19 marca 2014

Polish FSE current development and how it works

For the fourth consecutive year Polish FSE association shows a robust growth in numbers. From the Eurojam in Żelazko in 2003 till 2011 the numbers were between 1100 and 1400. In 2011 there were 2000 members, in 2012 the number was 2400, in 2013 we registered 2700 and now we expect more than 3400. In four years we more than doubled. This had a lot of positive consequences while rising of course legitimate concerns about the “quality”. This growth created a lot of enthusiasm among “old units” – they are no more “tired” of being scouts. Instead they rediscovered pride. And, as consequence, they also grew and have more people. They also became "new". The concerns about “quality” led to the creation of more training camps and more other training opportunities as well as the publication of more useful pedagogical tools like Scoutorama. These concerns of the “pedagogical quality” are being also, at least partly, dissipated by the “quality” of new people coming. Let’s try to describe how we did it.


First we worked on the message. Some examples: “Scouting is not sth from the past, it is the education of the future”; “In the era of virtual world, children need even more the outdoor activities”; “Being chief is a unique experience rarely available for the young people of 18-19-20 in the current scholar or professional curriculum offered by the society”; “ Scouting gives you, parents, priests, an excellent tool not to be useless in face of innovative proposals coming from business directed to your children”.

We try to stress the dimension of adventure, freedom (“scouting is a kind of democracy of boys and girls”), the need for informal places where to educate children. "Just being outdoor at the corner of your house, together with friends, is the fundamental need of your child”, etc.

I think that these examples sufficiently shows how we try to fine-tune our message. The confessional, catholic dimension pass as sth obvious, we do not insist particularly, we treat it as sth normal. Anyway, the “5 goals” discourse, explains very well what we want to do. We say that there is no “special” religious education as there is no “special” education of character. It stems from “5 goals” that there is harmonious insistence on all the aspects during the scout activities.

The message is important: on how you formulate why it is worth to be scout depends who will come.

How to find people? Parents.

Second we started to present this message to parents from the existing units and encouraged them to spread the news about pedagogical values of scouting to their relatives and friends. Thus, parents became our most important “allies” in developing scouting. They contacted their friends and relatives from other parishes who convinced the parish priest and we started new groups.

Of course, we took much more initiatives like writing articles to the national and local press, mostly catholic, appearing in the national or local radio, etc.

Candidate chiefs

As we perfectly know, children there are always and in all places. But what about chiefs to lead them? That is fundamental, needless to say. We started to talk with parents whether their elder children could be chiefs or elder children of their relatives. We talked to the priests whether they could propose our scouting to the people of 18 years old and more. Chiefs of the existing units begun to ask their friends in order to help them couple of hours Saturday morning with a “group of children” that they animate. Most of them fall in love with scouting and ask to bear uniform and to pronounce their promise. We invited more than 50 students as volunteers to come with us to Madrid in 2011 and a lot of them stayed with us and became chiefs.

We simply started to imagine that even if someone didn’t experience scout life as young boy or girl, is still able of being a good chief. It proved to be true. Now, in Warsaw, for example, where we have almost third of the association (about 1000 members), among more than 150 chiefs, 50% of them are people who came as adults in age of 18 and more.

So the question of finding candidate chiefs proved to be the question of our imagination. Before we did not imagine that. Now, yes, we imagine. Before we thought that when a person of 20 comes, we must work with him one year or more to made him a rover or rangers first. But it proved to be frustrating for them. So we started immediately to give them responsability as assistants in existing units or, in new places, to put them directly as chiefs of newly created unit after 2-3 months of preparation, and, if possible after training camp, which still remains obligatory before or just after nomination as chief in new parish. They appreciate a lot this way of proceeding with them i.e. treating them seriously from the beginning.

Starting in new places

There are places where we start with free patrols. This is a method well known thanks to Jacques Mougenot, that we adopted in Poland just after Eurojam in 2003. It gave excellent results, especially in places where we did not manage to find adults-candidate chiefs.. But we also learned to create the groups from “nothing” based on group of parents as promotors and their effort to find adults-candidate chiefs.

