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Eamonn

You Are The District.

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Reading some of what has been posted about Councils and Districts has got the little grey cells turning over.

 

I get it that many if not most people join a unit and that unit becomes home.

Where I live most of the Troops have had the same SM for over ten years and many have had the same SM for far longer then that. Some have ASM's who were Boy Scouts in the Troop and have never moved far from home base.

Their first and sometimes only loyalty is to the Troop.

 

I also get that it's sad when the only time someone from the District comes out of the woodwork is when they are pushing FOS or that darn popcorn.

But like it or not you are the District and you are the Council. 

Without you and people like you, there is no District and there is no Council.

 

I spend a lot of my time serving at the District and Council level.

Being that I live in my Scout District, that District was always my first love.

I really wanted the Packs, Troops and Crews to do well.

 

As a member of the District Key 3 I played a big part in setting the goals for the District, these goals had to be agreed by the Council, normally the SE.

The membership goals were fairly straight forward. - Just end the year plus one in every section. (Sounds easy but we sometimes struggled.)

The Finance Goal was sometimes a big bone of contention. In fact it was a fight between the then District Chair and the SE, over the finance goal that led to the Chairman who was and still is a very good friend of mine telling the SE to do something that I'm unable to post here and resigning that landed me the Chairman position. (I'd been very happy as Council Training Chairman.)

There was as a rule other silly goals about attendance at different events and helping the Council meet its goals.

 

My view was and still is that the most important thing in Scouts and Scouting is the program.

I understood that a District Committee can't interfere with a Units program and there just isn't the man power to takeover even a struggling unit even if we were allowed.

The District can support all the units. 

 

While I was very fortunate in having the worlds greatest DE.

A woman who joined the Council when she was in her 40's and her only contact with Scouts and Scouting was that her son was /is an Eagle Scout. She was a single parent and thought that her son's SM walked on water.

Supporting the units and keeping the SE at bay wasn't easy!

 

The SE wanted budgets for each and every District event and hoped that we would make money on then all.

He had a list of FOS goals, Family goals, Community goals, District Goals (Money he thought would come from the members of the District Committee.)

Thanks to some really bad book keeping and Scoutnet all the budgets were wrong.

I firmly believe in volunteers working with volunteers so I waited till a Council Executive Board meeting and I presented all these budgets to the Council Treasurer asking him if he could be so kind as to try and make some sense of them. Meanwhile I wrote budgets that had each event making one dollar.

I met with the SE and explained all these FOS goals were just a waste of time. It was silly to ask District Committee Members to donate at the District level as many if not most would be donating in their units as part of the Family FOS.

I asked him how much money he needed?

I wanted just one goal. He wasn't happy but we came up with a number that I could live with.

My aim was to try and raise as much from the community and lessen the burden on the volunteers. 

 

The area where I live is very youth and Scout friendly.

I owned a couple of local restaurants and was fairly active in the local chambers of commerce, so I knew a lot of people.

The DE went over all the past records of who had donated.

It was funny, a great many of the local businesses were donating but they hadn't increased their donation in a very long time.

I knew that just about every business was being hit by a great many local organizations for donations.

My mail box was full of school teams asking me to buy an ad in their program booklet or the year book. Then there was the big organizations asking to help stamp something or an other.

 

The DE had connections with the local Lions Club our District FOS Chair was in with the Elks and both of these were a great help in getting the ball rolling.

I organized a kick off lunch on St. Patrick's Day (We always used that date.) By the end of the meal we were half way to our goal!  

 

The Council had a not very much fun $250.00 A plate meal of which about half went in the cost of the meal and other junk.

I invited all the businesses that had donated to meal up at camp on parents night.

They got to eat in the Scout dinning hall, take a walk around camp and stay for the campfire.

We went way over the goal.

In fact we were always worried that if we made too much the SE would keep raising it!

 

We wanted to make sure that the community knew and was aware that Scouts and Scouting was alive and well in our area.

