1st Thedwastre Guides opened on 11 September 2023 with a meeting night held outside. The unit has been financially supported by our new unit grant and forms part of our Uniformed Youth Fund project. I caught up with their leaders, Claire and Tracy and commissioner, Viv to see what it’s like to open a new unit and what their highlights have been.
Before opening Thedwastre Guides, there was 2 thriving units in the district that were full or nearly full. Looking at the numbers of Brownies in the district made me realise that the existing units would be full and there would be no places locally for Brownies to go once they got to 10. Knowing the amazing and varied opportunities that guiding gives girls, I was keen to find a way to increase capacity for Guides in the district. We had also had a district holiday in the May and all the Brownies units had attended. They saw the Guides camping and cooking their food on a fire and so we had a lot of very enthusiastic girls to accommodate!
Finding a leadership team fell into place naturally – I had a new leader join the district that had previously had a lot of experience with Guides and another leader who is a Snowy Owl at one of the Brownie units and was also keen to increase Guide spaces so it naturally worked and the two leaders made the leadership team for the new unit.
Ha ha I’m not sure I have any secrets! What I do have however is relentless enthusiasm, a brilliant district and lots of Curly Wurlys! In all seriousness there genuinely aren’t any secrets – it started off as a mathematical exercise looking at the numbers of Brownies in our area that would be reaching 10 over the next year or two and then looking at how we could provide Guide spaces for them to go to. I soon realised that the answer would be opening a new unit and so from there it was a case of lots of conversations to find the right venue and right team to lead it.
We were both very excited. We already knew all the girls because they had all be in our Brownie unit. Instead of a first meeting in our usual meeting place, we decided to open with a bang so arranged with Elmswell Guides to have a joint meeting for a campfire (what better way to open a new unit than with a few verses of ‘This Little Guiding Light of Mine’ and a s’more). However, because the weather has been exceedingly hot, we decided it was not a good idea go light a fire so we just played a variety of wide games with them, sang songs, taught the girls taps and how to march into a horseshoe – something which both units have enjoyed having a go at!
There are too many to mention really. The girls are a great bunch, albeit very excitable at times. On the first week in our meeting place they decided whether they wanted neckers and what colour, which patrol names they wanted, who was going to be patrol leaders and what they were going to call us. The following week they started to plan their promise ceremony party, assigning each other different roles and came up with a list of Unit Guidelines. Claire’s dad made us some patrol boxes so the girls painted them with the help of Tracey’s Cricut machine making stencils for. This week we made pencil cases with them using our sewing machines, which they loved.
Go for it! It is not as difficult as you may think. We only finally decided at the beginning of the summer holidays that we were definitely going to open and were ready to go come September when they went back to school. We borrowed resources from another unit in our district to plan the terms activities and applied for grants to help with funding. I think it helped that we were both experienced leaders, both having run Guide units before but it is not difficult, especially if you get support from other unit leaders in your district as well as your local district or county commissioner. We were also lucky because we are both already involved with our local Brownie Unit so had access to those where were leaving at the end of the previous term, and with word of mouth from them to their friends who had already left our unit and moved onto Guides we had another three transfer to us from another unit in our district whose waiting list was already quite large. We started with 7 girls and have at least another 3 starting after Christmas.
It’s so easy to think that success is the number of badges our young members earn or how big our unit is or how much fundraising we do. Actually, success is a whole range of girl-led activities – from s’mores to sewing, from making a horse shoe to making a patrol box! Thank you for all that you are doing for the girls in your unit, we really appreciate all the time that you give and the skills that you share.
It’s been a busy couple of months since I wrote the last blog. If you didn’t catch that you can find it here – you’ll find an overview of the project and what we hope to achieve in the next year or so.
We’ve financially supported 3 new units via our new unit grant – welcome to 1st Chigwell Rangers, 5th Ely Guides and 1st Thedwastre Guides. Also a big shout out to 1st Wixhams Guides who first met in March 2023 and got in touch. I’ve been to two student freshers fairs and hopefully recruited about 12 new volunteers from these.
I said in my last blog that I was going to attend the commissioner and adviser day organised by Girlguiding Lincolnshire South. Sadly I was too sick to go but I’m still hoping to catch up with the county team soon. I was very sad not to be going as the day had a wide variety of sessions and talks and I was hoping to dip my ear in to some of them. They had everything from inclusion to GO and many topics in between.
I’m loving the new girl recruitment materials from Girlguiding. The graphics for Rangers in particular are so fun and relaxed and remind me of my time as a Ranger. I have so many memories of camping and sharing new experiences with my friends. We know from our inclusion audit that Girlguiding is currently not representative of the UK population. Specifically, we struggle to attract and retain girls and volunteers of colour and lower socio-economic backgrounds. We want to do better at this. Our research shows that girls and volunteers want to see more role models with lived experiences that are similar to their own. The new images show a wider variety of people and the Ranger images are my favourite.
The recruitment kit for adult volunteers also includes social media content that is specific to the section that you want to recruit for volunteers. We know that different things motivate different people to volunteer so the suggested wording reflects this and points them to a section that lets them do that.
