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Secretary General’s address – Forum 2018

1. Your Excellency, Nana Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic, Commander-In-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces and Patron of the Head of State Award Scheme – Ghana,
2. Your Royal Highness, Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex and Chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh Award’s Foundation.
4. Hon. Ministers
5. Trustees, Fellows and The International Council, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation
6. The Board and Executive Director Head of state Award
7. Forum Delegates
8. Distinguished Guests,
9. My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your Excellency, it is an absolute delight for us all to be here in Ghana. I know that a number of those present have lengthened their stays on either side of Forum to ensure that they have the opportunity to see something of this beautiful country. Thank you, Henry, as Chairman of the Board – and the whole team of the Head of State Award for making us all feel so welcome. And thank you, too, Your Excellency, for acting as the Award’s patron and for championing its work with such enthusiasm and expertise.

When we came together as an Award family in Malta six years ago, I shared an image with you. It was a glimpse of how a refreshed approach to developing the Award worldwide might roll out, building on the aspirations that had been expressed three years before that in Sydney. As an Association, we were looking to bring the Award world together. We agreed to implement a formal licensing system and a set of standards that would tie us together more formally than ever before. We began to use the language of social franchise unapologetically. We introduced a new visual identity and spoke of the global confidence that we might find if we all pulled together even more coherently than in the past – and looked to grow the Award around the world as a single approach to non-formal education.

We learned much from that first wave of the refreshed approach. The first round of licence reviews was difficult for everyone involved. We were all opening ourselves up to scrutiny. The Foundation had to move from being a Secretariat to being a regulator and not everyone was comfortable with that change of role. But, most Operators told me they appreciated the rigour of the validation process once they had been through it. The adoption of the new visual identity happened more swiftly than anyone might have predicted. And numbers of young participants worldwide moved from approximately 75,000 to over a million by the time we came together in Toronto three years ago.

Some of you will remember a presentation in Toronto by our friend and colleague Peter Westgarth from the UK, where he challenged each operator to examine what sort of a car their Operator might be. If we are truly to reach the worthy ambition we set ourselves in Toronto, that the Award should be accessible to all, then some Operators would have to transform themselves.

For the last three years, we’ve all been surfing that second wave. Through the second round of the licence validation process (and through discussions at regional conferences), we’ve all come to recognise that to become a really efficient and impactful Award Operator it isn’t enough just to run a great Award for young people, important though that is. There are three frameworks we have to get right. We do have to have a great Award offer, with inspired volunteers and young people. But our organisations also have to have great governance, appropriate to our size of organisation and its structure. And we have to have an operating framework that is financially sustainable plans for genuine national coverage with all demographics of young person.

Getting those three Frameworks in balance is an Adventurous Journey in itself. Some Operators, during this second wave, and after respectful and courageous conversations with us, have come to the decision that this balance is never going to happen for them – and so they have relinquished their licences. They aren’t with us today. Other Operators, have taken a long hard look at the Frameworks, analysed where they sit within them and charted a course to greatness. Sub-licensing began where it never existed – ensuring that the quality of programme delivery was more consistent. Whole boards of trustees have gone through complete changes in personnel as governance has tightened. National Directors have worked in partnership to create business plans that work towards a genuinely sustainable national presence.

The Foundation has been changing too, and I acknowledge that, like Operators, we too are on that Adventurous Journey to make us fit for purpose. I would like to think we are better now at listening than we have been in the recent past – and that we have a better appreciation of the challenges that face our various stakeholders. We can do better at this. We have a staff team that has real expertise in important areas for the Association as a whole – digital, coms, fundraising, people development, programme, accounting and finance – and that expertise is being shared more and more with Association constituents rather than just being used to service the centre of what might otherwise be seen as a self-serving bureaucracy.

We’ve learned that implementation is hard, but worthwhile. Let me take digital as just one example. And, if I may, perhaps I could pay tribute to all those in the Association who have helped us on this particular journey, Australia, the Czech Republic, Yogesh and his team at Award House, our amazing developers and the brave, brave early adopters of the system who have shown us how important digital is to the future of the Award. The roll out of ORB tells us that we have a great tool that has been welcomed by young people particularly – you only have to view the comments in the Apple store and Google play store on line to see just how much they like the app. But we didn’t get its initial support right. We have more to do to create a truly joined up service for users, which harnesses the skills of all of us involved at various points in the support process. Because this is an Association tool, meant to be owned and funded by all of us in partnership – and very soon, I hope and trust – available to all young people who want to use it.

That sense of partnership and shared endeavour is what, I think, will take us to the next level of development of the Award worldwide. Together, over the past three years, we have developed an Association strategy, one that binds us all together, whilst recognising that each of us will have our own individual strategies to follow as well. This strategy was published earlier this year and, if we choose collectively to follow it, it gives us all the opportunity to use it to launch us on to the third wave, where we truly ramp up. But we all have to play our part. We have to develop and implement our own strategies, but we have to act in concert as well.

