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What is a unit commissioner and why have I never met one?

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  • What is a unit commissioner and why have I never met one?

    I'm trying to figure out how my district functions. I have been scouting in four different packs for five years, and I have yet to understand how a district is organized. Granted, I have not attended roundtables regularly for most of those years. If they are supposed to "help a unit succeed," where were they when my pack nearly disintegrated. As I recall, I lead the charge on year-round recruiting. (I'm a den leader.) We are up from 12 scouts to about 36 scouts in two years. (I would like to be at 48.) Any how, where are they? What should I expect from them? How do I get in touch with them? Are they just more interested in boy scouting than cub scouting? I suspect our district commissioner is having as much trouble staffing his committee as I am at staffing my little pack committee, so maybe he just doesn't have anyone to send my way.

  • #2
    Howarthe, the UC, the trusted friend to the unit, is a good idea. And good when it works as advertised. But that's rare. Regretfully (and speaking as a registered UC), UCs are far and few between these days. (I've been in four districts, four different states, last six years, due to military moves.)

    The UC corps is something that exists mostly on paper.

    UCs had (and still have) a bad reputation in some places. Characteristics: never around when you need them, or around too much (meddling); upstaging the unit leadership; pompous uniform policemen; spies for the district; WB salesmen; and the like.

    As a UC, it has been interesting to see how units perceive and utilize me. Some are wary, others are welcoming but unsure of my role. Either way, I stay on message: I work for the unit. Not the other way around.

    So where are they? Either empty slots, or filling a slot but not fulfilling their duties
    Why weren't they around when you needed them? I can identify...many years ago, I moved up from ASM to SM in a troop that darn near folded when the SM was fired. DE himself promised help and that was the last I saw him or anyone from the district. Many district scouters are awfully interested in what goes on in the district. No so much in the unit.
    What should you expect? In addition to the official UC duties--sounding board. Cutting through red tape at the district and council. Advocate. Tackling projects and finding answers from agencies outside the unit. Lending a hand at the blue/gold banquet if an extra server is needed or putting the chairs away. The UC works for YOU.
    How to get in touch: talk to the DC...if you have a UC assigned, DC can set up the contact. But if the UC hasn't reached out to you already, don't waste your time because he/she is deadwood. Ask the DC for another UC.
    Are they more interested in troops than packs? They shouldn't. But some stay close to their roots and comfort zone, depending on their past experience.

    Your observations about the absent UC corps are common every where. Past threads here have discussed various ways to fix it, or disband the UC business entirely.

    Comment


    • #3
      You might want to keep up with the aqctivities of your district. Their Web page is at:[URL="https://www.facebook.com/ChinookDistrictCPC"]https://www.facebook.com/ChinookDistrictCPC[/URL="https://www.facebook.com/ChinookDistrictCPC"]

      The District Commissioners will be having their monthly meeting May16th 7-8:30 PM in Longview. I'm sure you would be welcome to attend.


      A casual look at you diur district web page suggests that you have a district which is organizing some nice activities, but probably needs more volunteers to do the things they would like to do.

      Comment


      • desertrat77
        desertrat77 commented
        Editing a comment
        SP, I think you have it backwards. The district needs to reach out to the units, and support unit events, not the other way around. The last thing a unit level scouter needs to do is attend yet another meeting at the district in hopes of a) the district noticing and supporting the unit or b) the district roping a unit level leader to volunteer at the district. Unit level leaders have enough on their plate as is without getting involved with a bunch of district scouters who obviously have no interest in what is going on out in the field, where real scouting takes place.
        Last edited by desertrat77; 05-12-2013, 08:21 PM.

      • ScoutNut
        ScoutNut commented
        Editing a comment
        Just how do you suggest a district "support unit events"?

        I do not need our district helping me put together our Pack camping trip, our Pack haunted house, our Pack minor league baseball game, etc, etc. We are perfectly capable of doing that on our own.

        I enjoy attending district Roundtables (and helping at them). They are a great source of program ideas. They are also a great chance to get to know other unit Scouters from my area (and the district volunteers, and professionals, as well).

        Most district Scouters that I know (myself included) have a very GREAT interest in "what is going on out in the field where "real" scouting takes place". We ARE out in the field. We ARE INVOLVED in 'real" Scouting. Most district volunteers are also volunteering at the unit level. We volunteer at the district level also because we want to help other Scouters, and units, and see that the Scouts in OUR, and other, units get more opportunities to do FUN Scouting stuff.

        Who are you to tell me what I have, and do not have, time to do? Who are you to tell me where I should, or should not volunteer my time?

        Stop ignorantly belittling our volunteering efforts. Without district/council level volunteers (like me) you would have no summer camp, no training, no council/district web pages, no special events, etc, etc. In fact, you would have not much of anything, including a council, since much of the basic work of a corporation is done by volunteers (many of whom also still volunteer at their local unit level).

