Guide Leader and Girlguiding Edinburgh International Advisor, Alison McNab, recently took part in The Academy – an international Guiding and Scouting training and networking initiative. Here Alison tells us about her experience.
As I stepped off the plane in Slovenia on a dark and very wet Sunday night, the common and usually fleeting thought of “what have I agreed to this time” entered my head. However, a short time later as I arrived in Kranjska Gora (a ski resort in the north west of Slovenia) to a warm welcome from the rest of our contingent, any hesitation I had about signing up had dissipated. If you haven’t attended an international Guiding and Scouting event before, I can tell you that it is hard to find a friendlier bunch of people!
I was pleased to be attending The Academy, an annual WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and WOSM (World Organization of the Scout Movement). The event is designed to enable participants to get high quality training and networking opportunities. It certainly achieved that.
Things were already in good swing as I arrived a day later than everyone else. While I was disappointed to have missed out on a day of sessions, I had the benefit of some early reviews about the training sessions that fellow attendees had taken part in.
Each day started with a morning assembly, a chance to gather your thoughts and prepare for the day ahead, followed by the first main session of the day, lasting 3 hours (for the caffeine addicts out there, we did have a mid-session break to refuel!). There was a great variety of sessions to choose from, facilitated by WAGGGS and WOSM staff members and volunteers. I took part in strategic planning, leading change, volunteer management, leadership is practice not just skills, and advocacy for all which focussed on the WAGGGS advocacy toolkit. Other members of the contingent took part in sessions on gender and diversity, building a monitoring and evaluation system, young women in governance and many more!
There was then an opportunity to attend a short half-hour session before lunch, a number of which were facilitated by participants themselves. I took part in a session about the learning journey which touched on the programme model for one of the Belgian organisations. This was a real eye opener – seeing the core values and principles of our organisation reflected in a very different programme structure to our own. Lunch was a great opportunity to catch up with the other Girlguiding attendees and to network with others. We even managed to fit in a hot chocolate (probably the best I’ve ever had!), the formal photograph, and a (wet!) trip to the local lake.
The afternoon session followed for another 3-hours, then a chance to de-brief before dinner with your peer group. I suppose this was like a patrol made up of a mix of participants from different organisations. Evening entertainment followed – the opening and closing ceremonies, an international evening where we shared food and culture from different countries, Slovenian night, pirate disco and karaoke.
Undoubtedly there was something for everyone to take away both from the training sessions themselves, for me in the context of Guiding but also my own work and home life, and from the networking experience. The experience helped to put some of our own challenges into perspective and gave me the opportunity to develop skills and techniques to better my own Guiding and support of others. Now to put this into practice….
I am grateful to have had this opportunity to be part of such an inspiring, enjoyable and challenging Academy.