Once upon a time, every year, Scouts held 'bob-a-job' week. For the princely sum of a bob (five old pence) a local cub or Scout would turn up at your door, and wash your windows, or your car, or weed your geraniums.

The tradition was discarded in 1992 a sad casualty of the rising concern about safeguarding and the risks of encouraging young people to knock on strangers' doors asking for money.

But today, Scouts Scotland will launch a new programme of community action – and they are looking to make an impact on some of society's most entrenched problems.

A Million Hands is a UK-wide campaign launched by Astronaut Tim Peake, but led by members of the youth organisation themselves.

In meetings and online discussions they chose the six social issues the campaign will focus on: homelessness, mental health, disability, refugees and displaced children, kindness and the environment.

Marc Sermanni, a 17 year old from Lochwinnoch, was one of the Scottish scouts who chose ending homelessness as the first issue, an ambitious goal which local young people will bid to achieve in partnership with the charity Crisis Scotland.

The unusual process saw charities 'bidding' to be selected as partners by suggesting ways in which they could bring the enthusiasm, talents and the sheer numbers at the Scouts' disposal to bear on a social challenge.

"We wanted issues that were relevant to young people or that they could relate to, so they are more likely to go for the activities," Marc explained. "That could mean an issue such as the environment, which a lot of young people are keen on, or refugees. Then there are some where it was about a key Scout value, like the partnership we are going to have with the British Red Cross which is centred on kindness."

"It is about having the drive and passion to make changes. With such a large number of people, how can we create the change we want?"

The drive to tackle homelessness will build on the enthusiasm generated by the 'Wee Sleep Out' last year, which many Scouts got involved in.

Marc added: "Homelessness is seen is so many communities across Scotland but it’s not inevitable. I hope not only will Scouts help those directly in their community but we will help to change the conversation around homelessness and play a part in ending it for good.”

A Million Hands refers to the fact that there are around 500,000 members of the Scout movement in the UK - from the youngest 'Beaver' scouts (6-8 years) to the 18-25 year old 'Network' Scouts.

A group of Scottish Scouts has already been to Edinburgh to view a Crisis photography exhibition and learn more about the problem in Scotland from Crisis staff and their service users.

Over the next four years, young people from across the country will work with them and other charity experts to tackle the six social issues they have chosen.

Other partners in the scheme include WWF, SAMH, National Autistic Society, British Red Cross and Save the Children.

Rob Murray, Commissioner for Community Impact in Scotland, said: "Scout members want to take action on the big issues affecting society. The organisation has been doing things in the community for more than 100 years, but this is more targeted."

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis said: “We’re thrilled to be working with the Scouts on the incredible A Million Hands project which will help us move further toward our goal of ending homelessness in the UK.

"Just as the Scouts do, we believe that in society, we have the most impact when we work together."

Involvement in the scheme will also help Scouts work towards the badges the movement is known for – and some of the more modern 'life skills badges' it isn't, from the Chief Scout's and Queen's Scout Awards to the DIY and the "digital changemaker" badges.

The six challenges

• Better mental health for all: By 2023, 20,000 scouts will have incorporated wellbeing activities (such as mindfulness, relaxation, yoga) regularly into their scout sessions and created opportunities for their local communities to talk about mental health.

• Understanding disability: By 2023, 20,000 Scouts will take action to create a disability-friendly community, encouraging wider inclusion of disabled people in their own activities, and promoting disability access and befriending.

• Supporting refugees and displaced children: By 2023, 37,000 Scouts will have shown solidarity with refugees and displaced children and stood up for children’s rights around the world.

• Ending homelessness: By 2023, Scouts will have built support for ending homelessness across the UK

• Protecting our environment: By 2023, 20,000 Scouts will have done a biodiversity health check on their local area and acted to restore nature for future generations

• Kindness in every community: By 2023, 20,000 Scouts will have helped their community by becoming Kindness Champions.