We met up with Megan Schlanker and Sian Osbourn, here's what they had to say about Action For Change

Here is Megan's AFC story

When I attended the Action for Change inspiration weekend, my original goal was to improve awareness and acceptance for women and girls with autism spectrum disorders. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was about 9 years old, and faced challenges growing up that I felt were often due to lack of awareness of what it was like to be autistic, and particularly what it was like to be an autistic girl. The inspiration weekend allowed me to build a ‘problem tree’, and better understand the issues I was trying to combat, as well as meet a whole range of wonderful and passionate young women. When I was growing up I didn’t know what resources were available to me, and I didn’t know much about autism in general. I wanted to combat this lack of awareness by creating resources that could be used in classrooms and in Guiding. I wanted to present the opinions of people with autism, to ensure that children and young people with autism didn’t feel excluded in class discussions, where conditions such as ASD are often treated as something that happens to other people.

Unfortunately, as I am in my final year of university, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to work on my Action for Change project. My friend Liv, also working on her project, was in a similar position, and we decided that the best thing for us was to combine our projects. This resulted in a collaborative social media campaign, Piece of Mind AFC, designed to promote awareness and acceptance of learning difficulties and mental health issues commonly faced by young people in the UK. Throughout the year we shared information on various charities and resources via our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and collected testimonies from people with experiences of ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm, to be shared anonymously. We shared these testimonies as social media posts and in our blog posts, which have reached hundreds of people since we began this project. I have also created a challenge pack to help educate Guide units on learning difficulties, and educational resources on various learning difficulties that can be downloaded for free from the Times Educational Supplement.

To practice talking about my experiences with autism, I performed a poem at a local spoken word night in Birmingham. I was surprised that I had several audience members thank me after my performance, including one girl who told me she wished she heard people speak openly about autism more often. This experience really cemented how important awareness can be to people, and how this helpful this project could be to individuals. Throughout my Action for Change project I have received a lot of positive feedback from those who have interacted with my project, including people with learning difficulties who found charities dedicated to them through the Piece of Mind social media. I know that we haven’t changed the world, but our campaign has made a difference to individuals and I’m so proud of it. Hopefully we can continue this work as time goes on.

Sian's AFC story

Action for Change is all about running your own social action project. It’s a year-long project which is kick-started with an inspirational residential weekend where you learn all about how to structure and develop your project. I had already decided on what I wanted to do my project on, so the weekend was an excellent opportunity to add extra detail and think about how I want to develop my project. Even if you hadn’t decided on your focus, the weekend is delivered in a way that can help you find something you’re passionate about. 

During the weekend, you have loads of fun and interactive workshops around public speaking, working with decision-makers and using social media to your advantage. The weekend also features some inspirational speakers; such as Chella Quint who spoke at my inspiration weekend. Chella Quint is a #periodpositive campaigner and really helped further my knowledge around my chosen topic. On the weekend, I also learnt about problem trees which helps you focus your problem and get down to the ‘root’ causes of them, and how you could address them. The visual tools that we were taught over the weekend were fantastic and made it interactive rather than it feeling like an educational environment. 

After the weekend, you are split into ‘networks’ which are small groups of people that are closest to you in location for extra support. We had our own Facebook which meant we could share ideas or our progress which really helped. We also had an ‘Action for Change Midlands’ Facebook page which everyone was on which meant we had so many ideas being shared! It was lovely to see everyone’s progress and how their projects were going. I think it helped keep everyone motivated. Also, if someone was having some trouble on something, they had somewhere they could ask for help and advice which also helped keep everyone motivated. We all knew we had an excellent team supporting us. 

My chosen project was around sex education, as I believe that Girlguiding is in a unique positive where they can offer that girl only space which often is lost within the school system. According to The Girl’s Attitude Survey, 2017, 62% of our members wanted Relationship and Sex Education to be taught by visitors and 48% of them want Relationship and Sex Education to be taught in single-sex groups rather than mixed groups.

I wanted to gather more information about thoughts and opinions on sex education, so I completed some in-depth interviews with my Ranger Unit and I was surprised by the low quality of the sex education that they had received. After these in-depth interviews, I decided to create a survey to get more details and some statistics to back up the project. Shockingly, some quotes included "we learnt more from social media, than in school" and "schools only teach us to fear Toxic Shock Syndrome and STIs". 

The research I carried out, helped me to structure my resource and tailor it to the results of my study. I decided to develop a resource pack for either Rangers or Ranger Leaders to use in their meeting place. I split the resource into multiple documents to make it easier to navigate with an introduction pack featuring a parental/guardian consent letter and some background into the resource. The resource has four main categories; Menstruation, LGBT+, Use of Language/Common Misconceptions and Contraception. I decided on these four areas as these areas are often skipped over in mainstream education – LGBT+ especially is rarely even mentioned. 

The resource has been designed to be flexible to suit the different needs of each individual unit; for example, a unit may want to focus only on the menstruation section of the badge, or the LGBT+ part rather than the contraception section. Ranger Units could easily spend several weeks on the activities as they’ve been designed to be interactive, fun and they encourage a safe and brave space to explore sex education in a light-hearted but still serious manner. This ‘safe and brave’ space was something I really tried to incorporate into the resource which is why lots of the activities are interactive, rather than just watching videos or having discussions.

I’ve really enjoyed completed my Action for Change Project, and I’m so proud of my resource and what I’ve been able to create in a twelve-month time period. I aim to keep developing my resource and keep it current within today’s society.