The Scout Association is the largest youth involving organisation in the country with 450,000 young people and thousands of adult volunteers the opportunity to work in partnership with them just seemed like to good opportunity to miss.
So back in 2014 we pitched to the scouts about how waterways offer a unique opportunity to get active in local communities as part of a new project being set up called A Million Hands.
A Million Hands has developed into a partnership with five other charities (Leonard Cheshire, Guild Dogs, Wateraid, Mind & the Alzheimer’s Society) plus the Trust and The Scout Association. For us today, A Million Hands is about creating themed projects and pocket adoptions where young people take action to improve both our waterways and the lives of those affected by disability, mental health, dementia or poor access to sanitation and clean water.
Since the official launch in October 2015 scouts have been working with their young people to develop projects and so far this has culminated nine pockets adoptions across the country. Merseyside have been busy shaping projects.
Peter Oliver, Merseyside deputy county commissioner explains the approach they have taken: "Our approach to identifying community impact projects with measurable outcomes begins with engaging our young people to help them develop a passion and interest in a specific cause.
"We work with them to help them develop a clear understanding of what impact they would like to have and what they would like to achieve. Our approach is to then help them develop the necessary skills to engage with partners and to then link them with an appropriate partner to develop a project. Our young people are encouraged to engage with as many of their peers and leaders as possible, in order to shape the project and gain support. We then work with them to support them in delivering that project.
We achieve this through a series of events. Our year begins with a large event at Liverpool Town Hall, called ‘Speaking Up’, where around 80 young people gather to gain a greater understanding of the A Million Hands causes and to meet with civic, community and political leaders from across Merseyside. This gives them an opportunity to shape their thinking, gain the views of others and begin developing greater influencing skills and grow in confidence. We then hold a series of workshops, one being a weekend residential in London, through which we support the development of their ideas and their skills – from here on in, many of our young people have then gone to have the confidence to have a greater impact – changing more lives and changing more communities.
We are constantly seeking opportunities for our young people to have the opportunity to make the difference they want to make and we’ll continue supporting them to do so."
As a result of this process we are working on a project with Guild Dogs Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The aim to raise awareness, improve the physical environment and promote routes that take people to and from useful places, including; shops, cafés and pubs, creating walks with purpose that are accessible and used.
Lucy Bowles-Lewis has worked for the Trust for 10 years in various engagement and volunteering roles. She has recently become the project manager for A Million Hands, an exciting new project where Scout groups will be given the opportunity to take social action by adopting a section of canal or river.See more blogs from this author