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Unit Awareness of District/Council Activities and Issues

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So....

 

How aware do you think most units are of district and council issues and programs?

 

 

What kinds of participation in district and council decision making do unit leaders have in your area?

 

Are improvements in unit participation important? If so, what means might help improve the situation?

 

If you don;t know what I'm talking about, the level of such participation is probably LOW!

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Hey, Seattle! Well, since I've taken the role of Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner I've seen first-hand how most Scoutmasters aren't aware of district/council activities. Sure, the ones who come to RT each month know what's going on. But we reach only about 20% of active Troops and maybe 30% of Packs. The council website is not as good as it could/should be, so advertising there tends to be mediocre. Also, the associated council/district Facebook pages aren't keep up-to-date.

 

As a consequence, unit turnout at district events is spotty at best. I would say get more unit representation at Roundtables and bolster the social media presence. Get the word out there in the media in which the newer leaders are accustomed. Paper flyers should be stopped, too. Electronic media works best today, I think.

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At the Boy Scout level in my area, I would guess that interest in District or Council issues or programs varies pretty widely. For example, Camporee, Training and Top Team are pretty well attended in my experience. Roundtable is perennially poorly attended, particularly on the Cub Scout side of the house. An effort to start up a Klondike Derby last winter failed spectacularly. Webelos Woods does pretty well although it's up and down - some years it's tough to get the Troops involved. The District Committee has been essentially the same 10 people for 20 years. Lots of "we've always done it that way" types.

 

I think there's a large disconnect between the District and the Units. It is not completely clear how exactly the Units benefit by having a District Staff person. Lots of money flowing from Units to District, not much obvious benefit flowing back.

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Depends on the unit, I guess.

 

Our district used to be a council before decades of mergers ... something to think about.

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Depends. On the Boy Scout side of things, RTs are well attended, only 2 troop to my knowledge that do not attend.

 

Cub Scouts is a different matter. only 2 packs regularly attend, and that is with me emailing, posting on FB etc and announcing that we are going over all the different changes that will begin on June 1st.

 

As for knowing what is going on, Boy Scout side is pretty well informed and get input. CS side not so much. Part of it is the fact that the CS activities chair does not attend any RTs, just hands out info to the DE. No input from any pack leaders, just by fiat. Best example of fiat, moving dates of events. Traditionally one event was in Novemeber, and this year it was moved up 2 months, before every pack had completed their round ups! It was only when 2 leaders mentioned the round up factor that the DE presenting the info realized that and got the event pushed back. But it moved to a weekend that was already booked for another scouting event, and attendance was low.

 

Another event is usually in late February or early March. However she started moving the event earlier and earlier. This year she moved it to the second weekend in January. Despite protestations that is causing a scheduling nightmare for all of the packs when announced in September, she wouldn't change it. It was after packs already redid their pack calendars to accomadate the earlier date and went into Christmas Break, that it was announced they were pushing back a week to the MLK holiday weekend. Several complaints about how families had already planned their 3 day weekend and it should have been announced sooner. District PWD is the biggest event of the year, and this year we only had 70 Cubs participate. It was mentioned that PWD participation has dropped 41% over the past 3 or 4 years since they started moving up the dates.

 

On a slightly different, but relevent tact, has anyone on the cub side of things looked at the new program materials? Because of the format of the program; 2 den meetings, an activity, and pack meeting, and the fact that there is a lot of interconnectivity between the advancement requirements (examples I read were Bears teaching skills to younger Cubs and Webelos planning and leading hikes ) as well as the requirement for a theme related activity. Cub Scout activities on the district level are really going to need to be coordinated.

 

 

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My boys know pretty much what's going on. I pass along all information from RT handouts to forwarded emails. The boys can pick and choose what they want. I also have contacts with other districts and pass along that information as well. And the boys are free to look at other council activities and are currently connected to two other nearby councils for information.

 

Isn't that supposed to be the job of the servant leader SM? Provide the support of the boys? How can they make educated decisions when the SM keeps them in the dark?

 

The reason why a lot of units react with "That's the way we've always done it." is because in many cases they don't know any other alternatives.

 

Stosh

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Isn't that supposed to be the job of the servant leader SM? Provide the support of the boys? How can they make educated decisions when the SM keeps them in the dark?

 

 

Stosh

 

:D

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One thing we try to do (partly because of duties elsewhere, partly to share the load) is rotate who goes to RT, with a couple going on any given evening. The advantage of this is that different ears pick up on different activities (of wheich there are many council-wide), so sometimes one attendee catches something that another one will miss.

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... The council website is not as good as it could/should be, so advertising there tends to be mediocre. Also, the associated council/district Facebook pages aren't keep up-to-date.

 

As a consequence, unit turnout at district events is spotty at best. I would say get more unit representation at Roundtables and bolster the social media presence. Get the word out there in the media in which the newer leaders are accustomed. Paper flyers should be stopped, too. Electronic media works best today, I think.

 

LeCastor nailed it. Around here, the younger leaders among us are accustomed to receiving info via email, website, Facebook, text, or other electronic means. The families that those leaders communicate with are often even younger, using Facebook, Twitter and other mobile apps. The schools around us have gone "paperless" too- no paper flyers sent home with kids. Not even report cards! On the other hand, the most experienced (and often far older) leaders among us run the Roundtable meetings. Those older leaders pass out the flyers, photocopied papers from an old leader book, etc. Obviously the heart is in the right place but the big generational divide is holding things back.

