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Everything posted by dkurtenbach

  1. Youth join Venturing to do something fun, personally challenging, and different from the usual activities available to teenagers. Our district had a crew that focused on shooting (with training and a shooting event on the same weekend each month) and a high adventure activity each summer. The crew grew -- until the shooting events became inconsistent and then occasional. And the crew died a slow death. Even though a Venturing crew (1) should be at a higher level of youth-run than a troop, and (2) isn't burdened by a core program dictated by BSA National, it still needs a self-determined lo
  2. I don't think there would be any option but to select program elements that are considered universal (things every unit at that program level -- Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing, Sea Scouts -- should be doing regardless of geographic location, unit size, girls/boys, etc.) and can be objectively measured (are they doing it yes/no; how many; how long) so that the criteria are not subject to interpretation or judgment calls. Then sort that list into levels, as @DuctTape described, from basic to advanced. Then select a finite number of those elements as the ones that will be used as indicators
  3. You're right, but I see those as separate program elements, each with its own performance criteria: How many nights does the troop together do short-term camping? Does each patrol (other than a New Scout patrol) go on independent overnight camping trips without the rest of the troop? How many nights? Do the adult leaders and senior youth leaders train other youth leaders on how to plan and execute camping trips and other outings? Are trained youth leaders actually in charge of planning and executing camping trips and other outings? If not broken down into separate
  4. But now that I think about it some more, there is one simple alternative that could do the job without either a top-down district review of a unit program or intensive training for unit leaders: Put all of the performance standards into advancement requirements. It is the one collection of guidance that everyone in the unit pays attention to. The requirements would be re-written not to make them more difficult for Scouts, but to make the unit work harder to provide the opportunities for advancement. For example: "From your Patrol Scribe, obtain a copy of the Patrol Calendar showing th
  5. We absolutely need more effective training and coaching that is proactive in going out to units and is easily accessible to units who have questions and needs. And we need fewer and simpler publications and materials so that it is a lot easier for unit Scouters to find the information they need. Sadly, that is exactly the system we have right now. Unit commissioners are supposed to work with unit leadership to prepare (and write up) a thorough unit assessment in Commissioner Tools, and then provide training and support to help the unit improve. But there are no consequences for a u
  6. A core problem we have that contributes to wide variations in unit quality is a lack of official performance standards for units: a single, accepted set of objective measurements covering every major aspect of unit program and operations. When unit quality is simply a matter of personal opinion, it is hard to convince anyone that something needs to be done. On the other hand, if you can point to a set of requirements that tells you whether a unit passes or fails and why, then the unit and commissioners and coaches can quickly zero in on problem areas and identify what assistance is needed.
  7. Another aspect of Scouting that fits with this appeal to the epic and heroic is the idea of the uniform of service. No, not food service. Not the uniform of sports or the uniform of parade and ceremony. Rather, a working uniform like the ones that we see on our servant-heroes -- firefighters, police, military, EMTs. The kind of uniform that you have to earn by facing and overcoming challenges. The kind that says, I know how to help you, I know how to do things that ordinary people can't do, you can count on me.
  8. They can, but they don't. There's nothing in the Annual Unit Charter Agreement that limits the chartered organization's obligations to following safety policies, and nothing that excludes performance issues. Granted, many (if not all) councils would consider it unthinkable to exercise the power to shut down a unit for something as trivial as poor performance. Which is why poorly-performing units persist as obstacles to membership recruitment and retention.
  9. In the Annual Unit Charter Agreement, chartered organizations agree to (among other things): "Conduct the Scouting program consistent with BSA rules, regulations, and policies." If a chartered organization is not living up to its end of the bargain, the council can decide not to recharter the unit. So yes, the council can shut a unit down and make arrangements for its members to transfer to another unit.
