Learning about leadership with Scouting Netherlands

Katy, Education Links Officer at Girlguiding Scotland, blogs about working on a Gender Leadership Project with Scouting Netherlands and Oxford Brookes University.

I’ve been working at Girlguiding Scotland for two years and during that time my work has been building links between the education sector and guiding and helping schools to recognise the amazing things that members learn by being in guiding.

My recent project has been working with Leaders from Girlguiding Scotland, Scouting Netherlands and staff from Oxford Brookes University, with the very grand title of an International Participatory Action Research Project on Gender and Leadership. Set up by the Europe Region WAGGGS to discover why females weren’t taking on Leadership roles in Scouting in the Netherlands, as although they have mixed units, the majority of leaders are male. Girlguiding Scotland got involved with the project as interestingly the two organisations are roughly the same size and we’ve got over 11,000 amazing volunteers.

Guide and Senior Section Leaders from Fife, Forth Valley and the Scottish Borders, volunteered to take part with their unit in the project, which involved 112 girls in total. This university research project gave the girls a chance to learn about themselves as leaders, to develop their understanding of leadership and to undertake a range of fun activities.

The groups carried out an initial questionnaire to look at the girls and Leaders attitudes about gender and leadership. Research was gathered from the girls through focus groups and observations and from this each Leader chose one issue they felt they could help change, like getting younger members to be aware that good leadership role models come from a wider field than just their school and Guide unit.

We got together as a Scottish group in November to share our findings and to develop a range of activities to address the chosen gender and leadership issues. After running the activities in units for a few weeks, the project ended with the Leaders re-running the observations, focus groups and questionnaires, to measure whether the activities had had an impact.

At the beginning of February the Scottish team were lucky enough to have a return trip to the Netherlands, where everyone involved in the project got together to share their final findings and to celebrate the hard work that had gone into the project.

Common themes emerged from this some of these included; members broadening their perspective of what leadership is, Leaders have a greater understanding of their leadership role, and a sense of empowerment. Once all the data has been collected and formally studied by Dr Michele Paule at Oxford Brookes University an official report will be published later in spring.

In future, we hope this project will have been a first step to other pieces of work, activities and maybe even badges based on gaining and developing leadership skills. Keep your eyes peeled!