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Celebrating our 140th Anniversary

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Engaging Young People

Wednesday 28th October 2015

Our development plan focusses on growth, quality and voice. We know children and young people are our best advocates so it makes sense for them to feel part of your plans to grow.

Andrew Johnston, Chief Executive and Lee Hiorns, Trustee/ Brigade Executive member share their thoughts on ‘Engaging Young People in The Boys’ Brigade’.

Andrew shares…

I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it.” Screamed down

the phone from Croatia, the response I got from Maja Balenovic, in a small village in Croatia still recovering from the civil war, which had engulfed her country, was one of the highlights of my entire career. Not surprising really. Of over 10,000 applicants she had landed the plum opportunity o ered by Hostelling

International, to go and volunteer as a Peace Volunteer for a whole year all expenses paid, in the Blue Mountains of Australia, developing educational programmes with native aboriginal peoples. After the New York attacks on 9/11 we decided that we had to get back to the roots of the movement and o er young people an opportunity to do things they could only dream of and things which promoted global peace and understanding between peoples.

So what are we offering to young people in The Boys’ Brigade? Sadly not trips to Australia ( just yet!) But whether on Facebook, Twitter or occasionally through Gazette, I have seen just some of the incredible opportunities we do o er young people in Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe. And at the Make a Di erence Awards in September we heard from young people who had done some truly amazing things in their own communities much closer to home. The reward for them of a trip to Parliament seemed to me to be pretty modest for their incredible endeavours, but we nonetheless gave them a day to remember.

But we must be more than just providing a stage for some ‘performing seals’ as my boss used to refer to the way young people were engaged at the Methodist Church’s annual Conference (in the 1980’s – I am sure things have improved since.) I was impressed that the Brigade had had the foresight to involve a young person on the interview panel for the Chief Executive position, but we need to do so much more and go so much further.

It is not just about our Voice agenda, important though that is. It is about the Quality (and integrity) of what we do and it is about driving the Growth agenda.

Because let’s face it any of us who were born before 2000 are out of touch with contemporary youth culture. We are, let’s just admit it.

Lee just ‘graduated’ from one of our youth trustees to being a fully “grown up” trustee on our Board of Trustees (Executive). So let’s hear what he has to say…

Lee shares…

I have been involved in national BB work for the past ten years, more recently in the last

couple of years as a trustee. I joined the England Regional Committee when I was 16 years old and the buzz words of the time were ‘youth participation’ and ‘empowerment’. Those words are still as important now as they were then, but thankfully the BB has signi cantly developed to ensure younger leaders are at the heart of its governance and decision making structure.

There is still plenty of work to be done, but in my view the foundations have most certainly been laid.

This work has provided me with the opportunity to increase my knowledge, skills and experience of committees, meetings, team work and problem solving. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t understand budgets, pensions or insurance but I am beginning to think I never will! Other than being a great CV buster, it is also positive to be part of the wider BB family, speci cally working directly with other volunteers and sta from around the UK & ROI. There is a lot in it for young people to become trustees, but it is also imperative for any organisation that wants to develop because in my view they enable boards to look at issues from a more diverse perspective.

A highlight for me has included chairing a group of young leaders on behalf of the England Regional Committee to launch the ‘Unite’ event.

Also, I have enjoyed meeting so many brilliant and enthusiastic similar aged and likeminded people in all di erent parts of the organisation.

There should be more young people on the trustee board, not just for their Voice, but in most cases because they have suitable and relevant skills and experiences to contribute. Not all young people will want to get involved with BB nationally and that’s ne. It is not for everyone and often calls for many qualities such as time, commitment, exibility and perseverance.

It is the responsibility, however, of the more experienced leaders to set an enabling and empowering culture within their existing structures where participation and local decision making is encouraged.

There was some research released recently that caught my eye; it stated that ‘fewer than 2% of charities had a young trustee’. I am very proud to be in an organisation that forms part of that 2%.

Andrew concludes…

So if you know a young person who would like to get involved in the decision making processes then why not get in touch? We will soon be seeking volunteers for new groups, such as the Faith Working Group and for our new Fundraising Group. We will also be looking for young people to participate in a range of opportunities through the European and Global Fellowship. Who knows, perhaps I could be making that call to one of your young people and saying “Hi – we’d like you to go to ……… to represent The Boys’ Brigade.” Hopefully, the scream won’t be quite as loud as Maja’s was. I am 12 years older than I was in 2003!

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