  10. My point is that camping, etc. are just different kinds of fun activities. If your appeal is to a youth's interest in having fun by offering them fun activity type (C), you are directly competing with the fun offered by other organizations doing activity types (A), (B), (D), (E), (F), and so on. That's fine -- youth have lots of different likes when it comes to fun activities. I'm suggesting that to really set Scouting apart, offering just another type of fun activity isn't enough. You have to go beyond the youth's interest in doing something fun. You have to appeal to some other interest
  11. If all you are offering are fun activities (camping, making s'mores, high adventure trips), then you are competing with every other fun activity available to boys in your town. (It looks like you don't have a girls troop.) You have to have a different kind of appeal. I'm not talking about "character" -- no one ever joined Scouts to have their character developed. What do 10-, 11-, and 12-year old boys have in abundance? Imagination. What kinds of games do they play? Games where they can be heroes. Show them that as Scouts, they can become local heroes almost immediately through the con
  12. So very true. Somewhere along the way, someone decided that unit commissioners would be "friends" of the units and could only try to persuade with words, not arm-twisting, and would be "doctors" of the units but could only diagnose, not treat. But you can't have all units meet at least a minimum quality standard without the power to fix things in units, and if necessary, shut them down or merge them. Perhaps this initiative will take the pressure off district officials to keep units on the rolls regardless of their condition. There used to be a commissioner publication, Commissioner
  13. The "most notable changes" from the web page: District functions will be narrowed and re-focused on building strong units through two things only: coaching, and recruitment/membership support. All other current district committee members will be invited to be part of a centralized council committee - activities, advancement, camping, communications, FOS, OA, popcorn, roundtables, or training. All 16 district boundaries will shift to create 13 new Scouting districts that coincide with school districts. That first point really gets to the heart of what is (in my opinion) th
  14. This is all about the troop's obligation to have a complete, well-rounded Scouting program. We used to have a catch phrase -- "Delivering the Promise" -- that is, making sure that Scout leaders actually provide the type of program that BSA committed to provide to youth. All of the Handbooks talk in one way or another about what a youth can expect from Scouting, but I think the Eleventh Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook (1998), page 1, said it in a concise and straightforward way (bold emphasis in original): WELCOME TO THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA SCOUTING promises you the great outdoo
  15. I suggest the following topics: Showing Your Community That They Need Scouts What Every New Scouts BSA Member Has A Right To Expect From The Troop What To Do If Your Unit Is Failing
  16. Sometimes, sure. But not for things like these, unless the district keeps a pretty detailed Subject Matter Expert directory. Besides, "self-reliance" is one of the three virtues specifically identified in the BSA Congressional Charter.
  17. Of all the causes for under-performing units, motivated leaders having difficulty obtaining necessary program skills should never be one of those causes. I don't think it is a failure of training courses or training frameworks; BSA position training courses (at least over the last few decades) have always been in the nature of an introduction and overview. The "Trained" patch means "I sat through a training course," not "I have the knowledge and skills I need for the job." Rather, a lot of program skills were and are acquired from veteran Scouters in the unit and at supplemental traini
  18. District- and council-level bureaucrats are entirely dependent on units, unit Scouters, unit parents, and unit Scouts. Units do the recruiting. Scouts join units. Unit programs make retention possible. Unit Scouters and parents provide FOS money. Unit Scouters take training. Unit Scouters and parents recharter existing units, keeping them alive, and form new units. Units go camping and provide advancement and carry out service projects. In short, nearly every measure of performance for districts and councils and the district and council volunteers and professionals comes from units. T
  19. The formula for volunteer engagement has not changed. When followed, it is as powerful as ever, as we can see in strong units with lots of active volunteers. Adults spend their time and energy and resources on things that they value. What do they value? Activities that are fun for their kids, especially if the activities have some greater value. Activities that are fun for the particular adult, especially if the activities have some greater value that is understandable to whoever that adult reports to (spouse, significant other, boss, children). Activities that are not rea
  20. The most likely scenario is perhaps the scariest: A big financial settlement of sexual abuse claims (perhaps including some property sales), some slimming down of corporate BSA operations to reduce costs, and more bad publicity; but otherwise BSA remains intact with the same top-down organizational structure, and there are no changes that affect the program. BSA doesn't collapse, there are no dramatic shake-ups, and no heroes swoop in to save us. At the local level, we will still face the same problems and weaknesses we have now, and are no closer to fixing them. That is what we should rea
  21. @MattR can expand on what he's thinking. I'd suggest putting heads together with the district training chair, district commissioner, and unit commissioners. Commissioner publications have some great material on unit difficulties and how to approach them. Then a survey of unit leaders about specific issues and problems they would like more information and suggestions on. And a review of topics discussed in forums likes this. From that collection of information, work with the training chair and commissioner corps on a series of, say, ten 20-minute sessions on "hard discussions for unit Scou
  22. Lots of great stuff in this post by @MattR. I picked this one because supplemental training, Roundtable sessions, campfire discussions, district newsletter articles, parking lot conversations, etc. are things that we can do right now without altering official training syllabi or training schedules or making program changes. All we have to do is just take the initiative and start talking to other Scouters about typical problems with leader training and program quality, and how to solve them. Scouts change the world.
  23. Concur. The image of Scouts themselves may be the only thing untarnished by the issues and controversies of the last several years. That is why the message we put out to the world should not mention the Boy Scouts of America or the institution of "Scouting." Scouts, Scouts, Scouts . . . young men and young women . . . future leaders, future heroes. Scouts change the world.
  24. And that's the catch, isn't it? Program changes only come from National, and given their track record, any changes are likely to be poorly conceived, poorly received, and poorly implemented. Our best hope for moving forward may be if National puts a moratorium on any program changes for the next ten years or so. In any case, they may be too busy with survival to worry about something like youth program. So let me offer some optimistic thoughts. I agree that the decline of "everybody knows everybody" residential communities has hurt Scouting by breaking the connection between Sco
  25. @DuctTape made another important point: youth need to be able to imagine themselves as heroes because of what they will learn in Scouts.
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