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dkurtenbach

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Everything posted by dkurtenbach

  1. I have to agree with @MattR, at least based on what I've read so far. The issue here is money, and only money. There is nothing about this controversy that provides any reason or incentive to change the basic organizational structure, policies, or programs of the Boy Scouts of America. Some properties may be sold, some councils consolidated, we'll have further declines in membership -- in other words, the status quo. It is exactly what has already been happening in BSA for a long time. Considering the upheaval of the last seven years, there is and will be a strong appetite for trying to achieve as much "normalcy" as possible. After all, we've only just opened the doors to girls in Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting. We haven't even felt the hit from the loss of the LDS folks yet. There is a lot of smoke to clear without the bankruptcy thing. And what I see happening is that the bankruptcy is going to be something that barely registers in day-to-day Scouting. If there is a reduction in council services, most members and families will hardly notice.
  2. dkurtenbach

    Chapter 11 announced

    A good question for the decision makers in BSA to consider. Numerous state legislatures have addressed the moral question of whether victims of abuse that happened many years ago (outside the former statutes of limitation) should have the opportunity to seek compensation. They said yes. The BSA has addressed the moral question of whether to attempt to pay reasonable compensation in response to valid claims of victims of abuse that happened many years ago. BSA said yes. So that leaves the moral and practical question of how to pay the compensation that will eventually be required: Put the burden on current and future members, or find another way? Another moral question is: Should a BSA members feel any duty or loyalty to the Scouting program to help it out in its time of need, or any duty to help the victims of abuse by making the financial sacrifice of paying higher fees?
  3. dkurtenbach

    Chapter 11 announced

    I read somewhere that councils and chartered organizations have already been sued along with BSA National, which the claimants would want to do whenever possible. It appears that part of National's plan is to have one bucket of money available for all claims against all BSA organizational defendants. Of course, the attorneys for the claimants will want that bucket to be as large as possible, so I expect that they will push for contributions from councils.
  4. dkurtenbach

    Chapter 11 announced

    I'm actually talking about possible weaknesses in our youth protection program that may affect the marketability of our program to parents, not what organizational components could be swept into the bankruptcy proceedings.
  5. dkurtenbach

    Chapter 11 announced

    However strong our current youth protection program is, we still have three weak links: the overwhelming predominance of volunteers operating in highly autonomous units, who are certified to work closely with youth of all ages after taking a two hour internet course. To provide assurances to parents that Scouting is no longer the horror story they have been hearing about, and that it is as safe as their neighborhood schools, one or more of those weak links may have to be replaced.
  6. dkurtenbach

    Commissioner role

    So in looking at the design of the commissioner program, I would ask a few questions to start: Does every unit need the same level of attention and the same frequency of contact? If not, why doesn't the program design reflect variable levels of commissioner attention -- which would allow for fewer UCs? Wouldn't it be better for both the unit and the district to have multiple unit leaders and multiple district leaders who know each other rather than the district providing just one point of contact? Roundtables, camporees, training, and other district activities provide opportunities for many contacts and conversations between unit Scouters and district staff. Unit Scouters can find district staff that they are comfortable talking to and working with instead of having a UC assigned to the unit who they may not hit it off with. Is the District Commissioner making use of the information about each unit that is already available via My.Scouting and other reports? Information already available includes: unit roster; year-to-year membership changes; adult leader training status; advancement reports; and unit attendance at Roundtable, district events and activities, and summer camps. Regular review of that information by the District Commissioner or ADCs would allow them to identify various areas of concern and proactively assign the right people for follow-up with the unit -- without the need for a UC. Why should the district be responsible for recruiting manpower to monitor and report on the condition of a unit when the unit already has manpower and is in the best position to know its own condition? Each unit could identify a unit Scouter (such as the Committee Chair, an ASM, or the COR) who could serve as the liaison to the district, know who to contact with questions and problems, understand the various indicators of unit health, conduct unit self-assessments, and periodically report to the district on the unit's condition. The district staff could focus on providing proactive assistance such as more frequent training and better Roundtables, addressing non-routine questions and concerns, and responding to serious unit problems.
  7. dkurtenbach

