Strengthening youth leadership in Scouting

Message from Lawrence Stanton, Chair: National Young Leaders Representative

Dear All,

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege in writing this annual youth day message to all members, and this shall be my fifth and final one. As we as South Africans today recognise and remember the importance and impact the youth have on society, I would like to take this final opportunity to update you all on the progress we have made towards youth involvement within our organisation over the past five years.

SCOUTS South Africa has always valued youth involvement, however admittedly there were early hurdles. What is youth involvement anyway? After much consideration, engagements, debates, and observations; we concluded that youth involvement, in our organisation, is a practice involving three key criteria:

  1. Representation of the youth’s interests in all leadership teams.
  2. Training young people in leadership within the SSA as an organisation.
  3. Leadership by young leaders in roles within the organisation.

It is about being accountable to the Scouts, transferring knowledge and wisdom over time, and empowering young people to make decisions. To this end, in 2021 we ratified our Young Leaders Involvement Policy as a foundation towards these objectives. This policy created, among other provisions, two new things: the regional young leaders representatives and the youth forums.

The regional representatives are perhaps the most impactful new development we have made. It would not be possible to advance youth involvement in all Scout Regions without them. To be clear however, youth involvement is not about appointing “young leaders representatives” everywhere. Rather, they are roles expressly made to promote youth involvement and implement the policy. But their purpose is not limited, and this team of young leaders representatives has also enabled other new advancements. For example, in the past three years SCOUTS South Africa has – by far – been a leading National Scout Organisation in WOSM governance events, with strong contingents of capable young leaders representatives sent to the Southern African Zonal, Africa Regional, and World Scout Youth Forums and Conferences. These are the core governance events of the Movement, literally determining the future of Scouting. This international leadership, among other things, would not be possible without a team of dedicated young leaders representatives operating in this sphere of the organisation.

The other new thing is the youth forums. Firstly, 2020/2021 were perhaps the worst years ever to try and launch a youth forum! But they are also something hard to define or template exactly. What is the purpose of a youth forum? Internationally, the concept of a youth forum is changing. In fact, the World Scout Youth Forum is no more! After being integrated into the World Scout Conference in a new event format to come in 2024. Domestically, we see the youth forum as a valuable tool to decide on some of the big issues affecting our youth, to identify solutions to these problems, and over time develop a record of resolutions that will help guide future youth facing similar issues. Thus far we have held several Regional Youth Forums, and now this Youth Day weekend I am pleased that we will finally hold the 1st National Youth Forum! Through experience and demonstration, I am sure these forums will demonstrate their value and ultimately help navigate Scouting well into an ever-changing future.

These are some exciting new achievements. As I must soon hand over my role as the National Young Leaders Representative, my final task will be to ensure that our current momentum continues. With the young leaders representative team in place, the precedent set by these youth forums, and the continued support of our leadership, I am sure to expect further progress on advancing youth involvement with more strong, capable, and dedicated young leaders throughout our organisation over the next five years to come.

Yours in Scouting,

Lawrence Stanton