A safe kitchen where a new culture of participation is cooking

Scouting in Catalonia has a history of active participation in social movements and turning points in the 20th century, a certain flair for activism. But is that so? Has Scouting as an organisation always been there, pushing?

Or rather, have individual scouts and guides committed themselves to making positive change? I’d stay with the latter. Scouting and Guiding is but an educational movement; its outcome, young people committed to leaving the world a little better than they found it.

There are now 20,000 active scouts and guides in Catalonia, around 0.3% of the population. However, that proportion seems to grow astonishingly when we look at the leading roles in certain spaces of society such as parliamentarians and other politically related positions, NGOs, innovation spaces, all kinds of national youth and non-youth organisations, etc. Now, that does not mean scouting associations need necessarily be efficient placement platforms. It just means that people who grew up in scouting seem to have acquired the will and the skills to take on such responsibilities.

Scouting and Guiding is, among other things, a leadership school, a safe place to take part, take responsibility, face challenge and try out one’s leadership skills. It is so for everyone involved: children, youth, and volunteers at all levels in their associations. As it was well put by the board of one of the Catalan scout and guide associations, by leadership we mean “focusing on team building, empowering others and promoting new leaderships within the group. Making things happen.[...] Change as a result of people’s growth.” (El Correu 95)

21st century social changes after the outbreak of economic crisis are more easily understood with the above kind of leaderships. Communities feel empowered because their individuals also do, because group dynamics lead people to do their best, and to the best interest of the community. So, if scouting is a safe place to develop leaderships, it is because it also is a safe place to challenge the way we take part in our communities. A safe kitchen where a new culture of participation is cooking. To me, it smells damn good.

Imagine a place where 4,000 young volunteers devote countless hours to offering 16,000 other children and youth -- and themselves -- with an environment ripe with life changing, meaningful experiences. Imagine that they are part of a worldwide network with over 50 million members. Imagine all these people being able to participate in their group’s decision making processes, at many levels they wouldn’t be able to anywhere else. Imagine them being encouraged to reflect on the outcomes of their actions -- not only direct outcomes, but also the effects on their own individual growth and on their community’s. Imagine how well prepared for life they might become.

Imagine the value this being done only for the sake of the personal growth of the people involved. Imagine no other compensation is expected. Volunteering is key.

Educating to make a better world. It’s interesting how, some nearly 110 years after the first scout camp, this idea is ever more relevant, and successful. With around 50 million members worldwide, Scouting and Guiding is not only the largest youth movement in the world, but still a fast growing one. Leaving the world a little better than one found it involves taking an active, leading role in one’s community, thinking critically to analyse its needs and possibilities, and taking action to make things happen.

With the start of the school year, 20,000 people in Catalonia are once again meeting every week, planning their camps and starting new projects. They are taking responsibility for their own personal growth and becoming aware of the growth of the people around them. I look forward to seeing what they can achieve for next summer. But more than anything and not long from now, I look forward to witnessing the change in society these children and youth will become.

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