Case Study: Reaching Out To New Areas

Thursday, 12 July 2018

During the first year of our New Groups Project in the Eastern Region, we’ve set up two new Pioneer groups in areas which didn’t have any current Woodcraft Folk groups. There had previously been a group in Diss, though inactive for a few years, and a couple of parents had expressed an interest in setting up a group in St Neots. This suggested there was potential for two groups to get established in these areas with a little bit of support.

St Neots Pioneers welcomes young people aged 9 to 12 to their group nights at Paxton Pits nature reserve. Early on, it seemed difficult to get the Woodcraft Folk message out to the wider community in the town, but this was overcome by some tremendous networking efforts with other groups and housing associations in the area. Visit St Neots, a new community centre on the Loves Farm development, the Town Council and the volunteer centre proved to be good places to promote the new group. Outreach events included a session at the local library which was extremely popular.

From setting up this group, we’ve learnt to keep positive and keep promoting. Lauren Karstadt, Development Officer, says “It’s about finding the right people and to do so connecting with all people/families in the area so the message has spread as far and to as many people as possible.”

One of the new young members of the group had low confidence when he joined, but became much more confident through taking part. He recently stood up in front of his whole class and presented to them what Woodcraft Folk is and why he enjoys coming to the group. In year two of the project, the group aims to continue to grow and get even more young people on board, as well as to gain more of an identity in the area.

Our new pioneer group in Diss started their group nights at a local church hall, but have moved to a paddock owned by one of their volunteers for meetings in the summer months. After a few group nights, some very boisterous boys from the same class were beginning to take over the sessions, putting off some other quieter children and causing a volunteer to leave. The team running the group had a meeting and decided to assign one helper to the group of boys to praise their successes and keep them on task, which has worked very successfully! They also talked to their parents and encouraged them to stay for an occasional session.

Volunteers have generously supported sessions and the overall running of the group in many different ways: by bringing in their own equipment (such as tents and catering); by letting the group use their paddock; by setting up a mailchimp list; and by putting videos on Facebook. Some volunteers are planning to take part in First Aid training in the Autumn so that they are prepared for when any incidents may arise, and they’ll be able to use this transferable skill elsewhere in their lives too. The next steps in Diss include continuing to expand numbers and establishing a Venturer group for the older children.

Going into new communities, raising awareness of the Woodcraft Folk and providing support to new volunteers has been key. To be open and inclusive of all children who want to be part of the group, we’ve needed to think about group dynamics to ensure everybody can feel comfortable and like they belong at the group.

We’ll be building upon this learning in Year 2 of the project as we open new groups in even more new places including: Peterborough, Bury St Edmunds, Thetford and Ipswich!