Numbers have continued to grow over the last three years. Participation now stands at around 1.3 million young people. Now we are getting the systems and frameworks properly in place, it is time to prepare take the next great leap.

There are 1.8 billion young people aged 10 – 24 in the world today, the largest youth generation in history. They don’t all need the Award, of course, but we know that it can help them find their purpose, passion and place in the world. As Operators of the Award, we have a responsibility to help young people equip themselves with skills and confidence for life, to measure the impact of what they are doing – and to celebrate their achievemennt. On an individual level this can make a transformational difference to a young person’s life; on a collective basis, it has the power to bring significant change to wider society. Every day, Award participants, in partnership with their Award leaders and local communities, are quietly delivering (usually without knowing it) the UN’s sustainable development goals. It is not hubris to claim that, as Award Operators, we have it in our power to make a massive contribution to the protection of our planet and the bringing of an end to poverty.

As Award Operators. As an Association. I think it’s worth mentioning that, at the Foundation, we too have had to learn what it is like to be an Award Operator. The number of International Award Centres has increased substantially over recent years, partly because of the growing spread of the international schools network around the world, including in those countries where we do not yet have a National Award Operator, and partly because we have had to service Award units in countries where the Operating Licence has been passed back, temporarily, to the Foundation. Our aim remains to ensure that each country that is able to do so has its own National Operator, but experience shows that it takes time to identify the right Operator – one that is genuinely committed to getting all three Frameworks in place. So we are delighted to see that things are now moving forward properly in Indonesia, that a licence is soon to be presented to our friends from Bahrain and that Slovakia has shown that, with all three Frameworks properly balanced, amazing things can happen for the young people of a country.

Opening in new countries can be a shared Association endeavour – and I am most grateful to the National Operators that have offered to take on responsibility for supporting development in partnership with the Foundation in the future. I hope that, before our next Forum, I will be able to bring you news of further exciting growth in the Pacific Islands, the Balkan States, South America and the Republic of China – each project undertaken in partnership.

Last night, you saw the World Ready film that so many of you have contributed towards. And I know that many of you in this room have teams of staff and volunteers at home engaged in launching the World Ready message this morning. We have always been good about telling the story of the Award within the Award family – you only have to put a group of Award holders in a room together to see them immediately swap stories with each other of skills learned, communities changed and expeditions completed against the odds of wind, rain, extreme heat or rampaging farm animals. But we have never, really, cracked the challenge of telling our story coherently and consistently, internationally, to others… to policy makers, business leaders, potential funders, community leaders. Or harness the voices of those who have done the Award to do that for us. World Ready can do that. It invites our operating partners to recognise the place of the Award in their work and challenges everyone to see the true relevance of non-formal education – and by extension – the Award. This is not a quick fix campaign. It is a deliverable of our Association strategy that will build over time, giving us the tools to make a noise about our relevance – to young people, to teachers and youth workers, to employers, to society. How you choose to use it is up to you. If the Award is already incredibly well known and respected in your country, you will want to use it in a different way than if you are trying to raise awareness. But, just as our visual identity has so successfully bound us together, so too World Ready can help us speak in a unified way. Because the Award helps young people all over the world make themselves World Ready – and encourages the world to be ready for them.

Whilst we are here in Accra, please help get World Ready going by using social media as much as you can. I am told, by colleagues who know rather more about this sort of thing than I do, that these are the handles you can use. Tweet away. Please. You will be pleased to hear, though, that I am not going to pause now to take a ‘selfie’. You’re quite safe.

As we move into this next ‘ramp up’ phase – and I have no strong view about how long the wave may roll – I give you a number of commitments on behalf of my colleagues at the Foundation. Firstly, we will work as hard as we can to understand your wants and needs as a constituent of the Association, however large or small you may be as an Operator and at whatever stage of developing the three Frameworks you find yourself. Secondly, assuming that you share the Association’s ambition of reaching as many young people as possible with the Award, by improving Access, Reach and Impact, we will work with you to support you, either by adding what expertise we have to offer, or by using our knowledge of the network to introduce you to those who might help you. Thirdly, we will work tirelessly, on your behalf, with those who want to bring resources to the endeavour – and we will work tirelessly, also on your behalf, to ensure that those resources are shared equitably and with a focus on growth.

Your Excellency, Your Royal Highness, my Lords, ladies and gentlemen, all of us in this room have chosen to be part of a noble endeavour – to help young people equip themselves for adult life, to be world ready. We understand how we can do that as an Association. We have the tools to do it and we are working to improve those we have and develop more. It is now time to ramp up our access, our reach and our impact across the globe – with courage, a cool business head and the commitment to what is right. 1.8 billion young people are waiting for us to do so. And we cannot, must not, will not fail them.

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