Commissioners Can Build Belonging to Grow Scouting
Build Belonging to Grow Scouting
Qs: 1. How can Scouting enhance its appeal to youth and young families?
- How can Scouting retain youth and their families once they’ve joined?
A: According to sociological researchers, the most important factor is helping youth and young families feel a strong sense of belonging.
Appealing to youth and young families means:
- Personally welcoming them and making them feel at home.
- Showing that Scouting families are people like them, people who have a lot in common with them in terms of values and interests, and people with whom they can identify.
- Inviting them to engage in enjoyable and meaningful activities.
Remember that in today’s world there is little interest in joining organizations, but there is abundant interest in being a part of team that has a shared purpose and sense of belonging.
Keeping the interest of youth and young families means:
- Continuing to be friendly and caring about our Scouts and families.
- Ensuring a safe learning environment and trained leaders.
- Delivering on promises made by the local program and providing abundant opportunity for meaningful engagement; including helping others.
- Keeping them “in the loop” in terms of communication and information.
Youth and families stay in Scouting when they feel a sense of belonging because of the relationships they’ve built and the accomplishments they’ve achieved as part of a team effort.
Building belonging is partly about the conscious steps we take as Scout leaders and partly about removing the barriers we don’t consciously realize are in place.
At this point you might be thinking: “but what does this concept have to do with commissioners? Is there really anything commissioners can do to help youth and families develop feelings of belonging?”
As with everything we do as commissioners, our success in helping to build belonging depends on our approach when serving units. We’ve all learned that it doesn’t do any good telling someone what to do; instead, we need to share resources and information and steer conversations toward priorities.
Discussions with unit volunteers could include:
- Asking them to remember how other Scouters inspired belonging – both when they first joined and as they continued in the program – and how they can incorporate those methods into their relationships with new and potential members.
- Encouraging units to assemble and support welcome teams, led by New Member Coordinators, to keep in touch with families.
- Exploring thoughts about building Scouting community in social media groups.
- Determining types of events and invitations that are welcoming and meaningful to families.
- Anticipating the informational needs of families new to Scouting and planning/preparing a series of quick blurbs to distribute both electronically and in paper form.
These are the kinds of conscious steps we can take to build the feeling of belonging.
But what about the barriers to belonging? Think about how to facilitate conversations concerning barriers others have identified, such as:
- the uniform
- lack of diversity among current members
- lack of outreach to diverse communities
- too few current leaders or leaders who seem too busy to engage with new members
- not enough information or information that’s hard to access
- not using favored communication platforms where people feel comfortable.
Recognizing and discussing these barriers paves the way for strategizing how to mitigate and address the challenges.
Helping local Scouters build feelings of belonging for families may be one of the most important unit service opportunities we have. ‘Be the heart. Build relationships. Change lives.’