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Posts posted by MattR

  1. One way to make it look less like school: get rid of as much talking as possible and do the activity. Do a lot of it, as a game. Describe, discuss, explain - you've all heard my rant.

    I like the idea of the "teacher" planning an activity that disguises the learning. Better leadership. More fun for all. Now getting the scouts to own that.

  2. What are the property taxes? Could that be driving up the costs? BTW, the $375k is spread over 4 camps.

    If that's not an issue I think it would be better to board up the buildings and invest in composting toilets. Drive the costs towards zero and encourage primitive use. Kids like dirt, trees, lakes and bugs. We had/have a girl scout camp that's up for sale that has lots of cabins and wifi and all sorts of expensive capital, and not enough scouts using it. Apparently nobody wants to buy it. Again, look at dropping the cost of the program. Those camps are important and they don't need to be fancy.

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  3. I think it's a good idea, but there are a lot of details missing.

    A 12' x 3' x 4' pile of wood is large and heavy. As in, really heavy. A large stack of logs is rather dangerous (see Texas A&M bonfire). I've had piles a few feet high start rolling on me. The proposal says wooden poles will be used rather than a frame. What does that mean? Will they be pounded into the ground? The proposal says the wooden poles are 4-6" in diameter. These aren't poles so much as fence posts, so pounding won't work. Post hole diggers? Manual or powered? In the photo it looks like there is other stuff in and around the log pile. Grass and dirt and just stuff growing. Where is all that coming from and how much time and effort will it take to get it? How much is needed? Twelve year old scouts typically don't have the strength to dig up much dirt and you can't count on adults doing all this work, so more details on the manpower? The proposal says the tools required are "mallets, shovels and a log splitter" and that the beneficiary will supply all of it. Why use a log splitter? Especially on long logs? And what are mallets going to be used for? How many shovels? And what about the rope? That's listed as a supply. Is it used to tie the logs together? Or is that part of moving the logs (timber hitch!). 

    Okay, I'm done being cruel and likely would have been much gentler if a scout had presented this to me. To me, this project looks like a good idea but this scout hasn't thought it through. That's where the leadership comes in. Right now, if he does exactly what this proposal says to prepare for the project, he's likely going to flail and waste a lot of time before some adults, that are getting tired of waiting, step in and start telling people what to do. That's a disservice to everyone. I think the only thing this scout needs is some guidance. Someone has to start asking all of these questions. As he answers them he will come up with a much better plan and will be much better prepared.

    I know that the submitted plan is not supposed to have all the details but leadership requires being prepared. It's not even that I ever expect a scout to completely follow the plan he or she proposes. However, by forcing the scout to think through all the details they will be better prepared to handle exceptions when they undoubtedly show up.

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  4. As soon as the weather gets nice, start doing meetings outdoors. We've done search and rescue mock ups. I'd think in town map and compass activities would be fun. We did a treasure hunt in our town once. It took a lot to setup but it was fun. Do it at a park, with a simple cookout, with scouts wearing class B's and a necker, at about the same time the little soccer kids are doing their thing. Stick with the buddy system.

    This would be more fun than a typical meeting and it's the best type of advertising.

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  5. Yes, now is not the time to merge. Bigger council: bigger target.

    I'm also not sure bigger is better. Amuse me for a moment:

    The approach of this thread, let's decide which councils to merge, appears to be a bit top down. There doesn't seem to be any input from the units and volunteers that put on the program and not even the councils.

    If there's to be a bottom up, service view of leadership then here's a good place to start. To begin, evaluate each council. This is not JTE as that's crap. Pick an outside entity with no skin in the game and have them do a 360 review. Fiscal health, endowments, donors, usage, membership, camps and history of all that. Talk to council staff and volunteers, district staffs and units. Ask start, stop, continue questions about processes and camp, and hire, fire, encourage questions about people. The big question is whether each council is delivering a quality program and has a bright future. If a small council is doing that then don't muck with it. If a large council is just barely making ends meet then merging it with a failing council likely won't help. There is always a trade off between centralized, large control and distributed, small control, so don't assume bigger is better.

