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Weekly Discussion: “Challenge” Badges

Challenge Badges Should Be Regulated

  • Yes

  • No

  • Other


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badgemad4

Veteran (100+ posts)
#1
From around the centenary onwards challenge badges have become extremely popular. It seems there is a challenge badge for everything and anything, but not all of them have the same quality or content. For some units it’s become their bread and butter for term plans, as a reward for attendance, and the lines seem to have become blurred on what challenge badges can be counted towards in the official Guiding programme.

For many units they have been good fundraisers, and have taught girls about certain causes or more unique skills.
But there have been problems with copyright, branding, sellers being overwhelmed, badges not turning up, badges being of poor content…

So what’s the verdict? Should any member or unit “just” be able to sell to other Guiding members- or should there be an approved process?
 

fenris

fenris
GuiderPlus
#2
I think 'bandwaggon' is a problem. So many people rushing to produce badges that quantity has tended to supercede quality.

There are regular issues with badges breaching copyright (in some cases, units have faced legal action from copyright holders, and have had to not just withdraw badges from sale, but destroy all stocks held).

Quality has been variable - there are a few badges which contain original ideas and activities, clearly explained, and ready for units to use with little or no extra work, and which will provide a unit with a balanced programme for at least two meetings. But all too many are simply the result of a google search slapped onto a page, a list of topics with no instructions, all crafts/cooking/sport/indoor instead of offering a balanced programme, and the sort of thing which could be completed in half an hour with time to spare.

No differentiation of age groups - generally, a sign of an unsatisfactory 'challenge' is one where it is 'Rainbows do one, Brownies do two, Guides do three' as if doing three activities a 5-year old could do offers any challenge to a 13-year old.

So yes, I'd 100% support quality control and minimum standards a badge has to reach. Whilst appreciating the difficulty of trying to enforce.

But - I'd also say that the proliferation of these badges, and the number of units who do see them as their bread and butter, reveals another problem - the lack of alternative resources for some units. What these Leaders are looking for (and seem to find in challenge badges) is 'lift and use' programme ideas, where the thinking is done, the instructions and quantities are worked out. If there were to be a clampdown on challenge badges, the resources within them would need to be replaced with some other source of activity ideas for these units . . .
 

badgemad4

Veteran (100+ posts)
#3
To some extent I think the “challenge badge bubble” has popped, and if it hasn’t yet it will do soon.

There was a time about 2012-4 I remember when it seemed like everyone was sending out requests for units to buy their challenge badge, and not a single local newsletter wouldn’t have some note about some leaders and TSS going abroad please buy their badge.

But then there were so many badges and so many requests, there was a small backlash. Leaders started to ask why GG didn’t have more diverse interest badges, and why there weren’t more pick up and go packs. Some of the subject areas were deemed frivolous or of little educational benefit. It seemed to go from having to wait for the next batch to be made to leaders advertising discounts on left badges.

Like Fenris has already pointed out it’s because for some there is no alternative. I think by the looks of things the new programme has picked up on this.
 

kingfisherblue

Veteran (100+ posts)
#4
I briefly considered writing a challenge badge, based on the topic that the Brownies chose for our pack holiday. However, I didn't feel that I could come up with enough activities to challenge all sections. I might have been able to write for one section, but with copyright issues I didn't think that it would be possible whilst still being legal. It was quite a specific challenge, but one that I feel would have been popular (based on the books by a specific author). I was also concerned about the ongoing time commitment that accompanies being the author of a challenge badge.

I feel, though, that challenge badges are sometimes used too frequently by some units. I've seen some gilets filled with unofficial challenge badges, but no official badges such as interest, regional or WAGGGS badges. Some challenge badges are very 'samey' and don't offer much of a challenge despite their name. Yet they do seem to be popular.

My units rarely use them. There are some good ones available, but I'm keen on copyright issues, and up until a couple of years ago, many units seemed to disregard the use of other people's work. In addition, our programme is always full, so doing unofficial challenge badges would take away the time to do some of the things that we want to do. We are girl led, and work around what the girls want to do (three sections). I'm sure that if we offered these badges to our units, they would be chosen, but would we be offering a balanced programme? Some are good, but others less so. It would be difficult to justify to the girls why we could work towards some badges but not others - the girls (especially younger ones) don't necessarily see the quality of the activities as important.

I can understand why badges are popular for fundraising, but there are other ways to increase income. Challenge badges take up considerable time once available, as they need to be promoted, packed, posted, money banked, records kept, etc. Bag packing raises several hundred pounds in a few hours, and only takes up a fraction of the time. I prefer a one off fundraiser to the commitment of a challenge badge (and of course, there is the possibility that a badge may not sell very well, especially as there are so many to choose from).

