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MrsSmith

What is the Unit Commissioner's job?

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Mrs. Smith,

 

I have experience with the job that your question addresses. When I first started in to Scouting as an adult, I was signed up as a Unit Commissioner, UC. I did not have training and was given little supervision. I was told that I had three units to cover. Later, I was given a check-off list to complete (*after) I made a visit to each unit. I was to return to the District Commissioner, DC, and share the results of my efforts. I would seek counsel from the DC and then I would return to the unit to attempt corrective action (i.e., passive corrective action).

 

There are key issues that have been found over the years that must be addressed to keep a unit healthy. The check-off list generally covers these issues. The problem with the list is that it is formulaic in character and does not take into consideration other elements that arise because of specific situations, which is almost always the case.

 

The next problem comes with using new people in the program to be UC's. Lack of experience most always is seen as an insult to a person that has been running a unit for any length of time. It is viewed as paternal in nature and shows a lack of trust and respect. Given that type of experience, it keeps the UC from being effective.

 

I am not going to review the specific duties of the job at this time. Maybe others would like that honor. I really believe that they have only one duty but then that is my personal perspective.

 

I would like to address your other question about the reason a person would like to do the job.

 

I want to return to my topic paragraph to make my point. It is contrary to everything that a UC wants to accomplish when the UC lacks experience. It is my contention that only Scouters with experience should undertake this job. These individuals know and understand how Scouting works. These individuals command respect from those they come into contact with and they are able to make a quicker connection and their opinion may be sought out instead of derided.

 

The experienced Scouter as a UC can view problems without need to correct unit problems in a haphazard way. The UC with experience has insight that others lack and their ability to know that growth takes time is not wasted with being frustrated.

 

A UC that is respected for their knowledge, experience and friendliness will make any visit an enjoyable time and one that is eagerly anticipated. This type of individual is known for what they can bring to a visit rather than what they take away. Now, to briefly return to that one duty that I believe that this type of UC fulfils is one of friendship and that is the same reason one would want to do the job of UC.

 

FB

 

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I agree with the Bear. I've known UCs who were "commissioned" before they had any real unit service experience. They all struggled by their own admission. Ideally, a UC is an experienced Scouter who can share, if asked, their wealth of knowledge to the unit they serve.

 

I know it is not PC to state, but a UC is a "spy" for the district. The UC reports to the district certain metrics about a unit. They do this not to be critical but to make sure a unit thrives. They are first and foremost a friend of the unit they serve. Hopefully, their vast experience can be tapped by the unit to help them with suggestions, conflict resolution, and much more.

 

Why become a UC? To help the BSA become the premier youth organization in the world. The same reason to serve in the BSA in any other volunteer position.(This message has been edited by acco40)

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I've been involved in commissioner service in my district for many years.

 

I believe my first duty -- the bottom line -- as a commissioner is to make sure that my units recharter on time, at strength, and as quality units. That's the bottom line.

 

The way I make sure that goal is accomplished is to visit the units regularly during the year, give them good advice toward achieving those aims, help put out or avoid fires, and to keep them informed of priorities and resources available from the district, council, and national organizations of the BSA.

 

It isn't simple to do, but it is rewarding.

 

I don't consider myself a spy for the district. I go to the resources "above" me if I feel I need help in assisting the unit, or if the unit has problems I don't understand. But, in the end, I'm on the side of the kid who signed up for a program.

 

No mystery. No hurrah. Just the reward of seeing a kid smile and learn from the BSA.

 

Unc.

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Mrs. Smith,

 

As for my commissioning background, I have served as a Unit Commissioner, Assistant District Commissioner, A Scout Roundtable Commissioner, and a District Commissioner.

 

The charge given by the BSA to commissioners is to insure that every eligible youth has the opportunity to participate in a quality, scouting, program.

 

Because of responsibility, commissioners are involved in nearly every aspect of district administration and activities in support of unit scouting.

 

The most important characteristics for a successful unit commissioner is that they be cheerful, and good communicators.