    Categorize each council as great, on the fence or failing. For those doing great find out what they're doing right. For those on the fence ask them how they want to solve their problems. Give them options to think about: it could be a crash course on what good is and how to get there. Another might be asking a neighboring council if it wants to merge. Another is hire a national fire team (which doesn't exist yet but will replace the group that says squirt guns are banned :)) and let them make binding suggestions.  Let the council present their proposal. If it's accepted then help them be successful. If not, they move to the failed category. Note that neighboring councils might not want to merge with them. Last is the failing category. They automatically get the fire team. The first thing the fire team does is clean house (both people and camps) and get good people. By good I mean people with the skills and also with an ability to accept change. This is not everyone in the council. This is limited to the council exec, the council president and the board and doesn't require them to be fired. It depends on the review results. From there, give them guidance on what it will take to get their council in shape. This is a teaching, mentoring job to build them up. Have them develop a plan. The point is not do or get axed. The point is make them successful. They may eventually get to the point of wanting to merge, or splitting, or who knows what. It's going to take time finding people, getting them on the same page, and solving all sorts of issues along the way. However, I think there will be more volunteers if they see a credible plan.

    Now, this may sound really draconian and strange because we've never seen anything like it, but this is right out of the woodbadge course. How much stronger would the BSA be and how much more respected would it be if it only used the tools it's trying to sell?

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  6. 3 hours ago, ParkMan said:

    I often wonder why our aspirations as a movement as so low.  My council probably covers a metropolitan area of 2 or 3 million people.  How hard can it be to setup a fund to protect camp forever?  That takes what - 5 million dollars?

    Hire a professional endowment company to guide you through the process and make it happen.  I see stuff like this happen regularly in the religious and university communities.  Time for major improvements at church - let's raise $2,000,000 dollars.  Let's grow the university endowment to $250,000,000 dollars.

    One very bad example: my council. Through the wisdom of one staff they had one council property put into a conservancy (they can't add or increase any structures) and were paid around $750k to go into a trust. The council spent all that money. Recently, they did create a $6M endowment. They have already started spending it. To add insult to injury our CE got his job (some 10 years ago) because he was going to clean up the financial aspects of the council. Incompetent or corrupt?

    I understand the sentiment from people that say councils should have a lot less to do.

    This is why I think the purpose of the council has to be figured out. Our council's budget divided by the number of youth served is around $350/youth (and that was before the LDS departure). What do we get for that? Volunteers do the training. We get no marketing. Volunteers put on our own events. Our camps are not being improved nor used. We have a handful of DE's that are stretched to the limit and paid garbage (one is entirely paid from taxes on event fees that the volunteers put on).

    I always wonder what percentage of that cost per youth goes into the overhead vs how much directly impacts each youth. This is kind of an ultralight backpacking thing. The more stuff you carry the more you need to support carrying it the more stuff you carry....  Anyway, my guess is our DE costs less than $50/youth. I don't know what our camp costs are. I have no idea what a reasonable number is, but $350 + $60 to national is too high for each youth to pay.

    I honestly don't know the answer but taking a hard look at the core purpose of the council might enable some needed change.

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  7. Abracadabra, and all your posts just moved. Sorry about the confusion.

    8 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

    @MattR - as I look through your list of items, I can't help but feel there's a trend where you see there is benefit to "multi-unit/district" things, but the BSA implementation today is lacking. 

    • Training can help, but the BSA "one size fits all doesn't help you"
    • Multi-unit camping good, but the turn-key expensive camporees not so much.

    If I read that right, your observation matches mine.  Units benefit from activities beyond the unit level.  However, the current implementations are lacking.  Your ideas appear to be around the idea that units can drive this.  I'm optimistic that there is a role for a volunteer group pulling these together.

    In either model, I don't see a strong need for professionals in this kind of work.  I don't see how it's worth the expense for a professional to do this stuff.  Sure, a professional with the right mindset would be nice, but I don't think it's necessary to pay someone for these tasks. 