    Commissioner role

    I've seen pretty much the same thing over 20+ years as a UC and Roundtable Commissioner. And how do these less effective UCs get on the commissioner roster in the first place? In my experience, there are three main causes: The District Commissioner is getting a lot of pressure from the Area Commissioner and the Council Commissioner to recruit more UCs, but can't find enough good candidates, so out of frustration signs up any warm body to meet the quota. The District Commissioner talks good Scouters into signing on as new UCs, but those Scouters are already involved in a lot of things and this new job is low on their priority list. UCs who used to be good at it have had changes in their lives and interests, and are burnt out or have lost interest or have become too busy with other things. What is needed in a capable unit commissioner? @TAHAWK posted the roles of a unit commissioner: friend, representative, doctor, teacher, counselor. For an average of three units for each UC. While (for most UCs) doing other Scouting jobs. So that is a unit visit or other substantive contact with each unit every month. There is the training: position-specific training and annual Commissioner College or equivalent training event. There is the monthly District Commissioner meeting and (ideally) Roundtable. And there are the mandatory administrative aspects of the UC job: recording all contacts with each unit in Commissioner Tools, completing Detailed Assessments for all units at least once a year, persuading the unit to use and turn in Journey to Excellence scorecards, and of course, assisting the unit with annual rechartering. The bottom line is that to do the unit commissioner job as designed requires a UC to devote a significant amount of time to it. And you need one person willing and able to do that for (ideally) every three units in the district.
  8. dkurtenbach

    Commissioner role

    Oh, I think that most UCs ARE unobtrusive and helpful and do (or seek to do) good deeds. The real problem is that there aren't anywhere near enough of them. The single biggest complaint from units about commissioners is that they never see one.
  9. dkurtenbach

    Commissioner role

    I think there are far too many stories and complaints about poor commissioner service or lack of commissioner service to be dismissed as the commissioners just not doing it right. Certainly there are always performance issues; but if so many dedicated, experienced volunteer Scouters are having trouble making the commissioner program work as intended, then it is fair to conclude that it is at least in part a systemic problem with how the program is designed.
  10. dkurtenbach

    Commissioner role

    This concise statement is probably the most accurate assessment of the BSA commissioner program that I have ever seen. In the real world, a product or commercial service or business process that is a good idea but rarely works would have long since vanished -- especially one as labor-intensive as this.
  11. That makes a lot of sense. The uniform should be driven by (1) what is appropriate clothing for the "work" being done, (2) what the "workers" want to wear when doing that work. BSA has told us that the "field" uniform is for meetings and ceremonies. If meetings and ceremonies are what BSA thinks Scouts DO, it is no surprise that membership has been steadily dropping.
  12. dkurtenbach

