Designing a new volunteer journey with Scouts

Helping to take amazing opportunities to more young people
a photo of some Playmobil figures being used in a codesign workshop

Adult volunteering is the engine of Scouts, so it’s got to run smoothly

The Scouts play a unique role in communities across the UK. Every week, almost half a million young people learn skills for life through fun, friendship and adventure. The goal is to reach 50,000 more.

It’s adult volunteers who will power this change; they deliver the opportunities that have been shaping young lives for a century. The Scouts need to make sure they are better trained, supported and that they attract more of them – so they reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

If volunteers don’t feel truly supported to integrate their work with all the other demands on their time it could put the brakes on growth. 

So the Scouts asked us to redesign the adult volunteer journey as part of their wider transformation plans. They want to take every chance to attract, keep and support a more diverse group of people. And to give volunteers the very best experience throughout their lives in Scouts.

Researching the volunteer experience

We started by listening, both to volunteers who already worked with the Scouts and some who didn’t. Staff joined us too, so they could see things through the eyes of volunteers and understand their role in the journey.

The same story emerged in interviews and workshops across the UK. Volunteers love what they do and are proud to be Scouts. But processes can be overwhelming and timings inflexible. Volunteering needs to be easy and flexible so people don’t become swamped and disengage.

In this first phase, we worked together to:

  • Reveal the ‘as is’ journey from recruitment to leaving and rejoining (because once a Scout, always a Scout!).
  • Understand the different volunteer roles and their specific motivations and needs. This included the section leaders who run activities and those working behind the scenes.
  • Identify some early opportunities for change, and barriers to remove, to help reshape the journey.

Feeling valued, having fun…co-designing the future journey

We channelled the enthusiasm of volunteers and staff into the design phase too. Using the Scouts’ strategy and our research findings as a starting point, we ran a series of co-design events. These included staff, volunteers of all kinds, young people and people new to the Scouts.

In one Design Lab, participants reimagined multiple touchpoints along a volunteer’s journey. They looked at how to get volunteers interested and how it feels to leave. Their ideas stretched across training, guiding new joiners and better ways to celebrate success.

a photo taken at a codesign workshop showing people sitting around a table covered with post it notes and pens, chatting about ideas

Snook were a delight to work with and added real value and a positive challenge to our own ideas and experiences. Their values and ethos as an organisation are clearly central to the way they approach their work, and this complemented our own values-led approach really well.”

Katie Miller | Volunteering Transformation Manager

Must-haves, could-haves and not-yets…creating a plan with momentum

Redesigning the adult volunteer journey is part of a wider Scouts transformation. So we thought long and hard about how to deliver the best possible impact without requiring a ‘big bang’.

Regular catch-ups helped guide our understanding. It also helped sustain buy-in, from the volunteers right up to senior leadership.

Our final report set out a blueprint for the future with prioritised recommendations. Covering recruitment, training and the volunteer experience, it’s both ambitious and achievable.

Sometimes we went big, like including the peer recognition system we tested in the Design Lab (codenamed “Wow!”). Sometimes we went small. For example explaining the order that training comes in, to help volunteers settle in sooner.

Big or small and delivered now or later, it’s a practical blueprint the Scouts can use every day.


An illustrated journey showing the various stages of volunteering from attraction to moving on

Next steps

Since working with us the Scouts have hit the ground running. They’ve embedded the new adult volunteer journey within their strategy and work is underway to improve their experience.

The Scouts are:

Starting a joint project with Girlguiding to transform how they engage new volunteers, thanks to the support and generous donation of over £2million from Pears Foundation;
Changing the principles of volunteer roles at Scouts, making them more task and team-focused with clearer links to supporting the delivery of the programme;

  • Building a new digital learning system to make training more accessible for volunteers and more manageable for staff;
  • Improving how they manage membership data and making the website clearer for current and future volunteers.
  • They’re continuing to embed more human-centred approaches too. They’re planning to ask volunteers to test their new section leader training programme and ensure it’s fit for purpose.

It’s a work in progress, and its biggest test will be how volunteers feel. We’re about to start the next phase of work, supporting the Scouts team as they develop the future volunteer journey blueprint and use it and bring the new volunteer experience to life!

Scouts shared this video about our work together on their blog in January 2020: