During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
A SCOUT officer came to me the other day with a scheme for organising the Movement on a better footing than heretofore. It involved a certain amount of expense in offices, whole-time secretaries, etc. But there was a plan to meet this with an adequate contribution of funds from Local Associations.
An integral part of the idea was the formation of a fully representative committee by general election to manage the whole organisation; the advantage was that it could eliminate the present sporadic and uneven arrangement of Local Associations running their shows on different lines of their own. In this more centralised and ordered system a far more accurate record could be kept of the development, a more regular standard of efficiency among the Troops could be set up, and a better general supervision maintained.
He was going on to describe further advantages of the scheme when I felt bound to save him the trouble, and I burst in on him with the remark, “My dear chap! But you have not got the hang of Scouting. For one thing the Movement extends considerably beyond the United Kingdom. Your elected committee would have to represent all parts of the Empire. How could election supply the expert heads required for the different departments at Headquarters? Local Associations would enjoy subscribing funds to run the office — I don’t think. These are some of the minor material objections. But there is another and far greater consideration that upsets the whole caboodle. WE ARE A MOVEMENT, NOT AN ORGANISATION.”
We work through “love and legislation.” That is where we differ from so many other systems; it may be wrong of us, but that is our way, and, in spite of it, we have somehow managed to do something in the twelve years of our existence.
I have just got back from a pretty big tour of Scouting in other parts of the world, and what I have seen there only confirms me in the conviction that in working through love for the boy, loyalty to the Movement, and comradeship one with another — that is, through the SPIRIT OF SCOUTING — we are on the right line.
It is true that many have not — like my friend — as yet got the hang of that spirit, but, on the other hand, many have, and many more are getting it. The spread of the officers’ training (eighteen authorised camps in the United Kingdom this summer) is helping its development very materially. Our form of administration is one that has its foundations on a very high principle.
A Scout officer (he’s dead now, so I can say it quite openly) once asked me for a tangible reward for the work which, as he put it, he had done for me in his capacity as a Scout official.
I had to explain to him a point which he confessed had never struck him before, and that was that he was working for the boy and not for me.
The suggestion of Scouting has merely been given for the use of those who have the interest of their country and of their kind at heart. The men who have taken it up are not a force of masters and servants, officers and soldiers, but are a team of patriots bound by a common ideal as a Brotherhood, and that ideal is the betterment of the boy.