Space to Grow Together

Find out what we learned from collaborating with the Scouts to grow our organisations

Space to Grow Together was an innovative project which saw us join forces with Scouts to grow and diversify our movements together. 

We worked to improve how we collaborate, strengthen our fundraising and how we measure our impact, and grow and diversify both our movements to offer even more opportunities for young people to take part in social action.

It ran from early 2018 until spring 2021 and was funded by a £2.4 million grant across both organisations from the Pears #iWill Fund, a partnership fund of Pears Foundation, the National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport. 

We supported growth and retention in 11 Girlguiding counties through grant programmes and the recruitment of seven growth and communities coordinators. The coordinators worked with our volunteers to drive growth and increase the diversity of our membership by organising engagement events, building local partnerships, sourcing grant opportunities and much, much more.

What we achieved

During the three years of Space to Grow Together we:

  • Opened 83 new units  
  • Created 1644 spaces for girls 
  • Recruited 353 new volunteers 
  • Opened more than half of our new units in the 50% most deprived areas in the UK 
  • Opened a third of new units in the 25% most deprived areas 
  • Gave almost £40,000 in grants to support new units

Supporting units through Covid-19

The pandemic shifted our focus from opening units to helping existing units. We supported them in different ways such as financial sustainability, online recruitment and gaining confidence delivering virtual guiding. As part of this we: 

  • Supported 148 units at risk of closing to stay open  
  • Kept 1638 girls in guiding 
  • Posted 4,000 activity packs to girls, with thousands more shared through email, county websites and social media  
  • Gave over £60,000 in grants to units in need

Building on ways of working together

Everything we achieved was made possible by the fantastic connections we built between grassroots guiding and scouting volunteers, counties and regions, and the different levels of Girlguiding.  

We saw the benefits of  staff  and ground level volunteers working closely together. Here is what some members said about working with their growth and communities coordinators:

I think the most important thing is [our coordinator] is a name I recognise because she has been in touch with us, checking in, making herself approachable for us which is a great thing. Unit leader

Paid members can also take on some of the more important but mundane activities that it would be a tall order for volunteers to take on. Lead volunteer for membership growth and retention

Additional pair of hands to support recruitment and retention, which has reduced the burden on volunteers. County growth coordinator

Ideas and insight from these partnerships helped us to support members beyond the project in many ways, including informing our planning around the return to guiding when pandemic restrictions allowed. We’ll be looking at ways to build on this staff-volunteer collaboration so we can continue creating new links and working directly with local volunteers. We’ll also be building on the closer links we made with the Scouts through another collaborative project focused on how we recruit and welcome new volunteers.

Our tips for growth and retention

We trialled many different approaches to growth and retentionHere are some of our top picks you may like to try yourself:

Flexible guiding   

Covid-19 brought many challenges and meant we all had to adapt. We learnt a lot about how to deliver flexible guiding and how to help as many members as possible join in. This ranged from the little things, such as saying thank you by delivering postcards to volunteers who couldn’t be as involved as usual, to providing at-home activity packs so girls who couldn’t attend face-to-face were still included. And we continued to provide virtual meetings and events for those not ready or able to return to face-to-face.

Opening new units  

We trialled a version of the Scouts' ‘four-week challenge’ to recruit volunteers and girls for a new unit. We identified areas with potential for a new unit and where we wanted to explore demand.  Adults learned what volunteering involved and girls tried activities from the programme. The trial showed a demand for guiding and by the end we had set up a new unit with a new leadership team.

Involving volunteers in growth plans 

We supported volunteers to think about and contribute to plans to grow guiding in their county by organising and hosting growth days. These were informal events that took place in person or virtually, aiming to inspire leaders and develop division level growth plans by the end. Activities and sessions focused on topics such as challenges in recruitment and transitions, making the most of social media, success stories and the development of localised action plans.

Growing our online presence  

We overhauled county social media accounts to increase engagement and promote local guiding. In one county we increased the organic reach of the county Facebook page by 38% to more than 13,000 in one month. Sharing a variety of content, such as photos and videos, on a regular basis in lots of online community groups was key to achieving this. Check out our guide for using social media.

Enhancing inclusion awareness  

We piloted a new inclusion training programme, A Space to Reflect, to take a deeper look at issues such as privilege, unconscious bias and how the language we use can include or exclude people. One county has since created a new Increasing diversity steering group to enhance representation and access locally. A Space to Reflect will inform the creation of a new race equity programme at Girlguiding, tying into our new Diversity and inclusion plan.

We’ll be sharing volunteers’ experiences of the project in our blog, so keep an eye out for their stories.