We met up with Jodie and Deborah, here's what they had to say about 2018 WAGGGS Academy

From 4-10 November 2018 WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and WOSM (World Organization of the Scout Movement) Europe regions hosted the Academy, an intensive training event for members of the Europe region to learn more about techniques and new information available from WAGGGS and WOSM. Girlguiding, asked each region if they would like to send delegates, and Jodie and Deborah were selected to represent Midlands. Read Jodie and Deborah's stories below.

Getting there

Jodie: My adventure began at the crack of dawn, travelling by train from Nottingham to Luton airport, I was in contact with Deborah who was also representing Girlguiding Midlands. Having only previously met on the team Skype calls, it was our neckerchief that helped us to recognise each other. One of my favourite parts of the whole trip was when boarding our plane, several people removed their coats revealing their guiding and scouting uniforms. From somewhere behind us a voice shouted, "It must be necker time!" A group of Icelandic scouts travelling to Macedonia via the UK produced their neckers, joined us, and then we were off...

We landed in Macedonia around lunch time and were welcomed at the airport by the Scouts of Macedonia. The spirit of Baden Powell was very much alive as everyone greeted each other like old friends. After a quick stop at the hotel we set out to explore. A highlight of our exploration was visiting Mother Teresa's house, a beautiful unassuming building telling the story of her life and offering quiet places for reflection. After this it was back to the hotel for dinner at and a good night's sleep before the programme began in the morning.

The sessions

Deborah: The main theme of the sessions I attended was leadership and diversity. WAGGGS have released a new gender and diversity mainstreaming toolkit and I wanted to find out more about this and how I could use it in my role. The toolkit is online, and asks questions about who we recruit, who stays and who goes. I really enjoyed learning more about how different organisations are tackling these issues and thinking about what it means to be a member of WAGGGS, looking at stereotypes of guiding and scouting across the region and how we can overcome these.

I also learned about WAGGGS new leadership model, which is going to be released later this year. It was really exciting to learn about different leadership styles and do lots of activities about developing leaders from WAGGGS resources. I am definitely going to be using these with my girls!

I also spent a whole day on Monitoring and Evaluation. Although I do a lot of this for my day job, it was really useful to see how I could transfer this knowledge to a Guiding context, as well as share knowledge. We spent some time thinking up an evaluation framework that could be used locally, and telling other organisations all about GO, they were quite impressed!

Jodie: On Thursday I attended a session on ways in which we can gamify guiding, incorporating 21st century skills alongside our traditions. It was fun to see how gamification can motivate almost anyone and promote engagement.  My afternoon session was “Empowering teenagers to be change makers”. The content was based on the Be the Change 2030 toolkit which is linked to the sustainable development goals. The initiative works on 4 basic principles, see, plan, share, and lead the change. It was great to see and hear how some member organisations were already using this toolkit and there are links to our own Action for Change programme.

Over the week, short sessions were facilitated by participants of the academy who wished to share good practice from their own experiences. One I attended was based on the work of WWF and the links between their work and the development goals. Another was “Ice breakers- the superpower you don’t know you have.” It was full of energy and a snappy reminder of just some of the skill set we develop as leaders.

On Saturday, my morning session was about becoming better public speakers. We each wrote and gave a 2 minute speech on a topic of our choice before receiving feedback. It was empowering to receive feedback in a safe space and a privilege to watch everybody in the room develop when they gave their speech for the second time. My final session was on the WAGGGS initiative Action on Body Confidence, closely linked to Free Being Me, this has been redeveloped as a co-educational training and recognises the importance of body confidence and awareness for all.

Other activities

Each evening allowed us to spend some time with other delegates socially, this is what we got up to:

·         Opening ceremony, where we heard from the president of Macedonia, and the Macedonian Scouts received an award, followed by a disco.

·         International evening with each organisation sharing food and culture from their own country. The wide range of food and activities was brilliant and this rolled over into the ‘market place’ which was open during each break.

·         Wide game across the city which we completed with our peer groups (like patrols we met up with each day), it was a long event but great fun and gave us a chance to see the city by night with the monuments lit up.

·         Macedonian Scouts hosted a national evening with traditional entertainment and food as part of the closing ceremony.

Our roles going forward:

Deborah: I am county Young Leader Coordinator and Assistant 18-30 Coordinator for the region. I am looking forward to putting what I learned about diversity into these roles, in order to help ensure what we do is more accessible to a wide range of people, and I can help the young leaders identify their leadership style and how they can best become leaders in their communities. I am also going to make sure that we evaluate what we do in both of my roles to make sure we are having an impact. The Academy also sparked a passion for leadership development in me, so I am really excited to take this into the new “Leading the way” 18-30 pathway.

Jodie: I learnt so much from the Academy, it was amazing to meet so many people with shared commitments and common goals and find out about new opportunities. My social media channels are now full of guiding and scouting news from across the continent. I can’t wait to put what I’ve learnt into practice across my guiding roles and I’m particularly inspired to get involved with the WAGGGS initiatives and the work on the sustainable development goals alongside advocacy. Lots of brilliant ideas came out of our time together and I’m hoping to see #changefast (an initiative challenging waste produced by fast food chains) trending soon.

If you’ve been inspired by reading about our time in Macedonia, please put yourself forward for challenges and say yes when adventure arrives. This year the Academy is going to be in Switzerland, keep an eye on the Girlguiding Midlands website to apply.