A Troop Forum is a meeting of all members of the Scout Troop, either collectively or in smaller groups, and provides an opportunity for everyone to give their views on the programme and running of the Troop.
The following topics could be discussed:
- Camp venues.
- Future activities.
- Feedback on past camps and activities.
- Agreeing a Code of Conduct for the Troop.
All young people’s views are valuable and all young people have the right to contribute their thoughts and ideas. Young people who are less confident or have difficulties with communicating or working with others may need extra support or flexibility to express their opinions and views. It is important to enable all young people to play an active role, to achieve meaningful youth involvement in the section.
Some young people may have difficulties with things like taking turns, or find it difficult to share their ideas verbally or in a group setting. Some young people will need more time than others, to process and form their ideas.
Don’t underestimate the ability of all young people to give their views. There are lots of different ways that feelings and ideas can be communicated.
Running a Troop forum
To help you organise a successful Scout Troop forum, you can use the following tried and tested steps as a guide.
This includes practical ideas and tips which could be used, to support all young people to express their opinions/views. Having a number of methods for young people contribute will be beneficial and more engaging/fun, for all young people.
- Forums should be held as often as you feel necessary. However, make sure there is enough time in between for the Scouts to see that actions are being taken to include their suggestions and feedback.
- Using smaller groups may enable the quieter Scouts to express their views more easily. If your Troop has Young Leaders, they could be used to facilitate discussions in these small groups.
- If you are going to include all members of the Troop at once, an older Scout could be elected as a chair to run the forum. They could tell the Troop which topic was being discussed so the Scouts stay focused.
- The Scouts could be asked to sit in a circle and pass an object around. The Scout holding the object gets the opportunity to give their opinion, and the chairperson takes notes of good suggestions.
- Different activity options could be pinned to the wall in each corner of the room, and then the Scouts asked to stand in the corner of their preferred activity.
- Activities could be written on post-it notes, and large pieces of paper pinned to the wall titled ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’. The Troop can then vote on whether the activities are ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’ and stick the post-it on the relevant piece of paper.
- You could pin up large pieces of paper to create a graffiti wall, where any suggestions could be written. The Scouts could each be given a pen, and allowed 10 minutes to make their suggestions. Leaders can look over the paper and pick out popular suggestions to include in the programme.
- Some young people may have difficulty remembering or visualising activities that they’ve done in the past. Showing photos would be an excellent memory aid and promote discussion.
- Remember to think about how you communicate the question or topic, to ensure the understanding of all young people. For young people with autism, questions or topics that are specific will probably be most accessible. For more information about autism visit scouts.org.uk/autism
- For a young person who has difficulty expressing themselves, make sure you give them enough time and take time to check that you’ve understood their views/ideas correctly.
- For young people with limited communication skills, it may be useful to speak to the parent/carer about best way for the young person to form and provide their views.
- Our Scouting Speaks to All resource covers a range of speech, language and communication needs, and tips for supporting young people with these needs.
- A slip of paper could be sent home, the week before the youth forum, with a question or questions for the young people to think about and record their ideas. They could use this as a reminder for themselves or the slip could be handed in. This would also be a good means of parent/carers supporting young people to form their ideas, if needed.
- A young person may be more able to give their ideas individually, to their Section Leader, their Patrol Leader, another volunteer, a Young Leader, or someone who knows them well. The young person could then be supported/prompted to give their views or could nominate someone to speak for them.
- An ‘ideas box’ or ‘thoughts box’ could be used in the section, for young people to submit their ideas in writing and anonymously if they wish.
- If a young person needs extra time to process a question, ask them if they would like others to answer first, or provide the list of questions beforehand.
Leaders should encourage participation, and it is important the young people can see that actions are being taken as a result of discussions. If certain activities cannot be run, then the reasons should be explained to the Scouts and a new activity chosen to avoid disappointment.
Patrol Leader’s forums
These are very similar to Troop forums, but involve Patrol Leaders; sometimes Assistant Patrol Leaders, and the Adult Leadership team. If your Troop has young leaders, they should also be involved.
These are some examples of how Patrol Leader’s Forums can be used:
- To reinforce the leadership role of Patrol Leaders within the Troop.
- To reinforce discussions, which have taken place during Troop Forums, and to report back to their patrols on any decisions made.
- Programme planning.
- Planning camps, including the venue and the activities.
These are some suggestions for running a Patrol Leader’s forum (that can be run alongside Troop forums):
- The structure should be flexible and informal discussions are often more suitable as long, formal meetings may discourage participation.
- One Patrol Leader could act as the chair, while another takes notes on suggestions and what is agreed at the meeting.
- The Patrol Leaders could be asked to vote from a list of options, for example suitable camp venues. This could be done using a show of hands, or standing at different sides of the room corresponding to the options.
- The Patrol leaders could be asked to design a feedback form to fill in with their Patrols, covering past and future camps and activities.