    The ascent of the handbook as part of the uniform

    In our troop back in the late 1960s when I was a Scout, required items for inspection at every meeting were: - Card (separate rank requirement card where you tracked your advancement) - Pencil - Paper - Comb (even if you had a crew cut) - Rope (for knots practice) - Handkerchief (for runny noses) It wasn't so much a uniform inspection as a readiness inspection.
  13. Simplifying the program means fewer people needed to monitor and maintain it over time - lower costs. Simplifying and focusing the program makes it easier to sell to busy families - more membership, more revenue. Flattening ScoutsBSA advancement and making it more experiential should make it easier to recruit older youth (who might be turned off by "Tenderfoot" rank or by being outranked by a Scout two or three years younger) - more membership, more revenue. Uniforms that look contemporary provide an up-to-date, relevant image to the public, putting more focus on what the youth are doing now rather than calling to mind a creaky old traditional program, and signal that Scouting has turned a corner and is no longer tied to the bad old days of discrimination and child abuse - better marketing, more public support, more donations. Automatic registration and promotion to the next program level means more retention of existing Scouts - more membership, more revenue.
  14. 1. Reduce and focus the subject matter areas covered in the Cub Scout and ScoutsBSA programs. That is, reduce and focus the subject matter areas covered in the advancement requirements in those two programs. Likewise, focus the subject matter covered in the Venturing program. In order to compete against specific, well-understood youth activities such as soccer, piano lessons, tae kwon do, etc., we need to be able to state -- in three or four short phrases -- what youth DO in each program. Identify those specific areas and clear out program elements that do not directly fall in those areas. So, for example, ScoutsBSA might be: Outdoor adventure Save the environment Respond in emergencies 2. Simplify ScoutsBSA advancement in two ways: First, make all rank requirements experience-based with multiple instances of each experience. For example, at least three separate overnight campouts at least three weeks apart and totaling at least six nights camping, each in a different and increasingly rustic environment, and each with certain requirements (sleeping in a tent, cooking a meal, etc.); or three hikes of at least five miles, each one in a different type of terrain with certain requirements (use of map and compass, purifying water, etc.); or three different service projects over three months, each requiring at least four hours of active participation. The focus of these experiences, and the subject matter of boards of review (held after completion of each experiential requirement) is the degree of the Scout's personal effort in those experiences and the Scout gaining skill, knowledge, and confidence in the particular subject matter. Second, flatten rank progression to make ScoutsBSA more accessible to older youth. Completion of each experience is rewarded with some token, but it takes awhile to complete all the various experiences needed for rank. So, for example, X number of completed experiences in A, B, C, and D subject areas is rewarded with Star rank (generally taking at least two years); Y number of completed experiences in B, C, E, and F subject areas is rewarded with Life rank (another year); and Z number of completed experiences in A through H subject areas is rewarded with Eagle Scout rank (another year). 3. Simplify and design uniforms that look like what youth actually wear everyday. 4. Link at least one unit of each program level with at least one unit of every other program level so that, for example, Arrow of Light youth are automatically and seamlessly promoted to and registered in a a known, related ScoutsBSA troop, unless the youth decides to go to a different unit or drop out.
  15. So, suppose that you've got ten or so troops within your local area. That might be a three mile radius in a suburban area or a forty mile radius in a rural area. You have maybe 25 youth in your troop. You know a couple of dozen good camping areas within an hour's drive, plus plenty of hiking and cycling trails, parks, lakes, natural areas, and other interesting places to go. You're acquainted with most of the Scout leaders in your area because you get together for a barbecue every quarter, you organize an area camporee every spring, you visit each others' Eagle Scout Courts of Honor, and you see them at your council summer camp every year. You register new Scouts and new leaders online and do a lot of training online. You get your uniforms and insignia and badges from ScoutStuff.org or when your Committee Chair makes a monthly run to the Scout Shop at council headquarters. At least once a year you and your other unit adults spend a weekend at the council camp for training. If you have a question about an administrative issue, you call or email Marie at council headquarters. Your troop sells Christmas wreaths and has a pancake breakfast and bake sale as their main fundraisers. Your troop holds a community Bike Rodeo for kids on July 4, runs a community food drive in the fall, holds Scout Sunday events, and leads a community stream cleanup in the spring. Non-Scout friends are invited to every campout and event. You introduce new parents and adult leaders to outdoor skills at a special campout in the fall and little training sessions at every campout. You have the Handbook (as well as previous handbooks for the last forty years), plus the Fieldbook, and lots of other books on outdoor skills, plus Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. Jenny subscribes to Backpacker magazine and gives a little presentation on the latest gear or techniques at every monthly troop leaders meeting. You know several folks in the community with particular skills or expertise, and they come out to a campout or meeting from time to time to share what they know with the Scouts. And you have a long list of YouTube videos on outdoor skills. Your parents and leaders are encouraged to get training and certification in things like firearms and watercraft and first aid. Every troop you know about is pretty much like yours, because those are the expectations set by the Scouting culture and training. And you don't have a district, a district committee, a district executive, or commissioners. Why would you?
  16. As Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by that much." 😄
  17. Unit Commissioners cannot escape getting entangled in all the administrative tasks, because they are the (only) folks who (theoretically) are in touch with every unit every month. So anytime there is paperwork to be collected from units or some council or district program to be promoted in units, "We'll have the UCs do it."
  18. dkurtenbach

    "Unofficial uniform"

    I'm also seeing more and more Scouters in the official uniform shirt wearing the neckerchief "international Scouting" style, loose over the collar with the ends tied in a friendship knot, rather than under the collar with a neckerchief slide or over a tucked-under collar with a neckerchief slide.
  19. The effort is in the looking and asking around and just talking to folks to find people with skills, experience, and other resources. The skill is picking the right ones to recruit and getting them interested.
  20. So, keeping with the theme of what systemic changes could be made to the district structure and operations to make it more effective, just a few thoughts: The district organizational structure should be adjusted to be more focused and able to operate with fewer people (including no district-level professional): A dedicated fundraising team reporting to the council Finance Committee and handling FOS, popcorn, and special fundraising events. A dedicated marketing and communications team reporting to the council Marketing and Communications Committee and handling local Scouting news and marketing. A dedicated relationships team, headed by the District Chairman, that handles outreach with chartered organizations, other community institutions and businesses, and local leaders. The District Commissioner staff, responsible for all unit program and administration issues (including former District Committee roles such as Training, Advancement, Camping and Outdoors, Membership, Activities and Community Service, etc.). Membership lives or dies based on the quality of unit programs. The mission of the District Commissioner staff will be helping units develop strong, active programs. The District Commissioner staff will be relatively small and have four main jobs: (1) Identify unit Scouters and parents with skills and resources who can be called upon from time to time to help, and identify other resources in the community (subject matter experts, facilities, events and activities) that are Scout-friendly; (2) Organize training for unit volunteers and Scouts on all sorts of things (not limited to BSA training courses), on a continuing and an ad hoc basis, using mainly skilled unit Scouters and outside resources; (3) Provide better opportunities for units to help each other and share program ideas, successes, and failures. Replace district-wide roundtables run by district people with monthly roundtables for small groups of units on the same program level (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, etc.). Host responsibilities rotate and the members choose their own discussion topics. Make it fun. Provide food. A couple of commissioners might sit in just to observe, provide news, and take task orders from units, but the unit volunteers run it. (4) Help units solve specific problems.
  21. Non-Scout people go outdoors to be active -- to hike, to hunt, to fish, to explore the landscape, to take photographs, to find and learn about the vegetation and the animals. All too often, Scouts go outdoors to be largely inactive in the open air (unless they have cabins or pavilions). They may do a hike or activity (geared to the younger Scouts) for a few hours during a weekend, but they spend a lot of time in their campsites working on advancement requirements, sitting by campfires, having Scoutmaster conferences (and even Boards of Review), laying in their tents or hammocks with their phones, cooking and eating, playing games, and just goofing around. Many Scout camps and campgrounds frequented by Scouts are quite tame, with campsite parking spaces (and spaces for troop trailers, too) and restrooms and water spigots and charcoal grills and benches around a concrete or metal fire ring. Oh, and leave the fallen tree branches on the ground -- you can buy cut firewood at the camp store. It is really easy to make the outdoors boring - both for the youth and the adults.
  22. dkurtenbach