    • #4
      Commissioner is the oldest office in scouting, carrying a very proud heritage of service that is unmatched by any scouting group. However, in recent years the corps has gotten a bad reputation due to people plugging names into a roster to meet a metric. This metric meeting has led to the corps being populated by scouters who want to be active on paper only, and those who want to put on a wreath and silver loops and strut around acting important; this is frustrating for those who truly want to serve. There is a solid group of skilled and knowledgeable scout volunteers who will go to any length to give you the support to make your program succeed; they are the real Commissioners.

      This summer I’ll be rotating out as SM, and returning to the commissioner corps for the 4th time. I’ve served three prior stints as a Commissioner (over my 25 years as a scouter), including Unit Commissioner, Round Table Commissioner, and ADC in charge of Commissioner Training. I’ll be serving the charter org where I earned my eagle, the troop I reorganized, the crew I co-founded, and the pack that put my feet on the scouting trail as a cub. You better bet I’ll give it 110%, providing exactly what the unit leaders, committees, and charter org request of me. I assure you my service will not be on paper only, but I will take pride in wearing the wreath of service.

      Back to Gilwell

      Comment


      • #5
        [URL="http://www.scouter.com/member/9031-desertrat77"]desertrat77[/URL="http://www.scouter.com/member/9031-desertrat77"] said it well.

        UC is a theoretical idea that I doubt ever worked “on a broad scale”. The issue is numbers, a structural issue. There are just not enough knowledgeable UCs with the right temperament who can consistently serve and have the time and resources to serve. Read desertrat77’s post.

        Most experienced scouters know the UC concept is broken and most have given up on the UC program. Few take an honest evaluation because UC has a long tradition back to the beginnings of scouting.

        Instead district committees keep trying to fix the UC ranks within their own district. A few districts have something that works. … or so I’ve been told … I’ve never seen it. But generally it's not that districts have done a poor job. Heck, most districts are fighting to get enough roundtable commissioners to do a good roundtable.

        In my 11 years of leadership and multiple units, I've yet to see a UC visit. I’ve met a few UCs, but I’ve never even heard about a unit visit.

        BSA needs to replace the unit commissioner concept with something that works.

        Comment


        • #6
          As a UC now, I visit on-site every other month the units to which I have been assigned and make a phone contact on the other months. This past month I have had the unfortunate situation of helping a unit dissolve due to lack of boys. However, I did work with the parents of the boys to make sure they got connected up with another troop in the area. I am also actively recruiting a new unit in a different part of the district where the sponsoring organization has asked me to come on board as the SM. UC work only if the individual that is given the task actually follows through on it. By the way, the active unit SM that I serve just received his District Award of Merit. Nice troop, good future and yet they still get the monthly contacts. My DC works diligently with getting UC's, but the quality of their work varies as to the seriousness they take the job.

          Comment


          • #7
            jblake47 ... I applaud your commitment and follow thru. I just wish it was the standard. With today's society, I can easily see why busy UCs might let slide working with units that were not in crisis.

            Comment


            • #8
              <<SP, I think you have it backwards. The district needs to reach out to the units, and support unit events, not the other way around. The last thing a unit level scouter needs to do is attend yet another meeting at the district in hopes of a) the district noticing and supporting the unit or b) the district roping a unit level leader to volunteer at the district>>


              Smart unit leader DO take an interest in district meetings and activities.

              If district leaders could be plucked off a handy tree whenever they were needed, your approach might be valid. But most district leaders come from units and participate in district meetings and activities because they see the need and are willing to help out.

              My district just started doing a monthly meeting for Commissioners before our monthly Roundtable.

              Withing the past couple of weeks I found a former Cubmaster interested in becoming a UC for his old pack.

              I'm currently working to use our district recognition program as a way of identifying and encouraging unit leaders to take an interest in district activities and perhaps take positions as district leaders.

              In my experience, the Commissioner program CAN work if you have leaders working to MAKE it work and to be on the look out for capable and experienced people that can be recruited to do the various tasks that need to be done.

              My district had a period of several years when things were slowly going to pot because district leaders weren't doing that job. The past year or so, district leaders have been working pretty hard and have reversed that trend line so that things are definitely improving.

              That suggests that things CAN go to pot and fail, or can improve and get better.

              Comment


              • desertrat77
                desertrat77 commented
                Editing a comment
                SP, I'd respectfully recommend you re-read the original post. Howarthe isn't looking to volunteer for district activities, nor to become a district volunteer, but for the UC (if there is one) to perform assigned duties, which is to support her pack. I take the definition of "support" being how the UC can reach out to the pack, and enable the pack, not the unit leader reaching out to the district, so the district can dual-hat the unit leader in serving on both unit and district level. Also, I don't consider unit level leaders attending extra meetings at the district, nor calling the DC to ask for help, as definitions of "district support for units." I expect the UC to call the pack, show up, help in the background, and actually accomplish things that bolster unit activities.
                Last edited by desertrat77; 05-13-2013, 07:59 PM.