    You start cutting out the expense of paid staff from these tasks and all of a sudden the dynamics change a lot.  Fees drop, hoops you have to jump through go away, etc.  

    Sure, if it could work without paid help I'd be up for it. I was thinking of our DE's and all but one do not have the same experience as most of the district staff. On the other hand, there should probably be someone that can get things started or can solve bigger issues. It wouldn't need to be a district person, but that topic would have to go back to the other thread. So don't even mention it here. (It took a while to figure out how to move everything. :) )


  8. 23 minutes ago, codger said:

    When did we feel we needed a trailer?????

    When we stopped pushing useful skills?

    BTW, I've fought gear creep, with some success. I did get our chuck boxes reduced to a tote. I tried to get the First Class cooking requirement (make a list of gear needed) part of what we had to do, to no avail.

  9. Concerning DE's and districts altogether how about look at the needs of the unit and let that drive how it's delivered.

    Different units have different needs. A few are really strong and don't need any support. They can do their own training and run their own program. Most are muddling along and some are new (we hope!). They need help maturing. The goal should be to grow the unit's maturity, just like working with a PL. What does that look like? The current model is training, turn-key program (just write a check and show up to a camporee, summer camp, or a high adventure base), and wise guidance (commissioners). That's the model, which sounds fine to me, but doesn't really work. Am I missing anything?

    The training, as it stands, never really helped me. Part of that is my fault but a lot of it is the training was just not applicative to the problems I had. It was a one size fits all approach. I would have much rather have seen stories of how specific units solved problems. I'd rather learn from someone else's experience then read "this is how you must do it."

    Another aspect of training is what round table was probably intended to be ( @David CO's comment about a round table is spot on). If there are only 4 units in a city or group of close by towns, then they could meet for dinner and talk about how their unit's are going and just help each other out. No district needed and certainly not 40 minutes of announcements like our last round table.

    Turnkey programs are a lot of work for districts and councils. Just one example of what our district might do and might be the future: My council wants to raise the price of camporees to something like $40/scout so they can make $25/scout. So, we'd be charging a lot and not be able to deliver anything close to what's charged. I won't have anything to do with that so we were talking about "10 troops in a field." Basically, no camporee, just set the date and let's camp near each other. Units can organize an event and we'll share. So, this will require not much more than email, or that round table idea, to organize. I don't see a need for MB fairs either, but I always liked the idea of getting a bunch of MB counselors together and encouraging scouts to run around and connect with those counselors to do something at another time. Again, really simple to organize. Summer camp is a council thing and I'd leave it there.

    The idea of commissioners, while good, has never worked for me. Just off the top of my head, use the above neighborly round table model and break districts into groups of half a dozen that live close to each other and have a spread of scouting maturity - some new, some with experience, and a couple that really know. Then, round table is just burgers and beer and a discussion of how each unit is doing and how to help them. Announcements is just an email that was sent out. If you don't like your group someone will help you find another.

    So, what is the professional's role in all of this or whatever model you'd rather see? (This assumes the numbers gorilla is no longer sitting on the DE.) What are districts responsible for?

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  10. NotNot sure this was discussed and it covers a couple of these threads, but there's an important question that needs addressing. If the BSA membership drops to between .5M and1M, what will the program and structure look like? I'm not saying it will go that way but it could get ugly. And even if it doesn't get that bad it would certainly help make the BSA stronger if it could deliver a good program with fewer resources and fewer people.

    Random thought spewage: Fewer DE's covering the same territory. Fewer units will be near each other. All those units in rural areas will be typical. Neighborhood patrols? Roundtables stretched even thinner. How do you make training work?  At the council level, there will be a lot fewer paid staff. How about several DE's and one Senior DE? Everyone works with units. I've already mentioned my feelings about scout stores.

    It always gets back to spend less money so you can focus on your true purpose.

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  11. 2 hours ago, fred8033 said:

    I really question the value of penalizing a current non-profit for what effectively were society wide ills.  