To those who offer well written badges, I applaud you, but I don't buy very often. The badges are almost double the cost of interest badges, and that is a factor for our units, especially Rainbows (who have a lower income). In addition, we do a lot of activities that don't necessarily warrant a badge, but are just for fun. I know that some units use them as a basis for pack holidays, and that is something that I would consider.

I don't know how well unofficial challenge badges will survive the new programme, but I think that they are here to stay. They may become a little less popular, especially during the time that units are purchasing new programme materials, but as some units rely heavily on them, I don't think that they will become obsolete.
 

Kochanski

Veteran (100+ posts)
#5
Maybe a decade ago, challenge badges were new and looked so much more interesting than the standard section awards. Now there are so many and we have become more discerning. It worries me when I see Brownies at big events with a gilet covered in (admittedly) beautiful badges and very few of the basics that are supposed to make up our programme. But I do understand a, why people buy them and b, why units sell them.

However, it has now got to the point where 2 units in my district have put out challenge badges that are basically rewrites of existing interest badges. They are simply to make money. One provides resources to help Guiders get girls through the badge but their 'selling point' of "these will help you earn the xxx badge" rather misses the point that the cost per girl is 3x what we'd pay if we bought the interest badge alone. The expectation is that we'll support as they're local so it's a bit awkward saying no.

There are some great challenge badges which actually do *challenge* but you have to read carefully and not just pick the pretty ones! Having said that, I suspect lots of us will be using up old stock before the changeover so any units thinking of putting something out just now may not do so well.
 

browniebeth

Brownie Leader
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#6
I think "Challenge Badge" is actually inappropriate terminology...what we often mean is fun badge, usually on a theme.

There's also a culture of anyone who does anything must need a badge. This has definitely rocketed since I was a brownie 20 years ago. It's a bit like primary school sports days where everyone gets something.

For my unit, I use challenge/fun badges for residentials. I think there are lots out there that are great themes with fun activities - sure the Brownie/Guide Holiday/Camper badges are good to do, and ensure a residential also provides the "learning opportunities" like cooking, keeping places tidy, keeping a diary etc but they don't provide the content of the camp. That, to me, is where the "time and a place for a challenge badge comes in - when I've got to deliver 48hrs or more on a Christmas/wizard/princesses/aliens theme. I'm not in the business of reinventing the wheel.

When I moved to my current unit, they used challenge badges at the expense of the actual programme. I quickly became known as "she who does not like challenge badges".

We now do a "challenge badge" maybe once a year in the unit - but we treat it as a fun badge and everyone gets one (this also appeases the established team, aghast at the loss of their lifeline, and that inner sense of "participation requires a badge").

Interest badges I am stricter on - you have to catch up if you missed a week. So they are more coveted in the unit, and they are prouder of them.

The unit has saved £ on badges by using more of the official ones and the programme quality has, in my opinion, improved. Of course some things need jazzing up a bit, or a week of games, but that's all part of a varied and fun programme. I remain unconvinced that doing 5 activities on the bounce related to sweets (other examples are available) are really doing that.
 

Quack

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#7
I would tend to agree the vast majority are fun or fundraising badges. There are a number which are properly written with a good base to the subject matter but they are the few compared to the many.

I think part of the popularity is programme on a plate..there are a range of activities for units to pick and do which are often inexpensive and appeal to the girls. They may not stretch them, they may not cover a balanced programme but they keep the girls occupied and they get a badge at the end of it.

I think this is partly why the new programme is learning from the advent of the 'inofficial' challenges, trying to make it easy to put a programme together, with lists of materials required etc...

Personally, I will not mourn their loss...

Sent from my SGP712 using Tapatalk
 

caroline68

Regular (50+ posts)
#8
With only 6 Roundabouts, we love having challenge badges to help us plan our sessions. We start each term with a roundabout, as it helps the new girls with look, learn, laugh and love, then we move on to a challenge badge or two. I choose carefully though, and before you all start shouting, yes the girls get to choose! I give them a selection of 3 and they vote. Fairies won overwhelmingly in the summer term and that was fab badge, a mixture of crafts and games, perfect for our little group. But we've also been engineers and scientists, Mums came in to help us with those ones, another advantage. Also, the roundabouts only need 4 things doing, but we are working on the NYW 30th Birthday challenge at the moment which requires 8 challenges. 'What about our badge?' said one girl last week, 'oh, you've got a lot more to do yet' I said. So they learn its not all easy and instant and some take longer than others. There's lots to be learnt with our current badge too, 'threshold' and 'thrifty' have entered their vocabulary, none of them could tell me what those words meant.
Yes, some challenge badges are better put together than others, some badge designs are prettier than others and I never pay more than £1 for a badge, but give some credit to us leaders who know our girls and what they like, we have had great fun doing both roundabouts and challenge badges.
No desire to write one ourselves though, I don't think I have the time! I usually try to feedback to the badge creators about what we have done and always get a reply! I order the badges at the start of term too, to ensure we have them to give to the girls when we have finished.
Maybe its easier to find things to challenge rainbows, rather than older girls, and indeed some badges have been written specifiaclly for Rainbows, and they are the section with by far the fewest GG badges, so i'd like to see them stay around for a bit.
 

elenopa

Brownie Guider
#9
In a way, challenge badges are regulated. At least the design of them is because you have to send them to HQ to be approved.

