Virtual Campfires Bring over 200 Scouts across Europe Together
The European Scout Region organised an energetic and dynamic series of online gatherings throughout the month of May 2020. A group of regional volunteers, committee and WSB staff members co-created a compelling calendar of events. The calendar offered National Scout Organisations (NSOs) and National Scout Associations (NSAs) an opportunity to come together in solidarity, as a response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.
The programme was predominantly designed around the main strategic priorities of the Region (Diversity & Inclusion, Impact of Scouting, Sustainability) . It aimed to provide an update about the implementation of the Regional Scout Plan to NSOs and NSAs. It also aimed at appraising the current situation, sharing challenges and engaging in a collective reflection about the future of Scouting .
The energy and resilience that NSOs and NSAs across Europe have demonstrated ,since the outbreak of COVID-19 ,have been fascinating. They have proven an enduring ability to adapt and respond to the changing needs of their communities at every level, despite the challenging times.
Spring activities had to be cancelled, they brought Scouting to the homes of thousands of Scouts. In-person leadership meetings could no longer be held, they have optimised their use of online tools to continue business as usual. Their community needed them, they have risen to the challenge by mobilising hundreds and hundreds of volunteers. They have built ties with local partners and have drawn the attention of the local media, resulting in a spectacular positive coverage of Scouting. The story of this unprecedented mobilisation needed to be told and shared.
NSO’s Chief Executives come together to discuss risks and opportunities
The leadership of WOSM’s NSOs and WAGGGS’ Member Organisations (MOs) came together to exchange on their current situations in light of the national lockdowns and the imminent deconfinement measures. It appeared that despite the different national precaution measures imposed in each country, most CEOs had a shared sense of concern over the financial impact of the pandemic on their NSOs and MOs’ operations. They however expressed hope for a fast recovery through a diversification of income sources.
Fedde Boersma, director of Scouting Nederland, who helped organising the meeting said:
“Most CEOs felt it was good to meet. Some of the discussions sparked interest in organising further smaller meetings to dive deeper into some specific topics”.
“The online setting enabled more colleagues to take part. The fact of holding the meeting was highly appreciated by all attendees. I think this whole pandemic situation does create a sense of togetherness and the online meetings can only enhance that.” He added.
Let’s Talk Diversity, Impact and Sustainability
A multithemed webinar about diversity, Impact of Scouting and Sustainability attracted dozens of Scouts from all over Europe.
Monika Paulauskaitė, a regional volunteer from Lithuania, is part of the regional Diversity&Inclusion regional working group. She helped in the design and the moderation of the Diversity meeting.
“I was positively surprised that participants did not only showcase their best practices, but they also critically looked at the situation of Diversity & Inclusion in their NSOs and actively discussed areas of improvement.” She shared.
The meeting aimed to offer a space for NSOs to exchange on best practices related to diversity and inclusion, specifically in relation to the current pandemic situation. There was a shared trend of a relatively smooth transition of Scouting activities to the digital world. Although digital Scouting falls short in fully including Scouts from underprivileged socio-economic backgrounds, many NSOs shared some good examples of inclusion.
“ For example in Belgium, Scouts who are not able to use their computer to attend digital meetings are included using regular cell phones. That ensures that participating in daily Scouting activity is not limited to those that have personal computers and internet connection.” She added.
“During the meeting we could feel that the participants were happy to be involved, they wanted to share their insights, find some common grounds to connect them with others. As a regional volunteer, It is motivating to know that the work you do can help others, it also brings a feeling of belonging – as you work together with the team of other volunteers and staff. It is truly empowering to understand that my work helps to implement the Regional Scout Plan.” She joyfully added.
Allan Simpson, a member of the Impact of Scouting regional working group from the UK , had a great time contributing to the planning of the Impact of Scouting webinar:
“We were so thrilled to receive such a high and engaged attendance at our session. Everyone that joined had their own thoughts on this topic and was able to contribute to our thinking for how to develop with meaningful inputs to help shape the focus of the team in the coming years.. “He said.
The Impact of Scouting session aimed to engage NSOs in a discussion of their priorities in understanding and measuring impact.
“Understanding the Impact of Scouting is a complex web of different factors that many of us are only starting to get to grips with. We know in our hearts that Scouting has a positive impact on young people, but how do we demonstrate that?” He passionately added.
The impact of Scouting team made use of the opportunity to introduce a new piece of work to actively measure the impact of Home Scouting activities across the region during the pandemic.
“ For myself and my team, this was the first time we had spoken about much of our work beyond our core group, it was great when everyone took to the topic so positively and had their own thoughts to contribute, it really helped affirm that the work we are doing is of interest and value to our NSOs, and inspire us to keep working away at it!” He concluded.
The topic of sustainability has recently gained momentum across NSOs and NSAs in Europe. Given its strategic weight in the Regional Scout Plan, it was important to offer a virtual space to NSOs to exchange on it.
The Region has set up two temporary task forces to look at the topic from various perspectives. The volunteers in charge helped put together a session where NSOs and NSAs were able to draw inspiration from each other’s best practices.
