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Back to the future…

Friday 10th December 2021

Two years ago an independent strategic review took place to help the Brigade plan its journey for the next five years. Leaders from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland took part in the review through an online survey, focus groups and 1:1 interviews.

At our AGM in Swansea in 2019, Graeme Reekie of Wren and Greyhound, who led the independent review, reported to us on the conclusions of the review. He essentially told us that the organisation had actually previously identified what it needed to do to tackle declining membership that has been the overall reality since the 1980s, but then hadn’t done it.

It’s not rocket science after all, is it? Young people will vote with their feet – if they don’t enjoy what they are doing, if they don’t see the benefits, if it’s not good enough, then they won’t stay long.

The clear message from the strategic review was that we needed to focus our efforts and energies on enhancing the quality of experience that is offered to children and young people, ensuring that it is the constant high standard that we would all wish for.

88% of responds to the strategic review survey told us that improving quality was the key to our future.

Lockdown learnings

Since our strategic review and the development of our five-year strategic plan, it’s fair to say a lot has happened.

The resilience, resourcefulness, creativity and commitment shown by young people, volunteers and staff alike over the last 18 months has been incredible and has really showcased how amazing our organisation can be and how powerful an impact we can have on young peoples’ lives. Just have a look at just some of the amazing things that parents/carers told us about the impact and value of BB on their children over the last 18 months on page 14.

“When the BB works, it works very well and there is nothing better.”

– 2019 Strategic Review Survey Respondent

We have worked in new and different ways than we have done before, including:

  • developing an alternative programme that can be used by parents/carers at home
  • delivering programmes and online activities
  • running more outdoor based activities
  • engaging with more leaders than ever before through webinars and virtual training

We certainly hope that this session will be one that is focussed on face-to-face activities, but there is surely much from the last 18 months that will have a longer term place in terms of offering a quality experience for children and young people.

What we’ve been doing and what we will be doing…

Although much has changed since our strategic review in 2019, the three overall aims of the five-year strategy which we launched at the beginning of this year are still as relevant as ever, in particular the focus on quality.

Improving the consistency of experience for children and young people

Raise the profile of the organisation and increase the participation of children and young people in shaping and representing the organisation at all levels

Stabilise our overall membership and support growth where possible

Over this first year of our five-year strategy, whilst continuing to support Companies in navigating Covid restrictions, the following have been completed:

  • New Over 11s programme
  • Leader Development Community launched
  • New brand identities for Company and Senior age groups
  • Website refreshed and updated
  • Open To… Campaign supporting opportunity for growth
  • Young Leaders Group established

As we move into the second year of the strategy our plans will include:

  • Defining the quality of experience for children and young people in the BB
  • Reviewing and evaluating the organisation’s support structures
  • Supporting leaders with online registration, e-learning, Leaders Code of Conduct
  • Building and developing relationships with Churches and denominations

At the heart of our work

The Brigade was founded 138 years ago for the purpose of engagement and outreach to children and young people to advance Christ’s kingdom. Everything within the Brigade, whether within a Company or our support structures (Battalions, Districts, Regions, HQ) is there to serve that purpose. Children and young people are of course at the centre of our work.

We should never be afraid of doing things differently because it means making changes to our structures or traditions. Over the last 18 months there have been many challenges we have had to deal which have required us to change, and I believe further changes will be needed because of where we want to get to.

“Be bold and be strong”

– Joshua 1:9

I’ve made changes to our staff team, a change that as Chief Executive I discussed and agreed with our Trustees. This change has, I believe, allowed us to work more effectively than at any other point in my 15 years working for the Brigade and allows us to make the fullest use of the skills and talents we have amongst our 19 employees.

However, we need to go further as we look at the whole support structure of the organisation and whether it is fulfilling its role of providing the best possible support to leaders in Companies working with children and young people.

As we prepare to move into the second year of the strategic plan another key focus will be working with leaders to define the quality of experience for children and young people.

The aim of this is not about all Companies being required to offer identical experiences, but it is about defining what are the key common characteristics that demonstrate quality within the BB, like for example a planned programme, positive relationships with parents/carers and community outreach.

I’m sure there will continue to be bumps in the road that we will come across. Not everyone will agree with every aspect of every change. However, I hope that all leaders would accept that the focus and basis of our decision making is on improving the quality and consistency of experience for children and young people, and is rooted in advancing Christ’s kingdom.

Jonathan Eales
Chief Executive

Follow Jonathan on Twitter at: @jonathanealesbb

Find out more about our five-year strategy at: boys-brigade.org.uk/who-we-are/our-strategic-plan

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