I agree that you have to choose carefully as some have very little substance. Others can surprise you when you read them. One I remember is the Princess Challenge. The badge was a sparkly crown, but the sections of the challenge were based around the Disney princesses, with each section looking at the history of the story or the culture of the country. It's one I wouldn't have minded doing with my girls.

I have done challenge badges with my Brownies, but mostly on residentials, and I think that's where a lot of them are suited with their themes.

I have written a challenge badge. I was lucky that the theme I choose, I could get permission for the copywrite, and that the clauses cover a very wide area of interests. I spent quite a bit of time a couple of summers ago, writing various instructions sheets for activities and taking my own photos. It's a hard job making edible campfires, but someone had to do it. I also included suggestions on how to vary the clauses for younger or older members, plus I made a grid to show where things fit into the programme.

I have had positive feed back from so many people and am just a bout to order my fouth thousand badges. It has been a nice fundraiser that meant I could do some more expensive things with my girls that I might not have considered otherwise.
 

mhairilowl

Beginner (10+ posts)
#10
i like challenge badges as it is something different for the girls to earn on something they have chosen. we did a full term last year doing them and they earnt one whilst on a sleepover as we had small numbers to get a badge made, but we didn't really follow the outline for the badge as it was easier to make my own up. i also struggled doing the challenge badges over the term as many of the activities require more than an hour or where have parties or raise money or find this out. i think for now we will stick to interest badges

i prefer the ones that girlguiding scotland have done. yes they are small in content but but are well thought out and would prefer the money went back to gg scotland.

last year i was on the challenge facebook group and it got so annoying (was only a member for choosing the badges) with post about badges and content and rules and regulations and that now if you wanted to submit a badge for the group you had to send it to admin to check it and all the petness that when on. i left.

plus it is then hard to thing of a theme that has not been done (another annoying post) and doesn't allow someone else the chance to do the same theme and post on the site.

plus who is going to sit and check the requirements?
 

browniebeth

Brownie Leader
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#11
Just as an aside, Mhairilowl, I am grateful to the volunteers on the Unofficial Challenge Badges group for taking the time to check that badges meet branding, all images and activities from other sites are credited, and, most importantly that permissions to use other people's or company's copyright has been obtained.

Trust me, there have been cases where units and individuals have lost £££s because they have received cease and desist letters, simply because they ploughed ahead without asking for permission to use images, content, phrases. Disney in particular spring to mind as very protective of their copyright. Equally, Girlguiding have branding rules for designing badges for these things to ensure they can be differentiated from national output; it's only right that we follow these.

So it might seem petty for there to be a number of rules, but it's actually involving a lot of the admins spare time to do challenge badge creators a massive favour, and potentially save a lot of grief and expense in the future. Seems like a good deal to me.
 

Quack

Veteran (100+ posts)
Staff member
GuiderPlus
Moderator
#12
I think what Browniebeth has just referred to is part of what was discussed in the 'professionalisation' of Guiding. Although we are a charity, although many of us do it out of the goodness of our heart, although someone may not see the harm...after all they are just 20 girls in a village hall..who's going to know... The impact is much larger and once you multiply those 20 girls by County and Region, then the impact builds up significantly. Indeed so one small unit challenge has sold over 4000 badges... That is why it is important to get the permissions right, to ensure the programme aspects fit and the brandings meet guidelines. They may be 'unofficial' challenges but to the girls and their parents there is no distinction so we have to ensure even unofficial challenges represent Guiding in the best light.
 

quietbrownowl

Veteran (100+ posts)
#13
I will probably be slated for saying this but I personally dont like them and will never use them. I know they are fantastic fundraisers but I dont really see a need for them. There are enough interest badges to do that teach the girls so much. (Sorry i dont know anything about rainbow roundabouts so may be talking nonsense in regards to them). I have seen so many brownies/guides with hoodies full of challenge badges but very little GG badges. Yes they do look nice abd bright and show how hard the girls have worked but I would rather see a few GG badges on uniforms. I also dont see a need to give girls badges everytime they do things such as visit a panto or help bag pack etc. I feel sometimes girls get badgs to easily.

Sorry if my opinion offends anyone i dont mean to its just my thoughts.
 