Our local papers  were great, they offered me a monthly column. We asked all the units to either contact the local papers or contact our District Committee Publicity Chair. She kept a wonderful scrapbook which she made sure was at the R/T Meetings.

It was great we had photos of Cub Scouts washing fire trucks, with police dogs, Scouts hiking in the snow or camping. 

 

Supporting the units is hard.

Some units will say that they don't need any support but even if that were true! These units can be a great asset at helping others..

 

I'll post more of that later.

Eamonn 

 

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As a very vocal opponent of the districts I'll put this out there in good faith: Assuming a district is doing its job, in a perfect world, what does a district do for my unit? Why should I get involved in my district? What benefits does my unit and/or CO, and/or Scouts, and/or unit adults? I'm seriously interested in what benefit the district should be providing that justifies all this hype around why they exist and why my parents or I should get involved.

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Bad Wolf,

 

In an ideal world, the district helps units out a lot.

 

They provide a commissioner corps that helps units out that are having issues and need help. 

 

Districts provide training opportunities for the leaders so they can provide a better program. Yes some training can be done online, esp. CS specific, but a lot does need to be done in a classroom.

 

Districts provide activities for the units to participate in. Whether it's a Cub Scout Day Camp, or a district camporee, districts do provide the youth, as well as adults, opportunities for fun.

 

Districts provide Round Tables where the latest information can be presented to leaders about events, changes in program, etc.

 

Districts assist in recruitment.

 

Districts have DEs. OK sometimes the DE is an idiot. But a good DE is worth their weight in platinum.

 

There is a lolt that in an ideal world that districts do.

Edited by Eagle94-A1

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@, based on other posts your district sounds like it comes straight out of Dante's 7th Circle of Hell, so I can understand your cynicism.  Our district, while not ideal or perfect, provides us with a lot of great volunteers that provide advancement advice and really help our boys with their Eagle Projects and BORs.  They run a tremendous Klondike (we have people from other councils that are 2 and a half hours away that attend because it is so good).  They provide both leader and scout training as well as RTs, some of which are good and some, meh.

 

We have had really good DEs and we have had DEs that have lasted less than a month, so I don't base my opinion on the DE!  The volunteers in the district are great and a couple of them are still registered to my troop as well and are active at occasional meetings and as MB counselors.

 

On the other hand, I cannot tell you why you or other parents in the troop should volunteer at district, because I really want to work with the boys directly and help them have a great program.  I think that district positions take me away from that and so that's why I don't volunteer.

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Bad Wolf,

 

In an ideal world, the district helps units out a lot.

 

 

Thanks for the reply. My comments below. I am not trying to be incendiary, but rather to truly ascertain why districts exist. 

 

 

They provide a commissioner corps that helps units out that are having issues and need help. 

 

Never seen one...ever. We have them. They are the the website. I only get requests for FOS presentations but I have never seen anyone at ANY of our meetings. With apologies to Jeremy Clarkson, "Some say they visit other units, but I don't know of any units they've visited".

 

 

Districts provide training opportunities for the leaders so they can provide a better program. Yes some training can be done online, esp. CS specific, but a lot does need to be done in a classroom.

 

The only thing I have seen is leader-specific (worthless) and IOLS, but that is usually done by council. They have a feeble youth leader training conducted by the same person for the last 10 years. He puts off more scouts that the word has spread across the boys that the training is worthless. They opt rather for NYLT done by council. 

 

 

Districts provide activities for the units to participate in. Whether it's a Cub Scout Day Camp, or a district camporee, districts do provide the youth, as well as adults, opportunities for fun.

 

Like what? In our district it is camporee. I've already bored you with how that works. There are no other BS level events. So the mantra from the pro-district crowd is, "So volunteer and make it happen". My retort is, "My role is to support my unit, not other units". So still struggling to see the role of district here. If they were providing support to units, those units would be more successful and eliminate the need and expense for a district-wide "fun" event, ne pas? 

 

 

Districts provide Round Tables where the latest information can be presented to leaders about events, changes in program, etc.