Caroline Arragon from France, is part of a regional working group that has been tasked with advising the Region on how best to implement sustainability across different levels.
“The meeting was a great showcase of how people who share common values can come together. We are all working on the topic of sustainability and it was great to discover how others address this in similar or different ways!”. She shared.
Guest speakers from Portugal and Denmark shared their stories about how they succeeded in embedding the Global Goals into their youth programmes. The regional volunteers team shared some great insights into how to think about sustainability beyond its typical environmental dimension.
“There is more to sustainability than just the environment. Sustainability is an indivisible concept that includes social and economic dimensions which are worth-considering”. Katrine, a member of the regional sustainability task force explained during the session.
Caroline is so passionate about the topic:
“ I was really glad to help organising this meeting. I believe these online theme-specific meetings were very inspiring for all of us. The opportunity to discuss with others about what I am passionate about is at the core of my motivation to join the region in the first place, so I'm happy I could contribute to this gathering of awesome people.” She concluded.
The image of Scouting and the Pandemic: A Blessing in Disguise?
An inspiring webinar around the topic of the Image of Scouting in the time of COVID-19 welcomed dozens of participants from all over Europe and brought some amazing examples of community practice and successful media outreach, from Portugal, to the UK, to Luxembourg and Lithuania. The webinar demonstrated that thanks to the tireless community support and educational innovation that Scouts have undertaken lately, they have drawn the media’s attention. The coverage has been exceptionally positive.
Caillum from Ireland, a member of the regional team of external representatives, moderated the webinar:
“It was an amazing experience researching all of the European National Scout Organisation’s & Association’s incredible work during this time of crisis. Scouting always stays true to our value of ‘Creating a better world’ regardless of the situation we may be placed in. “
Youth Work During Times of Crises: Best practices from Scouting:
A team of external representatives teamed up with the European Parliament’ s youth event (EYE) to do a session on “Youth work from home - Best practices from Scouting “.
Over 90 minutes, Caillum, Reinout, Natascha and Samia showcased and discussed all the great work that WOSM and the NSOs are doing to engage children, young people and adults during these challenging times. More than 60.000 people have watched the session. The external representatives also took time to address the various live questions coming from the audience.
“I think the panel was quite valuable in terms of visibility for WOSM and Scouting in Europe. The fact that we engaged with great partners such as the European Youth Event Team to take an activity online was a great step in terms of external relations and partnerships. Furthermore, we’re just happy to be able to present and showcase the amazing work of our NSOs. “ Said Natascha, a member of the external representatives team who skilfully moderated the panel.
A Post-Covid Scouting Era? What Shape or Form?
A post-Covid reality is till hard to mentally grasp. The scenarios are endless and so are the possibilities. Scouting seems to be able to reinvent itself. About 100 participants joined this thought-provoking panel to exchange on the different challenges emerging with a gradual exit of the current confinement situation and its impact on Scouting.
The discussions tapped into how to ensure that Scouting remains a safe environment both for young people and adult leaders as many countries started to ease down the lockdown measures.
Diana Slabu, a former regional volunteer from Romania and a current WOSM consultant helped organising the meeting:
“I love that Scout leaders are becoming more and more creative with on-line tools. I'm sure that we will continue to figure out ways to keep the movement alive, even in times when masks will become part of our uniform and we will need to adapt some of our activities so as to maintain physical distancing.” She noted.
“I think the meeting was clearly appreciated overall, as we had very good feedback. In the beginning, we asked the participants to describe how they feel when they think of the end of the confinement and the most commonly used word was "worried". I hope that through this on-line event, we managed to offer some practical tips and diminish that feeling a bit.” She added.
European Scout Committee Connects with the NSOs
A virtual campfire brought together the European Scout Committee members and over 80 participants from all over Europe. NSOs and NSAs had the opportunity to ask questions, share concerns and above all they enjoyed a moment of togetherness amid the current difficult times.
Over 24 questions were addressed throughout the meet-up. The committee members took turns to tackle several topics such as the potential financial impact of COVID-19 on the Region and the available support to NSOs as well as reporting timelines on the Regional Scout Plan.
The campfire was deeply appreciated by the attendees and it offered a great opportunity for Scouplts who do not usually have the chance to meet with the committee members during regional events, to enjoy a direct interaction with them.
Joaquim is a member of the European Scout Committee, he contributed along his fellow committee members to the campfire by addressing the audience’s questions:
“The virtual Campfire has given us many signs of hope for the future of Scouting in Europe . It was also a great moment to thank our organisations for the amazing work they have done in delivering Scouting from home opportunities and helping the communities during the pandemic. I truly believe that virtual gatherings are a great tool that we’ll use more often in the future.” He said
The series of online gatherings has been positively received by NSOs, it has sparked constructive dialogue among members and has contributed to a great deal of peer-to-peer inspiration.
The vast range of possibilities that the online world is offering us should be surely optimised to sustain this great dynamic flow of exchange across the region. Stay tuned as we roll out future online initiatives and opportunities.