MummySquirrel

Veteran (100+ posts)
#14
Some of the Challenge badges are very well put together but they shouldn't take the place of Girlguiding official badges. My Guides are definitely not 'badge hunters' I don't think we've ever used a Challenge badge. We have however used them for Rainbows but not many they've included a Fire Safety one done recently, one on Road Safety and a Guide Dog Challenge when we had a Rainbow who was registered blind. We do the Roundabout badges as they're the programme and can easily do a full term on one badge. Last term 'Get Healthy' was brilliant we had a fantastic time and included old change4life activities alongside. Global Adventures we spent a term on as we incorporated Burns Night, Chinese New Year, Thinking Day, St. Patricks Day and St. Georges Day.
I'm with you 'quietbrownowl' no need for girls to get a badge every time they do something. They come to expect and that's not what Guiding is about.
 

Jenniferk863

Beginner (10+ posts)
#15
I like them for our Guides. We aren’t a GFI sort of unit and there’s only so much I can do to nag the girls into picking a GFI and working towards it.

We now compromise, 1 unit badge (usually a sensible one like first aid or fire safety), 1 GFI and 1 challenge badge per term. The rest they can make up.

I was a guide when Jeff Banks designed the uniform and learned a lot during patrol time that our guiders wouldn’t have known (stage make up being an example). Patrols were encouraged to use their own skills from other activities and enjoy time working together and learning with each other without such a prescriptive programme. I hate that Guides are expected to choose a pack, make 4 weeks worth of patrol time out of it and then get a badge at the end. We got interest badges off our own backs and if we did do a patrol badge it was sewn onto our sash in our patrol colour so everyone could see it was a group effort.

Our guides are much happier having “free weeks” where a patrol leader or second can just pick a random activity and do it without it having to count as badge Work or for a GFI
 
#16
I also dont see a need to give girls badges everytime they do things such as visit a panto or help bag pack etc. I feel sometimes girls get badgs to easily.
It worries me that the point of doing good turns like carol singing, visiting care homes and fund raising etc is lost when the girls are doing it for a badge. I know rewarding girls for stuff they do is a good thing but doing good turns should be done surely for the reward of doing just that... a good turn. I think too it's unfair to give some girls a badge for going to a church parade when others can't have one because of faith or other reasons.
 

quietbrownowl

Veteran (100+ posts)
#17
It worries me that the point of doing good turns like carol singing, visiting care homes and fund raising etc is lost when the girls are doing it for a badge. I know rewarding girls for stuff they do is a good thing but doing good turns should be done surely for the reward of doing just that... a good turn. I think too it's unfair to give some girls a badge for going to a church parade when others can't have one because of faith or other reasons.
I always went to church (not mine) as a guide for Rememberance Sunday because it was a special service, not to get a badge. I had a very upset brownie last year because her rainbow sister got a badge for going to watch the local panto and she didnt. We've had 2 brownies come up from rainbows already ask what the panto badge looks like this year. Again upset when i said they werent getting one, but they did cheer up when i said i would buy them an ice cream!
 

fenris

fenris
GuiderPlus
#18
I like them for our Guides. We aren’t a GFI sort of unit and there’s only so much I can do to nag the girls into picking a GFI and working towards it.

We now compromise, 1 unit badge (usually a sensible one like first aid or fire safety), 1 GFI and 1 challenge badge per term. The rest they can make up.

I was a guide when Jeff Banks designed the uniform and learned a lot during patrol time that our guiders wouldn’t have known (stage make up being an example). Patrols were encouraged to use their own skills from other activities and enjoy time working together and learning with each other without such a prescriptive programme. I hate that Guides are expected to choose a pack, make 4 weeks worth of patrol time out of it and then get a badge at the end. We got interest badges off our own backs and if we did do a patrol badge it was sewn onto our sash in our patrol colour so everyone could see it was a group effort.

Our guides are much happier having “free weeks” where a patrol leader or second can just pick a random activity and do it without it having to count as badge Work or for a GFI
They need only do two GFI per year for their Challenge badges, so no need to do even one every term. We don't do GFI in summer term as we're too busy doing outdoor activities . . .
 

Jenniferk863

Beginner (10+ posts)
#19
They need only do two GFI per year for their Challenge badges, so no need to do even one every term. We don't do GFI in summer term as we're too busy doing outdoor activities . . .
We do 3 GFI because inevitably someone will miss a week and not complete the GFI.
 

fenris

fenris
GuiderPlus
#20
We do 3 GFI because inevitably someone will miss a week and not complete the GFI.
We just do an extra quick session on each one, which usually covers absences - so 1 week to plan, 4 weeks to do, and a sixth week for them to both do a short GFI activity which covers absence, and also evaluate the GFI. The other advantage is that the older Guides aren't left with the GFIs they consider to be 'dregs' because they've done all the topics which appeal to them already.