“Youth Empowerment” or Free Choice? Rory Nevin in Conversation with Richard Scriven

Rory: Hey Richard my group just started a Venture Crew! There’s only 2 of us but we’ve already planned so much on our own

Richard: That’s cool! How is it going? Do you feel like with just two of you, you have greater control over what you do?

Rory: Definitely…we’re really able to focus on which special interest badges we want to do or where we want to go camping. Since we’re both new (even our scouter has never had ventures before!) there’s no one to dictate how we should do something. If we make mistakes we just keep them in mind for next time

Richard: That sounds ideal (apart from there being just two of you!)! So the Scouter is on-board with the looser have-a-go approach?

Rory: I don’t know if he’s ever said those exact words, but we know him enough to know that he probably is on board. He also gives us so much freedom with our programme. If we want to climb Carrauntoohil in winter he’ll find us a guide. If we want to go go-karting he’ll help us to find the cheapest price.

Richard: Looks like you’ve got the whole Youth Empowerment thing down, Rory!

Rory: I guess I never really thought about that…it just seemed normal that we should be allowed and encouraged to make those kinda decisions?

Richard: Well yes! You are right! I actually don’t like the term ‘Youth Empowerment’! I think it puts the emphasis on the youth members, when youth empowerment is actually about the adults! Like, the young people I work with in my own group and meeting across Scouting Ireland are amazing. They have ideas, skills, and capabilities; sure they need some support and encouragement occasionally but not empowering.

Rory: Also the words Youth Empowerment make it seem more ‘national’. I don’t really care about all that stuff but Youth Empowerment just seems to be a buzz word that people throw around.

Richard: It totally is! When people think about it, it seems to be in reference to National Youth Reps and National Council. But, youth empowerment is about Log Chews, Patrol Leaders’ Councils, and Venture Scouts deciding on and running their own programme, being supported by Scouters. If we get that right we will not only have better scouting, we’ll have a better association!

Rory: Exactly! Youth Empowerment is a complicated way of saying “free choice” I think anyway. It could be what night of the week we meet, if we meet at all! Or it could be the difference between penne pasta and spaghetti on camp….it could even be deciding the rules for scout dodgeball.

Richard: Do you throw balls of sisal in scout dodgeball?

Rory: I think it’s generally whatevers left over after camp…as long as it’s not an axe.

Richard: I like the ‘Free Choice’ definition! I might use that. Also, it shows how Youth Empowerment is actually about Scouters allowing and helping the youth member make those free choices.

Rory: That’s just what I think anyway.

Richard: It reminds those of us who are scouters that we’re there to support these choices, we do not ’empower’ anyone! No, I really like it!

Rory: Also empowering makes it seem like we’re performing brain surgery or splitting the atom.

Richard: A little bit easier than that, but removing some of the barriers that our association and scouters can place is a challenge! Unfortunately, we can be disempowering!,

Rory: Haha I suppose so! And I think most of the time some leaders don’t even realise what they’re doing. And some leaders can be over empowering if you get me. I’ve met quite a few leaders that want to do so much that sometimes youth members are just quiet and go along with their plans which is what we want to stop.

Richard: lol! I know that you mean. Allowing the space for free choice is a balance. And, of course most scouters mean well, but it think it is something we need to be aware of! Like, I need to be aware of it myself in my Venture Unit. I’m always trying to balance their ideas with certain realities. Such as school, exams, parents, costs, etc.

Rory: Exactly. It’s about compromise as well.

Richard: One might almost say it’s about young people and adults working together! #scoutmethod (I love the Scout Method).

Rory: Aw I love linking things into it.

One thought on ““Youth Empowerment” or Free Choice? Rory Nevin in Conversation with Richard Scriven

  1. eoghanc says:

    Great explanation! Empowerment and representation get tied up as the same thing well too often!

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