Partnering with Girls & Youth for Events
Girl and Youth-led events are possible!
If your service unit volunteers feel girls and youth are not capable of planning and running events, ask your Volunteer Support Manager for advice, to put you in touch with service units that do hold successful girl-led events. If the adults hold girls back by underestimating their abilities, the youth are missing out on one of the truly unique opportunities available to them in Girl Scouting: partnering with adults to learn skills (rather than being taught things by adults). At Girl Scouts everything centers around the girl & youth experience; activities are girl-led and youth-led, which gives them the opportunity to learn by doing in a cooperative learning environment.
Start out simple and build
If Girl Scouts have not had the opportunity to learn planning and organizational skills, start them out with some of these tasks:
- Choosing basic themes
- Developing rules of conduct
- Performing flag ceremonies
- Teaching songs, games, crafts, etc.
- Teaching ceremonies or skills
- Planning songs, skits, and ceremonies
- Serving as program aides or assistants
- Serving on the committee in and advisory role
- Taking on simpler committee tasks
As the Girl Scouts gain experience you can partner with them as individuals, small teams, or whole troops to have them take on certain event committee responsibilities. Like most other skills, they will learn best by tackling simple events first and graduating to more complex ones. Partnering Girl Scouts with caring adult volunteers who are willing to take the time to pass on planning, decision-making, and organizational skills, they will be running events in no time.
Empower the girls and youth:
- At the first meeting, ask all members to share their skills with the group. What are they good at? What do they enjoy doing? This is an affirming exercise.
- Provide an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other by starting with an icebreaker.
- Encourage the group to make a team/group agreement so decision-making can be fair.
- Provide a structured process for brainstorming ideas. If someone doesn't speak up, solicit their ideas. Also remember to pause and give them time to respond when you ask questions.
- Ensure that each Girl Scout is assigned to a meaningful job, and give them the opportunity to do the job.
- Provide the Girl Scouts with planning templates or checklists to assist them in thinking through what needs to be done, how, by whom, etc.
- Have each committee member brainstorm a list of their responsibilities, and have them discuss their list with the full committee for suggestions.
- Have the committee develop timeline checkpoints for each task. Check in with committee members according to their checkpoints agreed upon.
Tips for a true partnership
- Make sure there is ample time in the timeline to allow for a few hiccups, especially if you have a new or inexperienced committee.
- Communicate with each Girl Scout about the role they'd like you to take. Would they prefer you to leave them alone or contact them regularly?
- If the Girl Scouts have problems or appear stuck, ask a series of questions so that they have the opportunity to figure things out for themselves, rather than immediately supplying the solution. Ask: "How do you think we could handle that? What do you think should be done? Can you think of someone who might know how to do that? What would be a good next step?".
- Adult and youth members alike should give full reports regularly of their progress so that everyone understands how their responsibilities fit into the whole picture.
- Adults should be very forthcoming about what they've done, how they did it, why they chose to do it that way, what obstacles they encountered, how they overcame the obstacles, etc.
- Adults should model the behavior of asking for suggestions and help, talking openly about mistakes or problems, etc.
- Whenever possible, ask the Girl Scouts for their opinions when making decisions or solving problems. Their creativity will inspire you!
- Be sure to provide lots of positive recognition for accomplishments - give credit whenever committee members have performed a task well (publicly if possible).
- Make sure that the adult participants understand the roles the Girl Scouts have at the event. When a youth committee member directs them at the event, the adult participant needs to know that they are not acting as a participant but as part of the event committee youth staff.
- Some events have actually given youth Girl Scout event committee members a special identifier that makes it easier for the adult participants to spot them as "crew" or event staff. Examples of identifiers could be a different colored name tag lanyard, custom shirt, hat, bandana, etc.
- Communicate what behavior at the event is expected of each youth Girl Scout committee member. Will they be working in pairs?
- Allow time at the event for the girl and youth committee members to express concerns and problems that may have arisen during the event.
- At the end of the event, make sure to include all event committee members in the evaluations. Providing feedback on how they did will be helpful for them as they do more events in the future.
- Older Girl Scouts may mentor younger troops and Girl Scouts. They may earn leadership hours to help them earn awards such as; Leader in Action (LiA), Program Aide, Volunteer in Training, and Counselor in Training. Check the Handbooks, Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting, and Volunteer Toolkit (online) to learn more about these awards.