Blog from the Europe Conference
16th – 21st August, 2013 (Berlin, Germany)
I arrived at the Tegel Airport in the centre of Berlin. As Germany's capital the City has undergone enormous changes in the past 20 years. No longer divided, this city is now a thriving, modern and exciting destination, welcoming Girl Guides and Girl Scouts alike.
Knowing Berlin is renowned for its biking habit I decided to rent a room and a bike in the nearby Prenzlauer Berg district, 20 minutes on bike through the Volkpark Friedrichshain to the Conference Centre! It turned up to be a wonderful experience in one of Berlin's prettiest neighbourhoods, still central, yet quieter than Berlin Mitte.
The European Conference Opening Ceremony took place at Platz der Deutschen Republik in front of Der Reichstag (the Parliament) with the famous Copula designed by British architect Norman Foster. The dusk sun from a clear sky was mingling its shine and shadow among the approx. 400 Guides and Scouts (boys and girls) in colourful uniforms. We were welcomed by Deputy Chairman of The City of Berlin. She valued the Guide and Scout Movements contribution to education and training of youth in leadership and appreciated it’s capabilities to handle the aspect of diversity.
By different public transportation we all managed to arrive back to the Generator Hostel where the Get-together party took place. I enjoyed the beauty to be escorted in the Berlin Underground ‘infrastructure’ by a well-educated and charming Girl Guide. Next morning the same Girl Guide turned up to be a Tellef for the WAGGGS conference.
One should be aware that The European Regional Conference is partly a joint meeting between WOSM and WAGGGS – there are part of the conference in a joint setting, parts in WAGGGS or WOSM only. Me arriving to this scene as a newcomer to Regional Conferences was an eye opener! Among the approx. 400 participants roughly only 1/3 took part in the WAGGGS’s sessions. Some associations in Europe have members in both WAGGGGS and WOSM.. Thus the key message in the joint meetings at the Conference was the two organizations willingness and capabilities to set up a partnership in the European Region. This process of joint work has apparently been running for many years! In my view this partnership agreement should be done rather today than tomorrow concomitantly stating that the parties agree to disagree in some specific areas.
One of the megatrends at the Conference was the notion of cross-border collaborations and partnerships. Today guiding and scouting apparently only to a limited extent is international in its action and its network! More matured Girl Guides/ Girl Scouts however though a global inter-active scheme would retain their on-going engagement in the Movement. I view this as a beautiful invitation to work out and implement a retentions strategy in respect to meet the Movements aim to growth!
Sunday morning The Joint Committee of Danish Girl Guides called for an ‘early bird meeting’ in respect to invite other Nordic Girl Guides to join forces in a cross border entrepreneurship initiative named ‘The Global Girls Entrepreneurship Program’, sponsored by some OB-PS supporters and global corporations. The vision of this Global Girls Entrepreneurship Program is to endeavour Girl Guides and Girl Scouts of all ages to become drivers of the development of their communities through the combination of an entrepreneurship program, leadership skills and volunteer activities thus contributing to social and economic growth in their society and to improving the girls and young women’s access to the labour market. The first Global Girls Entrepreneurship Program will be executed in partnership with Sri Lanka Girl Guides, followed by a partnership with an African Girl Guide movement.
I had an opportunity to inform about the existence of the OB-PS network of supporters in an audience comprising of the five major German ‘Stiftung’s’ for Scouts. Collaboration with one of these might be the avenue to explore in respect to build a German Olave Baden-Powell Society network in the future.
For more photos you can visit the online photo library.
Helle Bechgaard (Denmark)
Director Olave Baden-Powell Society.