 

Experience is unnecessary as they are there to represent what the scouting program is, and not how they did it when they were unit leaders. Their main job at the unit level is to be available to the units they are assigned to...

Communicate district, council, and national, information.

Encourage and recognize good scouting practices in a unit.

Evaluate, coach and council appropriate adult members in a unit as needed to help better deliver the promise of scouting to youth.

Know and share the official resources of the BSA to help answer questions at all levels of the program.

Inform, and when needed enforce, the policies of the BSA.

 

Good Unit commissioning takes less time than most activities in scouting and can be a great asset to units, districts and councils. However over the years it has gained a bad reputation mainly because it has been used incorrectly.

 

Too often unit commissioning is used as a bullpen for scouters who are burned out or were not the right fit for any other position, or they were retired unit leaders who too often told units how they did things rather than how the BSA program works. Cheerful communicators are hard to find, so Districts who try to follow the program are often short handed when it comes to commissioners.

Units seldom appreciate seeing someone from outside unit scouting see the unit in action, regardless of their motivation for being there.

 

So you have an important and relatively easy position if filled by the right person, that is often misused, unappreciated and difficult to find the right person to do.

 

But if you feel you process these qualities, it is worth doing for the sake of the kids.

 

Bob White

 

Bob White(This message has been edited by Bob White)

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Thank you all for the information. I tried to research this issue on my own. I am reading thread through "Let's play Unit Commissioner", but it wasn't quite what I needed to know.

 

"Too often unit commissioning is used as a bullpen for scouters who were not the right fit for any other position". Does that include volunteers you want to get out of the way or subtly render ineffectual? In other words, does this usually end up being just a title without any influence? Also, can one be a UC and committee member, too? Finally, with whom does the UC directly interface at the unit level, the COR, CC, or the SM or none of the above.

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There is a lot of good information about what the job of a unit commissioner is on the national site.

I became involved in commissioner service because I was unable to make the commitment to be at a weekly meeting. That was my reason, but if you were to ask ten other people you would more then lightly get ten other reasons.

I don't like the idea that they are "Spies." Sure they do report back to the District Commissioner, who reports to the key3 and the District Committee.

While I was District Commissioner we used a color grading for units:

Green = Everything is fine and dandy

Yellow = Unit is getting better or getting worse and may need help

Red = Danger. Unit is in deep trouble. May have lost a Leader or meeting place. If someone doesn't do something quickly the unit is in danger of closing.

As with so many things in this great organization, when we select the right people to do a job everything works well. Sad to say very few people join the BSA with the idea of becoming a Commissioner. At times the Commissioner service team has been made up of people that no one knew what to do with! I remember only too well a District Chairman telling me when I was District Commissioner that he didn't want a real pain in the neck leader who had been ousted from a unit, on the District Committee, but because the guy donated to the FOS he didn't want to lose him. So he wanted me to take him. Needless to say it didn't happen.

It is important that all Commissioners are aware that they are a friend to the unit and that they are trained. I don't know if it is only in our Council? But Commissioner training doesn't fall under the realm of the training committee.

I have seen in other Districts in our Council where they have allowed Committee Members to be Unit Commissioner. It just doesn't work. If the committee is having a problem which hat does this person wear?

Very often the Commissioner Staff are asked to do stuff that is not really their job. While the occasional little extra might not be too bad. I have heard of Commissioners running every district event, becoming the FOS family campaign presenters. The list goes on. In the end they are so busy doing other stuff there is no tine for them to do commissioner service.

During my time as District Commissioner I informed our units that the Commissioners were warm and cuddly and I informed our Commissioners that they were the advocate for their units. This isn't exactly right. But at the time it worked.

Eamonn

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I was made aware last night that my name has been given to the DC to contact me about becoming a UC. My answer will be no. I was involved for 2 years in Cubs. One of those as the Committee Chairman. I've been involved in Boy Scouts since February of this year as an ASM. I love scouting. I've been to every training available for my position as well as other positions. I've been to Wood Badge and am one ticket away from my beads. I've been selected as an ASM for our Jamboree Contingent. I got into scouting with my son. The unit is where I want to be until he leaves and/or ages out. That is why I don't want to be a UC right now. However, the main reason I don't want to be a UC is because I don't yet have the experience. Maybe a few years down the road. Being a dedicated, but warm body is no reason to take on the job or to have the offer extended.