 

The same effort that's required to host a Roundtable should go into better electronic communications. After all, businesses have been moving in this direction for years.

 

As of now it seems many Units that have websites use some form of a Frankensteined free google site, or one that was built in the 1990's. The District sites aren't much better. These send a loud & clear message that "we're out of touch" to the general public or anyone who's interested in joining. Not good.

 

National BSA needs to move forward into the new century. BSA should standardize and offer a unified communications approach embracing the technology that young families and their kids use. This'll be especially important now that the programs are undergoing significant changes. BSA needs to provide electronic communication support (standardized website templates, email templates, Facebook templates to its Councils, Districts and most importantly its Units. Units should be given the option to use a BSA-hosted and branded website with the Unit's "branding" to communicate to their families.

 

As part of that move into the 21st century, rechartering, registering, and submitting Annual Health & Medical Records, various waivers etc should all move online. For now though, that may be a bridge too far.

 

 

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Sometimes it is not being aware, sometimes it is the events/activities are not desired by the units/boys. In our area, between the district and council there are too many activities/events planned at the levels above the troop. Looking at our calendar, every weekend is filled with some event. A troop which uses the patrol method will have many events and activities being planned at the patrol level and some at the troop level. Every so often they may choose to attend a district camporee or something. It isn't being unaware, it is the units operating as individual patrols and troops and choosing with their feet to not attend the district events. I don't think the goal should be "how do we increase participation in district event xxx?", instead it should be "What event(s) do the individial units desire the most?". Then focus on those.

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I haven't been at the unit level for a few years now, but I agree. CS Roundtables were fantastic in my District, being run by older, experienced ladies who were probably Den Mothers when I was a boy. BS Roundtable was nothing but announcements by the DE and passing down popcorn information. We got tired of wasting an evening to hear something that could have been put in an email. I think OA Chapter meetings are even more dismal.

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Well since you asked...

How aware do you think most units are of district and council issues and programs?

Our PLC is very aware of district and council programs and well as programs in surrounding districts and councils. Non-participation in our district and council programs as more to do with several factors.

 

Location: Most council events are based on the opposite side of the council. Some events involve local sports teams or places of interest with no ties with our area. (Most of the Scouts, for example know more about the local sports in another council than ours.)

 

Interest: Too often Scouting events in our district are run with the same old events over and over again. Sure it's exciting when your 11 but by the time you are 13, it's getting old. The other side of the coin are events that "will be good for the Scout" run like a Cub Scout program. Every minute of each day planned out on nauseum. Did anyone think of asking the Scouts if they want to tour the museum and see the painting of a artist? What if you council held a council camping event with no camping? I know the question I'll be asked at PLC. Couldn't we go on a backpacking trip instead?

 

Price: Now I been involved in planning a district event and I know what our expenses where and how much we should have been to each participant. Yet when the "official" guide comes out the price has doubled or tripled. It would seem to me we are nickleing and dimeing troops to death (or into non-participation). Given options, our troop, may go to an event were we get a better "bang for our buck".

 

Other options: In some cases, there are other options outside of Scouting who might be of greater interest to the Scout. In other cases, the Scouts are just plain over booked and have to choose one over the other. A third option is a troop is simply not going to the Council or District event because they are going to better event.

 

Brotherhood of Scouting: Ever go to an event and feel like the troop was the outsider? What if this was on your own council's event? What if another council made the troop feel like it was one of their own? Which event would your PLC choose?

 

What kinds of participation in district and council decision making do unit leaders have in your area?

 

Unit leaders have a voice but too often is ignored. The better question to ask, what kind of participation do Scouts have in district and council in event decision making. (Remember the concept of Boy Lead?)

 

Are improvements in unit participation important?

 

It would seem so because I hear complaints about it often but only complaints and no attempts to get to the root of the problem.

 

If so, what means might help improve the situation?

 

Listen to the Scouts.

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Oldgain1 nailed it. When I was a scout (in a district of about 1/2 dozen units), the district leaders increasingly asked more of my opinion as I got older came back from Jambo, etc... Now with a district of maybe 5 times as many unites, there's this annual ritual where some seasoned scouter (who I respect for the effort he puts in) stands up and asks why there is such low enthusiasm for a camporee, I kinda feel sorry for him when I'm in the room because instead of the hemming and hawing about schedules and such, I ask, "How many SPLs did you ask to help you with advising you before you started planning this thing?"

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Sure is a lot of nailing going on in this thread...:D

 

I do agree that Scouts should be included in the decision-making process. That is part of my strategy for my district's fall camporee. With youth input we should have a killer event!

 

 

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May be this needs to be spun off, so mods if you feel this needs to be done, please do so.

 

How do you get a unit INVOLVED with the district?

 

You know from other threads the situation with one of the troops in my district, specifically the my Cub Scout pack's troop. They do not attend roundtables, do not attend district and council camporees, complain about the "lack of training" in the district, etc. We've tried getting district level folks to talk to them, to no avail. Had UC and acting UC (me, original UC passed away) talk to them, again to no avail. then this weekend happened.

 

 

My council's Scouting for Food started this weekend; we put out the flyers saying leave food out next Saturday. My pack's CM noticed that the area the troop normally does was not flyered, and asked if the troop needed some help. SM responded that the area assigned was to small for the troop, and that since there is "so much politics on the district level" they didn't want to ask for a larger ares. So they completely skipped out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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