It wasn’t a surprise to me that UK girls report lower confidence than UK boys. There’s no denying that girls face more challenges and many of these are explored in the Girls’ attitudes survey. What really surprised me is how much Girlguiding makes a difference.
Girlguiding girls are up to 23% more confident than the UK girls’ average.
What’s even better is that the influence of Girlguiding on girls’ confidence almost triples between early and mid-adolescence. This is the age range that I’m hoping to create more spaces for. Early to mid-adolescence is around 11-15 so Guides and Rangers to us! Guide and Ranger leaders, you are doing a fantastic job. If you need any help or support to increase the number of girls in your unit, do let me know.
The Uniformed Youth Fund is a £15.52 million government programme. It aims to support non-military Uniformed Youth Organisations to tackle their existing teenager waiting lists in England. Girlguiding have secured nearly £2 million of this Fund to help increase our capacity for Guides and Rangers. Read on to hear how we’ll be using our allocation of this funding to support units in your region between now and 31 March 2025.
The funding will allow Girlguiding to develop learning materials for young leaders. They’ve recently released new guidance for leaders working with young volunteers. There’ll be new webinars for leaders such as a session on managing waiting lists.
In Anglia, we’ll open and support at least 14 new Guide or Ranger units. We’ll also recruit and welcome 59 new volunteers and create 270 new spaces in existing Guide or Ranger units. At least 25% of the work that we do will be in areas of deprivation.
We’ve supported 3 new Guide or Ranger units in Cambridgeshire East, Hertfordshire and Suffolk via our new unit grant. We’ll be working with these units in Autumn 2023 to see if there is any further help that will support their sustainability, as well as working with their district or division teams to support with any additional volunteer recruitment. A big part of the aims of the Uniformed Youth Fund is making sure that we scale up our offer sustainably. This means not just asking existing volunteers to take on new roles but making sure that their responsibilities are manageable and enjoyable. It is important in an area with a new unit that we make sure all sections are supported to give every unit, new and existing, the best chance of success.
I know Guide and Ranger units aren’t normally where the biggest waiting lists exist but these young members are potentially the leaders of the future. They are the sections where girls learn life skills that support them well into adulthood. It provides them both mental and physical health benefits at a time when there is so much change in their lives. Research by the University of Edinburgh shows that being part of Girlguiding, or the Scouts, has health benefits into adulthood.
This project will allow us to push our boundaries and try new things that we wouldn’t otherwise consider. During our conversations with county members, thoughts such as holiday guiding and young leader training came up. I know that these initiatives will support the whole guiding family.
There will be a variety of ways that you can get involved as the project progresses. Commissioners, or people with a responsibility for growth in their area, might like to attend a 4 steps to recruitment success training session. These are particularly powerful if you can get a group attending from one division so invite your Girlguiding friends to attend with you.
If you are the main contact for 1 unit or more, use the Pass it on campaign recruitment packs you should have received in the post to recruit volunteers and generate excitement in your area. Tell other units where you have put up posters so they are encouraged to join in. They can help to find other places to advertise and reach out to the local community.
We’ve loved seeing volunteers completing our Promote and Grow challenge – if you do 5 activities you can claim a badge! Also, you might have seen our transition resources and plan on using those this term. What else can you do?
The most important thing you can do is to talk positively about your volunteering experience. Welcome new volunteers and break down any barriers to joining – like avoiding using jargon that doesn’t make sense. Tell volunteers they are cherished, that their contributions are appreciated. They should be reminded of the positive impact they have on girls, young women and the local community. If there is a new or establishing unit in your area, consider being a buddy to them. Offer to show them your term plan, risk assessments and communication to parents. You could also share any resources that are expensive to buy and only get used a couple of times a year.
Each month we’ll share an update, so do keep coming back to hear what is happening. I’ll be at Lincolnshire South’s commissioner and adviser day on 30 September so if you are there, do say hi!
May saw the national big help out day and the launch of phase 1 of our Anglia awareness and recruitment campaign – Pass it on.
In Anglia a team of volunteers and staff are part of the national growth network who pull together information and data from county growth coordinators, PR advisors, grassroot member experience surveys and external insight to learn, develop best practice and advise other teams in how to best recruit volunteers and young members.
The Anglia Pass It On campaign has been developed using this knowledge and new insights alongside an experienced creative agency, Creativity Unbound.
We know that we can help to raise awareness of Girlguiding to those who have maybe not considered being a volunteer before and we are helped in that by all that our members share of their achievements and experiences on external social media. We hope that this campaign will encourage more people to see themselves as a potential volunteer with an exciting organisation in a rewarding role with young girls and women. Following this we need your help!
The best results for new enquiries who become volunteers is when they answer a need in their own community and we hope that your recruitment support pack will help you do just that.
In the pack you will find:
Following the Girlguiding rebrand we have now provided new PR stand resources for counties throughout Anglia. In some cases county teams have also purchased new gazebos, flags and banners. To access these resources for your own local events contact your county team direct or use the contact page on this website to get the best contact details for your area.