took place and the course, which subsequently became known as the “International Training the Team Course”, was held in many parts of the world - usually under the personal direction of the Camp Chief. But, with the passage of time and with the continual growth of the Movement throughout the world, the circumstances and the needs of Associations in the field of Unit Leader Training were constantly changing and becoming increasingly varied. The established training pattern, which had so adequately satisfied the needs of most Associations for a long time, lacked the flexibility necessary to satisfy the widely diverging needs of the rapidly growing number of Associations.

In 1961, the World Training Committee was established as a sub-committee of the World Committee and recommendations were made for the appointment of National Training Commissioners. This was a first move towards the creation of a specific training infrastructure at world level. A few years later, the World Training Committee prepared a comprehensive report on the situation of Adult Leader Training and made suggestions for the introduction of a new policy which was accepted by the 22nd World Conference, in Helsinki in 1969.


The new policy reaffirmed the principle of the voluntary acceptance of a process of co-ordination of the methods of training of Unit Leaders and of those who, in their turn, train them. It was based on the dual principle of unity and flexibility and encouraged National Scout Organizations to develop training schemes to suit their own needs and build up their National Training Teams.

Regional Training Committees were gradually established in all Regions to support National Associations and assist them in the development of a training pattern and the training of trainers. This policy was further completed in 1977 when the 26th World Conference held in Montreal entrusted National Scout Organizations with the responsibility of training their own trainers. After an initial test period, the World Training Committee submitted a positive evaluation report to the World Conference in Dakar which reaffirmed the validity of the policy.


In the meantime, a new version of the “International Training Handbook” was published to assist National Training Commissioners in implementing the policy. The World Scout Bureau - at world and regional levels - provided direct assistance to Associations, to help them develop relevant training patterns, organize their own courses and increase the skills and ability of their trainers.


A document, “Adults in Scouting” was produced at the 32nd World Scout Conference in Paris. The document outlined the basic principles for managing adult resources, which covers, among other things, the training elements of managing adult development. Based on this principles, it became the “World Adult Resources Policy” which was adopted at the 33rd World Scout Conference, in Bangkok, 1993. Hence, Adult Leader Training has become an integral part in the management of adult resources.

This policy emphasises the need to address all aspects of the Management of Adult Resources (recruitment, support and training, follow-up) as an integrated whole and, at the individual level, introduces the concept of a “life cycle of leaders in the Movement” also to be approached as a whole.

In the area of support and training, the policy puts the emphasis on flexibility in training and easy access for all to training opportunities, as well as on the need to take into account the personal development of adult leaders, on equal footing with their functional training (training in the competencies required to fulfil an assigned task).


Under this new approach, the training and support functions of an Association and the role of those who provide support and training are not devalued. They have become a part of bigger whole and the actual range of competencies they cover has been extended considerably with the inclusion of all adult functions within the system and the extension into the personal development of adult leaders.

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