What do we expect of our Headquarters – and are we being realistic?
I was pondering a list of all the things which I’ve heard people say recently that they think Headquarters should be dealing with (not to mention the ones which ‘someone’ should deal with, which in most cases - implies UK Headquarters anyway).
Publishing guidelines/safety rules for every adventurous activity worldwide that any unit might possibly consider trying, and any which may be invented/go ‘from obscurity to fad’ in the foreseeable. To cover all available variations on these activities, natch. (e.g. indoor traversing walls where no-one climbs higher than 1 metre off the ground and the floor is padded - but no ropes/harnesses are used, swimming pools where the maximum depth is under 5’, tent/building hybrids such as yurts or tented villages where other than the walls being fabric the facilities are no different to those of a building, trampolines used in combination with bungee harnesses, etc . . .).
Check the copyright status of every challenge badge and pack (and every word of the text/ every image used on every page therein) on behalf of the creators. Even if they can’t quite remember where they photocopied that wordsearch from. And of course, taking on full legal responsibility, UK and worldwide, if anything in a pack or badge is questioned by copyright holders thereafter, or the badge creators are sued for breach of copyright - in which case headquarters would naturally pay the fines ensuing, replace the badges which had to be destroyed, and cover the loss of income incurred in the intervening period while the badge was off the market. The money for covering such costs to be found without any increase in the member subscriptions, natch.
Produce uniform which simultaneously both fits and flatters every single age and every single size combination, launders to perfect condition in all circumstances, and caters for all personal tastes and preferences in relation to fit, colour and fabric, all at a price which competes with the largest and least ethics-conscious of the high-street shops, yet without any dilution in the manufacturing and finishing quality, nor in the fair conditions provided to all workers involved in all stages of the manufacturing process. And is simultaneously equally suitable for survival skills sessions, winter sports, water sports, formal parades and the Royal Garden Party, for the height of summer and the depths of winter and all climatic conditions in-between (for both the UK, and all BGIFC locations too), and catering for all cultural/health needs, all in one budget garment.
Have sufficient stocks of every shop product to fulfil all last-minute orders within 24 hours, 365 days a year, including specials like anniversary items being available through to the very last day of the anniversary year (but to sell out on the dot of midnight on that last day). We don’t want to see large stocks left over which have to be sold off at cost price in order to free up expensive warehouse space).
Create and maintain all IT systems 24/7, 365 - with instant response to any error messages or complaints at all hours. Assisting people with a range of IT ability levels, and varying levels of IT access, both across the UK and in a number of countries around the world, using a range of different IT systems, and network connections ranging from high-speed broadband to hand-cranked dial-up, to those with no IT knowledge or access at all. Any system updating should never involve taking any system offline however temporarily – and where this is absolutely necessary, a three-month information campaign should be run across all channels, with regular reminders in the run up – and whilst the system is offline the information should constantly be updated on exactly when it will next be available, together with an emergency back-up option.
Provide instant responses to every media story related to Guiding which appears in the national and local press, and provide instant equivalent copy to any media story issued by/related to Scouting (but similar effort for other youth organisations is not required, we don’t care a jot what coverage any other youth organisations get).
Produce rules which are to be strictly applied to every other member of the organisation with no flexibility permitted whatsoever - but supplied with generous quantities of high-grade elastic when being applied to oneself, naturally.
Commission and produce a wide range of publications, providing full printed copies thereof for free (both free printing, and free post/packing – payment for the production costs to come from thin air). Also turn a blind eye to widespread breaches of their own copyright by members, including for members’ commercial gain. At the same time, issue exactly the right number of copies of all documents to each member – neither to many nor too few – whilst acknowledging that one copy per member may not be the right number . . .
Produce policies which fit simultaneously within the different legal and educational frameworks applying in England & Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland – and are also adaptable to the laws of a range of countries abroad served by BGIFC. Yet which suit the preferences and needs of every member too.
Create and regularly update a range of programmes and resources adapted to each section, suitable for use in locations across the UK, both urban and rural, with varying facilities and finances, and varying first languages – but also adaptable to a range of countries abroad. Again, all these to be produced, printed and issued free, with the cost of research, drafting, printing and production coming from thin air.
Answer every query about the rules and their local application, however minor and non-urgent, regardless of the existence of County and Country/Region Advisers who would often be far better placed to advise on the specialist rules within their subject area than the general admin staff at CHQ would be, and regardless of the written Manual which is freely available to all online. After all, there should be a team of staff whose sole responsibility is providing a 24-hour helpline for manual queries. Free, of course.
And many more demands too, many of them seemingly somewhat unrealistic even if we employed a staff of hundreds at Headquarters (which of course, we don’t). But this naturally all to be achieved within existing budgets, because the members do not want to see any rise in the annual subscription rate, indeed would strongly support a cut in the said fees. Oh yes, the members certainly want to both have their cake, and eat it.
Yet – Headquarters has a comparatively small staff, and (particularly given they are based in central London), those staff are not well paid compared to equivalent charitable organisations in that locality, as any glimpse at their job vacancy adverts will confirm. And to what extent do we do our share to help keep down the cost of running Headquarters, by only approaching them about those few things which actually do fall within the staff’s responsibilities (which, naturally, is few of the long list of things listed above)? Do we return our forms and fees on time, in the format requested? Do we communicate clearly, concisely and politely, and do we avoid having several different topics on one message so it doesn’t have to be passed from department to department with the risk of it straying en route? Do we pause to consider whether our requests are genuinely reasonable and realistic ones before making them? Do we ensure the views we present to Headquarters represent a significant number of the members, not just ourselves, and perhaps a couple of our close pals (are you sure the ‘silent majority’ would agree, or even that they exist at all)? And, perhaps most importantly - do we only send on to Headquarters those queries which cannot possibly be dealt with locally at District, Division, County or Country/Region level – have those levels all already confirmed they cannot help with the issue and recommended that it be referred to Headquarters?
Of course we don’t. We demand the right to go straight to ‘the top’ with any and every query, major and minor alike, whether it is their job to have the answer to hand or not. Then we complain if they do not respond instantly. Like patients who call an ambulance for every broken fingernail and stubbed toe just because they can, so some Leaders take the view that as our subscriptions help pay for the Headquarters and it’s staff, we have the right to utilise their services for every query or question that occurs whether it’s relevant to take it straight to them or not.
We’re perfectly reasonable and realistic. Aren’t we?