    True, but when the BSA tried to cover things up, can we blame that on society wide ills? If, instead, the BSA had brought it out and explained what it was doing to solve the problem they would have a lot more credibility now. The mindset should have always been that a proven abuse results in a ton of very visible repair going on: Helping the abused youth, prosecuting the abuser, and understanding how it happened to improve the unit, the council, and the BSA. Anyone hiding an event should have harsh consequences as well.

    I just wish there were some concrete numbers put on when these abuses and coverups happened. My impression is it dropped in the 90s when better protections were put in. But how much? Honestly, they need to convince me as well. If there were still coverups going on after my son started in 2001 then I'll be angry. After going through the training I assumed the process of training and reacting to abuse was all cleaned up. Was it? If so, the idea of don't throw out the baby with the bath water holds. If not, I'm assuming there are going to be a lot of properties sold.

  12. An idea for a great service project: help a girls den, or two, run fun meetings. Make them all den chiefs of a AOL den and invite them to scout events.

    Point is create a relationship between the den and the troop. Whenever we do that we get lots of recruits. When we stop, things dry up. If it's appearance that counts then there's no relationship.

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  13. Is there a precedent? Is there another financial web that is this tightly dependent on each node and yet claim independence? Mary Kay? Franchises? If a couple of franchises of a restaurant sell burgers with mouse feet in them and the main company covers it up what happens? Especially where, if a franchise looses it's licence, all the assets go to the parent company.

  14. 1 hour ago, David CO said:

    A scout is trustworthy, but a scout executive is not.  That is why BSA is in bankruptcy. 

    @David CO, that's a rather broad brush, and given that we have scout executives on this forum, let's think courteous. You may see this as a great opportunity to fix things, but for the people working for the BSA, through no fault of most of them, this is a kick in the teeth.


    My understanding is that a bankruptcy court can go back and nullify any financial actions, including a mortgage, that was done to protect assets.

    Well, that just stuck a pin in my friend's argument.

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  15. 3 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

    Only positive things we can attempt to implement during that process.

    I have some positive questions for you. You've started a few thought provoking threads about restructuring. I've gone along with it because it's cathartic. However, it seems to me that any restructuring that happens will be entirely about the lawsuits. I don't see how any restructuring can encompass the issues we've discussed in these threads. All I can see is that the BSA, and maybe some (or all?) councils, will just have less money. There will be less staff and less properties but the fundamental organization, and certainly the program, isn't going to change. Even if the court appoints a new CEO, who is to say this person will have the required vision? I really don't know much about how bankruptcy can effect change and so this is all just my guess. However, you've apparently done quite a bit in the BSA at many levels. Is there something you know that I don't? How can any restructuring of the BSA include the ideas in these threads? Or are you just assuming things will get really bad, a phoenix will rise from the ashes and we should be ready? Or is this just cathartic to you as well?

    I'm not interested in the machinations of bankruptcy, just how the new ideas we've been talking about can, well, get beyond the people writing on these pages and to those that can effect national.

  16. 26 minutes ago, HashTagScouts said:

    If we could get the Scouts to consistently use it, I might concur with their theory,

    We tell the scouts their book is the record. When they tell us it's in the computer we tell them to ask one of the many adults that have access to the database to help the scout update their book. It doesn't take more than a few minutes. Often, someone in the BOR can do it right there.

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  17. We need a way to measure or gauge scout-led, older scout enthusiasm, and things closer to the fundamentals. Not sure how but it would make a lot of things easier for everyone to see issues. Scouts, Scouters, Parents, District. Who is doing the cooking (and buying the food)? Who is deciding on the events and how well are they attended? I don't even know how to do that so I'm afraid metrics can get out of hand, kind of like uniform inspections. If it were part of the regular program, say start, stop, continue, and the troop regularly did this then it would be easier to find.  We talked about this once before and I had said it's too subjective. I think a few people came up with good rebuttals. Rather than giving units a canned script, have the units work with the district to write one?

    The reason I don't want to be a UC is tracking things like advancement is just not interesting to me as I don't see the benefit. Figure out how to make it useful and I'd consider helping out.

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