Week 37 - Scouts
"Many hands make light work" - Proverb.
When you surround yourself with young people who are inspired to make a change in the world you can't help but feel inspired yourself.
That is exactly what the young Scouts across the country do; make change. Whether it is on a small local scale in their groups or on a national scale with helping create amazing campaigns, they do what they can to ensure we live in a better world.
Turning up to the #AMillionHands event on Sunday in Manchester, I didn't know what to expect. I knew the Scouts were a big organisation and I didn't expect it to be done half-arsed, but what I experienced even changed my own personal views.
A Million Hands campaign is a new initiative to try and recruit 500,000 volunteers across the UK to help tackle 6 key areas that affect communities up and down the country. From dementia and disability to resilience and wellbeing and clean drinking water. Countless charities audition to be part of the campaign and the final 6 were chosen; one of them being one of my Nicest Job charities - Guide Dogs for the Blind.
What I think is pretty remarkable and even a game-changer in the charity sector is the collaboration with so many different charities. Scouts have really led the way with joining together so many different and unique cases and being the hub to facilitate change across the country. And using young people at the centre of this is a very smart move indeed.
Sunday was pretty inspiring. I was also thrown into the hot seat slightly by being asked to be one of the panellists for their afternoon talk. But the day was all about hearing about what the young people had done in their own communities. For me it was music to my ears; hearing so many youngsters talk about their good deeds. How they, as Scouts, have made a difference in a small yet tangible way to the people around them. It's one of the reasons why I admire the Scouts so much; they do so much good.
But my week wasn't solely about the Scouts; it was about a cultural shift in youth work and policy. I was lucky enough to be invited to events across Manchester and London attended by some of the chief exec's of the top youth charities in the UK and even the Minister for Civil Society himself.
When you stand in a room full of people who want to make a real change to young peoples lives, its mind blowing. However much you personally might feel that kids are: useless, lazy, troublesome and everything else that young people are stigmatised with; when you attend an event like the one I did on Monday night, you can't help but leave with a different opinion.
Then when you meet a scout, you're impressed beyond belief. They have this intrinsic nature about them that oozes with compassion. Not everyone is a scout and not everyone wants to be one, but those who choose to become a member of the scouting community are incredibly special individuals indeed.
It's these types of life lessons that are not taught in schools, the playground or at home (well in most cases). Earning badges through hard work and making a difference to society instils a value in these young people that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. And that's the thing. If we can educate and instil those values in the next generation then they will grow up to be advocates for kindness, compassion and change.
If I am honest, I don't think a million hands is enough. There are currently around 7.5m young people in the UK (16-25). That's 15m hands. If each and every one of those young people were taught to be kind, help others and give a little bit back to society; then we would be in a real world of change. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking the Scouts - commending them even, getting 500,000 volunteers is an impressive feat (I should know myself from trying to recruit 7). They do however have a few cheeky moves up their sleeves. Bear Grylls is Chief Scout. He is the epitome of what it is to be in the scouting community and has himself driven a wealth of awareness and young people into the charity. But I also think it's their history; people want to be part of something good.
But, ultimately, we should be learning a lesson from this outstanding organisation and using that to make sure we are creating a better future.
Get kids off their smart phones and away from the ideology of being famous. Get these guys out in the world, seeing the people and places around them and making a difference to their communities. Giving them life lessons that will ensure that they can go on to achieve whatever they want to.
I have always found that the only barrier to achieving success is the one we create ourselves. Putting obstacles in our way to hinder our own ambitions because we have been taught differently. But if we adopted the Scout mentality, teaching young people that they can be creative and smart and intelligent and pro-active then that barrier no longer exists. In fact, that wall of 'no' was never even built to begin with and as a result young people thrive, beyond any imagination.
The reality is that generational change has been spoken about since the dawn of time. Empowering young people to take action and make a difference in their communities could seem like a broken record. But where I think the difference lies this time is with the collaboration across the sector with the Scouts 'A Million Hands' campaign. Instead of tackling the world's problems alone, they are doing it together with the experts in the field; all led and chosen by young people.
Yes - it may be an ambitious task. And no, Rome wasn't built in a day. But seeing what the charity has achieved so far I really do think they are on to something that could change the face of our local communities, for good.
You can visit the A Million Hands project at www.amillionhands.org.uk