              • Basementdweller
                Basementdweller commented
                Editing a comment
                "Smart unit leader DO take an interest in district meetings and activities"

                I go to roundtable month after month and listen to them beg for volunteers....I watch the big troops sit with their arms crossed.....They have 19 adults and none of them can pitch in and help......Another Troop has 30 on the roster.

                Your going to need to explain that better.

                What I see you doing is poaching unit leaders for District positions......I disagree with what you are doing.

                A Cubmaster should not be a UC for his old Pack.....he has too much skin in the game to be a neutral party in any dispute.

                So what is more important, Adults working the youth level direct contact or Adults sitting in adult meetings about a bunch of nebulus things that never come to pass.

                In the UC manual it says that they should not be registered in any other position in scouting.......

            • #9
              (The comment option does not seem to be working at the moment so I am re-posting as a separate post)

              Desertrat77 -

              Just how do you suggest a district "support unit events"?


              I do not need our district helping me put together our Pack camping trip, our Pack haunted house, our Pack minor league baseball game, etc, etc. We are perfectly capable of doing that on our own.





              I enjoy attending district Roundtables (and helping at them). They are a great source of program ideas. They are also a great chance to get to know other unit Scouters from my area (and the district volunteers, and professionals, as well).





              Most district Scouters that I know (myself included) have a very GREAT interest in "what is going on out in the field where "real" scouting takes place". We ARE out in the field. We ARE INVOLVED in 'real" Scouting. Most district volunteers are also volunteering at the unit level. We volunteer at the district level also because we want to help other Scouters, and units, and see that the Scouts in OUR, and other, units get more opportunities to do FUN Scouting stuff.





              Who are you to tell me what I have, and do not have, time to do? Who are you to tell me where I should, or should not volunteer my time?





              Stop ignorantly belittling our volunteering efforts. Without district/council level volunteers (like me) you would have no summer camp, no training, no council/district web pages, no special events, etc, etc. In fact, you would have not much of anything, including a council, since much of the basic work of a corporation is done by volunteers (many of whom also still volunteer at their local unit level).

              Comment


              • desertrat77
                desertrat77 commented
                Editing a comment
                Scoutnut,

                If your district does actual things to help scouters at the unit, congratulations. You and your district are rare birds. Truth is, lots of folks at districts around the nation aren't interested in unit level scouting. Nor in new folks joining the district. Nor in anything that is critical of the district.

                I'm not addressing summer camps and training and such. The main issue is getting UCs, and other district folks, off their duff to do their job. And, as for "district support," I'm disagreeing with SP's premise that if a unit scouter wants help from the district, Mr./Mrs Unit Scouter should pencil in another meeting and go visit the district folks. Or attend or volunteer to staff a district event that will help their unit. That's backwards.

                While I'm not telling you how to spend YOUR time, I'm am telling you how many unit scouters feel about THEIR time, and the dubious support from their district. If it is "n/a" for you and your district, so be it and thanks for your service.
                Last edited by desertrat77; 05-14-2013, 07:15 AM.

            • #10
              Wow, well that turned out looking rather weird. Sorry about that. I would edit it to correct the strange spacing (or try to), but the edit feature does not work.

              Comment


              • #11
                Hello Desert Rat,

                << If your district does actual things to help scouters at the unit, congratulations. You and your district are rare birds. Truth is, lots of folks at districts around the nation aren't interested in unit level scouting. Nor in new folks joining the district. Nor in anything that is critical of the district.

                >>

                Plenty of districts struggle to provide activities and services for units. Some are far gone and barely function.

                I would classify my district as being in the "struggling" category, but we still provide a lot of services to units from recruiting to Roundtables to district evenmts such as a bowling tournament and marble tournament, Klondike Derby, spring Camporee, Merit Badge Jumboree and so on.

                We've had three district volunteers receive the Council Silver Beaver each of the past three years,

                Our district is currently working pretty hard to identify new Scouters who might be interested in volunteering to support district activities. We are having modest success in finding new people.

                <<While I'm not telling you how to spend YOUR time, I'm am telling you how many unit scouters feel about THEIR time, and the dubious support from their district. If it is "n/a" for you and your district, so be it and thanks for your service.>>


                I was assigned as a Unit Commissioner nine months ago to a Scout Troop whose adult leaders had that kind of attitude.