So, the most important thing is to find active parents, to present them our movement and practically show them how to start. They go to the parish priest. If he agrees, they intensify the search of candidate chiefs. In order to facilitate this we admitted the possibility for parents – mums and papas – to run cubscouts, when difficult to find young chiefs of 18 and more. This group of parent constitutes a kind of informal Italian “ente promotore”, sometimes with active role of parish priest or other priests from this parish, sometimes not. There are cases when parish priest himself or a priest vicar is a kind of one-person “ente promotore”. It does not matter a lot in the first moment. Anyway, our “ente promotore” tries to gather more people interested, especially other parents and candidate chiefs-usually students. Sometimes they succeed in having these candidates without any big public action, sometimes not. When not, we make a big public action, usually during Sunday Masses in this parish.

Public promotion in the parish

We convene with the parish priest that we will talk from the ambon in the end of the Holy mass, during the pastoral announcings, and we invite parents with children and people of 18 and more who as VOLUNTEERS would like to help to create this scout group even without any scout experience. We invite them for the evening meeting the same day, Sunday. After we go outside the church and give to the people tracts with our contact details. Then we pray that a lot of people come to the evening meeting. And they come. I have made more than 15 such Sunday promotions in different parishes in the whole country and we always have 30-50 people, once even more than 90 people: children, parents and of course students-candidate chiefs. In one parish we had more than 10 adults candidate chiefs who came! In 99% places we started new groups that still survive up till now.

Sometimes happens that after this big public parish promotion, we have only a list of 40 children and no candidate chiefs to lead them. What we do then? We try to transform the parents who came for the meeting in our principal allies in searching the candidate chiefs for their children. And it works. We always find them. Of course it takes couple of weeks, then it takes couple of months to prepare these candidates. What about children in the meantime? With children-candidates for cub-scouts we can wait 3 and more months. They will not be discouraged. The problem is what to do with the 12-16, teenagers, candidates for guides and scouts. If we do not propose them first activity after two-three weeks at the latest, they will be discouraged and we will lose them. So, we are always prepared to set there a free patrol, temporarily, for 2-3 months until our candidate chief is ready or, if we do not have him, permanently, for 2-3 years until patrol chiefs reaches the adult age and become chief himself.

Anyway, the most important thing of such a public promotion in the parish is to gain 20-30-40 new allies-parents, priests, motivated to establish in brief a new group there. It always works. Normally, one mama and one papa, are at disposal to be group chief in uniform or not, depending sometimes whether their children who are in scouting agree or not for parents bearing uniform.

Currently, in the spring 2014, I am aware of about 10 such promotions in the parishes in the whole country, in the period of 2-3 weeks only. And, I guess, there are much more places I am not aware of.

Who is in charge?

In the association who is responsible for that development? The current District commissioners in their “territories” first. In Warsaw, one district grew from 3 units in 2009 to more than 16 units in 2014. The numbers are comparable with other Warsaw districts. There are now two guides districts and 2 scouts districts in Warsaw, these two scouts districts being so big (more than 300 scouts) that they will split into four in the autumn 2014. In total, currently in Poland there are about 10 guides districts and 10 scout districts and also a lot of autonome groups depending directly from the general commissioners via “developing center”.

Then, we set a special “developing center” with three girl experienced chiefs (Emilia Stachurska, Katarzyna Szczypek, Maria Minda) and two boys chiefs (Michał Pałamarz, Zbigniew Minda), which is ready to intervene in every corner of the country where the existing districts does not reach. This “developing center” also helps district commissioners with advice what to do in particular circumstance and offers a wide range of tools as presentations, poster, texts, etc.

In developing center we have principally two developing tools: “free patrols” and “group ex nihilo”, briefly described above.

More trainings

In order to answer the legitimate concern about “pedagogical quality” of newly created units, we establish more training camps and more general trainings.

In Poland we had always one training camp per branch (or training hike), so total of 6 training camps (hikes), usually in the last week of August: Dżungla for cubs boys, Dzungla for cubs girls, Jadwiga for guides, Adalbertus for boys and two hikes: for rovers and rangers.

Now we have two more training camps for yellow branch in February/March (boys and girls) as well as Adalbertus Aprilis for scouts in April.

We also send people for the trainings abroad, especially for Seeonee, MacLaren and Shamrog, but also for CEP first and second degree.

Then we have regional trainings for group chiefs: in autumn in Lublin for the eastern Poland, in winter in Wrocław for western Poland and in spring in Warsaw for central Poland.

We also find useful to organize “ABC of Scouting” one day course for all the adults, especially parents, but also students and priests, usually new people, who are interested in scouting. In 2013 we had more than 30 persons, in 2014 more than 20 persons. Thanks to that we started in 4-5 new places. Advertisement of the event is being made by chiefs, district commissioners, facebook and other means.