    BSA's business model

    How about a variant of the thriftiness concept: A Scout is Resourceful. Scouts look for ways to use, re-use, repair, and alter materials and equipment already available in order to meet their needs and become handy with tools and craft skills. They identify fun and interesting low-cost or no-cost events and activities in the local area. They research nearby trails, campgrounds, scenic locations, wilderness areas, parks, lakes, rivers, and nature preserves to find free or inexpensive destinations for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities. They seek out experts from area schools, museums, parks, medical facilities, and government agencies, as well as local craftsmen, hobbyists, and tradesmen to learn about a wide variety of Scouting-related topics.
  23. Districts have two primary functions, which in turn generate a variety of specific district activities: 1. Raise the district's share of the council operating budget. - Friends of Scouting - District special fundraising events (golf tournaments, award dinners) - Promote council-sponsored unit fundraisers, such as popcorn (council gets a cut) - Promote council camps and council special events (registration and participation fees) - Ensure that district events have revenue in excess of expenses (surplus goes to council) 2. Increase youth membership. - Keep units healthy and active, because healthy, active units retain existing members and attract new members > Adult leader training, because trained adults help keep units healthy and active > Roundtables, to support adult leaders and help them solve unit problems and enrich unit programs to keep units healthy and active > Commissioner service to monitor the health of units and help them avoid and solve problems > Organize and run district events (camporees, district pinewood derbies, service projects, etc.) to supplement and enrich unit programs > Support advancement to keep Scouts engaged in the unit program - Support for unit recruitment efforts - Develop new chartered organizations to sponsor new units to access untapped youth populations - Recharter existing units - Market Scouting within the local community to support local unit recruitment efforts
  24. dkurtenbach

    BSA's business model

    Even just looking the "business model" for Scouting at the unit level, the prevailing methods for pack and troop operations are expensive: uniforms and handbooks for everyone, summer camps, rental of campgrounds and event areas, awards (pins, badges, loops), modern tents and other personal and unit camping equipment, merit badge clinics, shiny metal pinewood derby tracks with electronic timing devices, etc. It's not that it is deliberate, it is just that they are doing Scouting the way everybody does it. It's what they see in Boys' Life and Scouting magazines and at camporees, and what they talk about at Roundtable. No one really thinks about other, inexpensive options because they aren't exposed to those options. They don't know that you can do great Scouting on the cheap.
  25. dkurtenbach

    Setting the tone with a new CSE

    Oh, I believe that Scouts change the world. Usually not by big dramatic actions (though we did have a bit of a heyday with that space program thing back in the 60s), but little bit by little bit over months and years and decades. If only one percent of Scouts currently in the program take the Scout Oath and Scout Law to heart, that's 20,000 American youth who will grow up opening doors for people carrying packages, and standing at attention when the Star-Spangled Banner is played at ball games, and contributing to flood relief, and doing CPR when a stranger collapses on the street, and voting, and teaching their platoon members how to set up tents on a rainy field exercise in basic training, and dealing honestly with their customers, and serving on the HOA board, and shuffling around the care home greeting everyone and cracking jokes and taking time for the residents who have no family. Sure, maybe they would be inclined to do those things anyway. But one of the great things about Scouting is that it not only gives youth a code, it gives them lots of opportunities to practice.
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