                One of the long time Troop leaders received the Silver Beaver this year. Another long time Scouter has been reconized with the Outstanding Scoutmaster award (or whatever it's called now), and has been motivated to sign up for Wood Badge.

                Rather than being isolated and feeling neglected, I've been able to encourage the excellent leadership to feel more a part of the district Scouting community and to get them attention they deserve.

                I think it may be possible to encourage the unit leadership to participate more in district and council activities, and to have a better Scouting experience because of that.


                So my own experience is that most units that are alienated from the district and council are alienated because that don't feel welcome to participate and don't understand how to make the district and council work for them. If the district and council reach out in a friednly way to that alienated leadership, it should be possible to build bridges and bring those units into participating more in district and council activities.

                Comment


                • #12
                  The UC's in my district are nice guys and gals with years of scouting experience. We have had some that quitetly drop by and visit a Pack Meeting or Blue and Gold. Their approach has always been the same - they never interfere with our meetings and they never draw attention to themselves. Observing the unit they are assigned to is part of their job.

                  Our Pack is strong, thankfully, and our UC's usually don't have much they can do with us. Often, as I've witnessed it, they tend to direct their attention to units that are in trouble and need assistance finding leadership and direction. UC's used to be very active assisting units in the recharter process, but not as much anymore as more units in my Council use "Internet Rechartering."

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    It's not easy explaining how a district functions to a unit volunteer. A district is not run the same as a pack or troop. It's main functions are advancement, membership, finance, activities and direct unit service (via the commissioners staff). A district is organized around those functions and exists to serve it's units, directly or indirectly. Whether a unit leader understands this or not is due to many reasons. As with units, no two districts are alike, with differing manpower, experience and dedication.

                    Units can function without any help from their district and some do by choice. Still, a district is supposed to "help a unit succeed", regardless of their differneces. But, it cannot help a unit leader if they do not wish to be helped. A good district should be promoting roundtable every month to get these unit leaders to attend and at least have some way of asking for help.

                    Unit commissioners are supposed to care about all their units: pack, troops, teams, crews, ships, etc. A typical district commissioner is always looking to recruit more UC's; it is a challenge to keep a full staff. If a unit leader really needs help and has no unit commissioner, then they should contact their DC.

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      hmmm

                      My district....bunch of fellows sitting in meetings and there is never any results. They meet every month various committees and nothing ever changes.....Finance committee...what in the world do they do????

                      District Commissioner, typically a business man and not a scouter....He is key to raise funds for the council....Spends his time setting up golf outings and skeet shoots.

                      Membership committee.....the guys the DE yells at and trys to hold accountable for missed recruiting numbers. Not much else.

                      Activities Committee.....they do nothing, we haven't had a district event since I was day camp director 4 or 5 years ago.

                      Advancement committee...Send a rep to the troop eagle boards. They spin stories of bad eagle projects and terrbile scouts.

                      Roundtable commissioners....Run the round table. He does a pretty decent job.

                      Finance committee/????? is that the Friend of scouting guy????? We never have any money despite Golf outings and skeet shoots that raise lots of camporee.

                      Unit commisioners.....are supposed to fill out reports on teh health of units....The are the go between the De and unit, answer the units questions about operations.



                      So with all of the meetings, I don't see any results...No camporees, no cub events, we do have a roundtable.....nothing else.

                      Comment


                      • jc2008
                        jc2008 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I guess we are lucky in our district. We didn't have a District Derby, so my husband said this year we will have a district derby, and we invited all the packs, and a few of the leaders in our pack helped out on the day to make it terrific. We didn't have meetings with anyone, we just said "Lets do this" and did it.

                        we just ran it identical to our pack's pinewood and it worked out fine.

                    • #15
                      Every district is different. I can speak for our district though since my husband is a Unit Commissioner. Our district has 11 packs and around 13 troops, and they have 2 people as Unit Commissioners. My husband does 3 cub scout packs and the other guy does 2-3 troops. There are not enough people atm to cover all the packs/troops. 2 of the packs my husband is in constant contact with are very healthy and large. The third pack is a new pack and we have been a constant presence for them at their leader meetings, pack meetings, events like pinewood and campouts. It gives the new parents confidence in the program to see people around who "know what they are doing" when all of the new parents are getting their bearings on scouting.

                      He helps where he can and I cannot see giving more than one "new/needy" unit to a commissioner, especially one that is heavily involved in his own Pack. We give a lot of time because we want to see scouting thrive in our community.

                      The trick is to find more crazy people like us who will go above and beyond the program that surrounds our son and reach out to other units and help them make it. Its not an easy task to find, identify and recruit these people.

                      Like anything else, if the UC is done right, it really is a benefit to the entire scouting community. But like anything else in scouting, you only get out of it what you put into it and in some areas volunteers who have that much time and energy and enthusiasm to give are few and far between.

                      Comment

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