 

While I don't get enough sleep, two hours sitting in a chair having someone read me stuff on a print out they could have sent me electronically is hardly cause for celebration. I think RT is an old concept that needs revision. Scouts are supposed to be thrifty but that's not demonstrated by the severe waste of resources and time we experience at RT.

 

 

Districts assist in recruitment.

 

This might work in your district but in mine they do nothing....well, nothing that's effective. Case in point: recruiting minorities. RT published this big deal about the next meeting will give us "viable strategies for recruiting in the minority community". Great! I went with high hopes and low expectations. After two long hours the general take-away was "Get a few minorities to join your group and you will get more minorities". Really? I would have never thought of that! But how do you get THOSE minorities to join you. There's that chicken and the egg thing again BSA does so well; their way of helping is say "bake a cake" but they don't tell you the ingredients you need or how it's done. Waste of time and typically of district recruiting.

 

Meanwhile, my unit focuses on providing services to packs around us (meeting planning, execution, support, den chiefs, fun events, etc.) so that those packs remember us at crossover. We've grown year on year and nearly eliminated drop outs.

 

 

 

Districts have DEs. OK sometimes the DE is an idiot. But a good DE is worth their weight in platinum.

 

 

But what do the DO????? How does the existence of a DE make my unit better? You cannot argue for the existence of districts by citing they have DEs. What does a good DE do to help my unit? Anything different from what you've stated above?

 

 

There is a lolt that in an ideal world that districts do.

 

Sorry, I appreciate the time you took to respond but I just don't see anything here that justifies the existence (or need for my unit to support) the concept of districts. Now, if you are arguing that districts are the welfare agency for units that need help, then I can get behind that. But for healthy, wealthy units I see no need for, nor any benefit to, the existence of districts.

 

If you have other ideas what a perfect world district would do I'd be more than happy to listen. Thanks for the reply. I do appreciate the effort.

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@, based on other posts your district sounds like it comes straight out of Dante's 7th Circle of Hell, so I can understand your cynicism.  Our district, while not ideal or perfect, provides us with a lot of great volunteers that provide advancement advice and really help our boys with their Eagle Projects and BORs.  They run a tremendous Klondike (we have people from other councils that are 2 and a half hours away that attend because it is so good).  They provide both leader and scout training as well as RTs, some of which are good and some, meh.

 

We have had really good DEs and we have had DEs that have lasted less than a month, so I don't base my opinion on the DE!  The volunteers in the district are great and a couple of them are still registered to my troop as well and are active at occasional meetings and as MB counselors.

 

On the other hand, I cannot tell you why you or other parents in the troop should volunteer at district, because I really want to work with the boys directly and help them have a great program.  I think that district positions take me away from that and so that's why I don't volunteer.

 

Appreciate the response. I don't want to repeat the War and Peace response above (apologies) so I will simply say this: If the district was a business, what products and services would they provide? Maybe that will get us further down the road as to what a good district does.

Edited by Bad Wolf

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I'm kinda half way on this.  

 

I attend RT and am a UC of which I faithfully check on them every couple of months.  They run pretty smoothly so it's more of a show and maybe learn something about how they are doing things.

 

My DE does email info on a pretty regular basis so I don't have to keep checking websites, etc.

 

My UC?  I don't think I have one.

 

I take my training on-line and I don't teach anything either.  

 

I could take it or leave it as far as what benefit I get from all this activity.

 

It wouldn't take much to tip me to @ 's point of view

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.

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.

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My view was and still is that the most important thing in Scouts and Scouting is the program.

.

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I'm going to disagree with with this assertion.  In my opinion, the most important thing in Scouting is the Scout.  And that is the reason I can appreciate those who have issues with councils and districts.  Those bodies are generally removed from direct interaction with the scouts and thus I would define as less important.  We keep hearing about recruitment and retention challenges but districts and councils can only impact things so much.  A great pack and dens can survive bad councils/districts, but great councils/districts can't overcome weak dens and packs.

 

Scouting is about the scouts and the most important level is that which interacts the most with them.  Other levels are needed to act as support, but are frankly nothing more than administration.  Granted it could be valuable administration, but often not necessary.