Publications, films and internet tools

Always in the logic of caring about pedagogical quality we published Polish version of Scoutorama, the manual of scout technics. It helps enormously in newly created units.

In order to facilitate new people to know about scouting we have now two short films about yellow branch, one short film about green branch and red branch. We use also Italian and French videos. We show these films during the meeting with parents in new parishes as well as we send them after to meeting so they could re-send to their friends and relatives.

Here goes the list of some useful videos:




Cubs girls

Patrol Leaders (rap in Polish)

Scouts-summer camp

Spectacle in Warsaw June 2013

Forum of Youth 2013, Warsaw University of Technology

Big events

We try to create big events in order to attract new people and also in order to give „old people” a tool to invite their friends and relatives. Two examples from Warsaw.

In June 2013, on the occasion of general gathering of scouts from the whole capital at the end of the scout year, we had a Spectacle about Polish history in a public amphitheater for about 1000 people. It was an event in perfect scout style, each patrol (so only green branch), playing its role in the stage. You can see the video from the list above. This was not national FSE event, but only Warsaw event. But in other cities the districts organize once a year a big city game or sth else for general public.

In the end of November, we organize a national FSE event in Warsaw, at the Warsaw University of Technology, “Youth Forum” for above 17 years old. In 2013 there were more than 600 participants (you can see the video in the list above) with prominent speakers from business, media, Church giving Christian vision of the world. In the evening there was a big social event – a party with dances. This event helps especially current chiefs to attract their friends and relatives.

Pro-developpment spirit in the whole association

In order to succeed it's not enough that you nominate one or two skillful people responsible for the development. Of course, you must have them. But the most important thing is to create the spirit of development, of apostolic enthusiasm in the whole association. You must have “development-oriented association”. It must not be seen as a mere “possibility” for someone who wants but something which is part of the normal, everyday life of each unit and each chief in the association. Probably you won’t succeed in 100%, but it is worth to try and to succeed at least in 90%. So, the task of the people responsible for the development is not only to create new units, but also to helps the existing districts to develop. So, GENERAL COMMISSIONERS, must be the first actors, animators, protagonists of the development. It is not difficult for them: they must simply mention that in each speech and in each meeting. They do not need to go for each promotion in new parish. But they must feel and be very supportive for all district commissioners and other people developing efforts.

Other important people are NATIONAL COMMISSIONERS. As they are “guardians of pedagogical orthodoxy”, and that is their job for which we have elected them, they must understand that there is sth as “development pedagogy”. Briefly, it consists on the recognition of the simple fact, that this newly created unit won’t be perfect from the beginning and it takes one year or two until they will have our spirit and will practice perfectly our pedagogy. Patience, then.

And, mentioned above, DISTRICT COMMISSIONERS with courage and ambition to develop their districts and create new units. I am in special way grateful to the Warsaw district commissioners, because last four years they taught me all these things about developpment I am describing.


Towards 6000 members in 2020

These are, rapidly, some guidelines that we follow in developing association. The goal is to have 6000 members in 2020. It looks highly probable with the current dynamics. Probably the most important thing that we always need to realize is to recognize that the worst obstacle is not the external conditions (ex. demoralization of society, media, internet games, Putin, and so on), but ourselves. Our lack of imagination, our laziness, lack of courage, incompetence. When we started the preparation for the Eurojam in Żelazko, it was September 2000, I wondered where we’ll find the obstacles. I thought about external obstacles of course: Sanitary Inspection? No. They agreed. Municipalities? No, they agreed. Natural Park? No, they were happy with the project. Maybe the owners of the land? Yes, of course, they will the obstacle as they are more than 150 owners of small slices of land where we were to organize the Eurojam, I told to myself. Ufff…. at last. They will be the main culprits. I can sleep quietly. I will tell Pierrette Givelet and Jacques Mougneot that we tried but it’s impossible. And then Rafał Grudzień, responsible for the logistics, begun to gather, with the municipality support, the signatures of consent of more than 150 small owners of the land. And, they all agreed…. Oh no! No excuse. And, in fact, Pierrette and Jacques, were at one moment very close to the decision to suspend the Eurojam in Żelazko. Because of our incompetence and lack of organization, which is an euphemism for laziness….

Sometimes we build a lot of false theories: here, in this place, it’s impossible to have scouts because of….. – we pronounce this or other theories even before trying. What we decided, is to try first and then see the results. We are being overwhelmed by these results.