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Hey Little Bro,

Your reasons for not doing stuff are up to you. But speaking as a big Brother, you need to read the wise words of Bob White.

So many Commissioners mess up due to the fact that they pass on what they have been doing for the last coon's age. Only bad thing was all that time they have been doing it wrong.

Eamonn

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E,

 

Hmmmmmmm......I'll give it some thought. One of my other concerns is the wearing of too many hats. Our SM is also the District Training Chair, is a UC and serving on the next WB staff. Our other ASM helps with training, is a UC, is serving on the next WB and is an ASM for the Jambo contingent. Our CC helps with training and is a UC. All three are also heavily involved in POW WOW each year. Two of our other Committee members are UC's. We are a brand new troop of only two months with ten 11 year old boys. Someone has to hold down the fort while the rest of our leadership is fulfilling the district and council responsibilities they held before this troop came about. You should have been around when we set down with the calendar and tried to figure out which weekends we could camp thru the end of the year.

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Beaver old Pal,

I hope that Mr. White doesn't see that your SM is also serving as a Commissioner.

As you know I am not in favor of people wearing too many hats.

It sounds as if the unit in which you serve is up to it's neck in District stuff.

Maybe you being a stay at "Home" Scouter is the best thing that you can do for the unit.

While it is none of my business IMOHO I think that the leaders in the troop need to think about passing the torch. Pow Wows are for Cub Scouters and the best way for them to learn is stick them in a training situation and Pow Wow is a great place to start. They can't do that if there is a bunch of Boy Scouters blocking the way.

Eamonn.

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Second what Eammonn says. Being the SM for a brand new troop of 11 year olds is a full time job. Been there. This is the most important job in Scouting, IMHO, and if the SM has all these other hats to wear, maybe you need a new SM. Smells suspiciously like someone needed to form a new unit desperately.

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E,

 

I know my Pow Wow comment would raise an eyebrow and I knew I should have explained it more fully. Our Council does a Pow Wow Plus. It is training for Cubs, Boy Scouts, Venturing and Sea Scouts. It is a big deal here and well attended. Aside from the standard training classes that are offered, their are classes for friction fire building, dutch oven cooking, scrapbooking, knots, uniforming, etc. There are 67 classes in all. There is even a 7 hour Den Chief training class which is the only class open to boys. Our SM being the District Trainer (as well as all other District Trainers) is heavily involved in the Pow Wow Plus as the Vice Chair of Program. Here is the website if you want to take a look at what all it offers.

 

http://www.lastfrontiercouncil.org/powwowplus/

 

Without getting into the gory details, our sons crossed over in February to an existing troop. It became clear within a month that it was a cliquish group that really didn't want new blood from boys or adults and that we were not welcome. Since we all knew each other from Cubs and worked well together, we decided to form a new troop and run it by the book. The majority of our leadership had been involved at the district level for some time. Our SM took the role reluctantly because of his other responsibilities and I remember him saying that he would do it with the hopes that we can recruit someone else in the future. It is something I've been giving consideration to discussing with him. I just have not made myself comfortable with the idea yet. If I do, I will limit myself to the unit the majority of the time.

 

BTW, we started the troop in June with 8 boys. School started last week and we took a page from the Cub playbook and set up a table next to the Cub recruiting table at open houses at 3 elementary schools. We signed 4 new 6th graders up. That is a 50% increase overnight! There are 2 more possible recruits. We hope to recruit 6 to 8 boys per year and be at a good 32 boys in a few years with a decent age spread.

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scoutldr,

 

No, we approached the DE about starting a new troop. Obvioiusly, he was thrilled with the idea. But there was no suggestion or pressure from council or district to get a new unit going. We could have all transferred to another troop or split up and joined various troops. We are a group of dedicated scouters and we wanted to build a new troop ourselves and our boys liked the idea as well.

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