Case Study: Increasing and Widening Participation in Existing Districts

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Within the New Groups Project in the Eastern Region, we’ve been working with three existing districts to help them to increase and widen participation by open groups for new age groups and in new areas. In Norwich and Lowestoft, existing open groups have been supported to separate and tailor their activities for Elfins and Pioneers, whilst in Cambridge a new Pioneer group has been opened in the expanding northern part of the city. By providing age-specific programmes close to where people live, this has helped to increase and widen participation in all three areas.

We’ve found that communication is key. In Norwich, for example, emails weren’t always read and not all volunteers had mobile phones. Finding the best way to communicate and using word of mouth and face to face meetings to ensure everyone was kept informed was important in setting up new Pioneer and Venturer groups.

Spreading the Woodcraft Folk message far and wide is needed for recruitment. In Lowestoft, an activity day was really successful for recruiting young people with 31 children attending one session in June. However, finding new volunteers to provide a dedicated group and programme for the Pioneer age group has proved more challenging. Advertising on lead to many applications but only one of these has translated to a new volunteer. Parents of the new young members may choose to become helpers in time, but it’s been important to set out that this isn’t a requirement of their child taking part as not everyone can give up the time. Volunteer recruitment is continuing with approaches to sixth forms and colleges to find young adults who might want to get experience working with children.

Going to local communities and being present at their events can also help to get new Woodcraft Groups up and running. Eddington Pioneers meet at the Storeysfield Centre in North Cambridge and in the early stages of setting up the group it was difficult to find volunteers and young members who live locally. This was overcome by contacting local schools and getting to know the new community officer on the Eddington estate. The team also attended local community events, as well as those with a Cambridge wide focus in the city centre, to build their profile in the neighbourhood in particular. The group has supported volunteers who haven’t worked with young people previously to gain confidence and skills and over the coming months they’ll be getting more involved in Cambridge District activities as well.

From the first year of our project, we’ve seen the need for programmes designed in partnership with the young people themselves and delivered in places close to where they live in order to increase and widen participation. These new groups are helping to expand existing districts and offering opportunities for children to grow up and stay involved with Woodcraft Folk.