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Bad Wolf,

 

Like I said, in an ideal world.

 

The DE question I can answer from first hand expereince. Some of the things i would do, depending upon the time of year are the following.

 

1) Recruiting.  Not only youth but adults.

             For youth recruitment, I had to coordinate with the local school systems and arrange both the daytime visit and the Round Ups. Then I had to conduct both. Grant you I focused mostly on elementary schools and Cub Scouts, but I also did middle schools and other

 

More later

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My district does the following for me & my unit:

-  District Training Chair is a great trainer.  The training he provides is useful.  If he can't teach it, he'll find someone who can.

-  Round Table is a directed discussion of topics.  Some of the topics I have no clue about and learn; other topics I'm knowledgeable and can help others.  I also enjoy the exchange of ideas with other SMs.

-  District Exec/District Chair/District Commissioner have local contact that help us with recruiting & event planning.

-  District Advancement Chair keeps us up to date on the latest things coming from Council / National.  Some of the things I find on my own thru this & other forums, some are new.

-  District Events help us with recruiting and our District Camporee is fun! 

-  Unit Commissioner - we just met our new one last month.  So far, he's been useful - he's a ASAIC for the local ATF division and talked with the Scouts about duties/responsibilities of a US citizen.

 

The District can be a useful entity.  I am fortunate with the amount of effort the people put into Scouting in our area.  They are welcoming to new people and willing to help.  I help with events when I can.  As the Scout Oath says - to help other people at all times.

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I'm going to disagree with with this assertion.  In my opinion, the most important thing in Scouting is the Scout.  And that is the reason I can appreciate those who have issues with councils and districts.  Those bodies are generally removed from direct interaction with the scouts and thus I would define as less important.  We keep hearing about recruitment and retention challenges but districts and councils can only impact things so much.  A great pack and dens can survive bad councils/districts, but great councils/districts can't overcome weak dens and packs.

 

Scouting is about the scouts and the most important level is that which interacts the most with them.  Other levels are needed to act as support, but are frankly nothing more than administration.  Granted it could be valuable administration, but often not necessary.

Not to speak for @@Eamonn, but I assumed he was talking about the program that is put on for the Scout.  Again, we have good volunteers in our district who put on some great programs, but I guess we could find the training online or another Klondike or Camporee to do and live without the district.  But it does seem that in our district there is more of an emphasis from the people that I deal with that they care about what the boys are getting out of the program.  Again, are they vitally important and could we survive without them?  I am sure we would be fine without them, but at least in my area they don't get in my way and are very helpful with what we do for the boys.

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In my usual moderate way, I think the district (and council) do have some value. Our troop attends about two-thirds of the district events (camporees, Klondikes, first aid competitions) and someone from our troop is usually at Roundtable (I can rarely attend myself because of other activities) and they seem to come back with some valuable information. We do not have a UC but there are commissioners interacting with the unit at recharter time to at least make that process go a little more smoothly.

 

On the other hand, other than what I mentioned above, our troop seems to have as little contact with the district as possible. Why? I think it is because every other kind of interaction with the district/council seems to involve money. Money money money. Either they are asking for money directly (FOS) or they want us to do things that make money for them, but that we can do in other ways with greater benefit (or less cost) to the Scouts and their families. I am referring mainly to selling popcorn and going to summer camp at our council's camp. We don't sell popcorn because we can raise more money with other kinds of fundraising, and part of the reason is the council does not get a cut. We attend out-of-council summer camps because that is where our Scouts decide they want to go, and we do not try to dissuade them because, at least as we perceive it, they are getting a better program for less money than they would at the council camp.

 

I myself have considered getting involved at the district level, but I don't because I perceive it as being too "political." It sometimes seems like a little private club, and while they'll let you in if they believe you can do something to help, there's too much ego and too much focus on hierarchy and power. They also don't seem to treat the volunteers very well at the district level; the phrase "no good deed goes unpunished" comes to mind. Now granted, this is the perception of one person in one district based in part on observations of what other people are doing and saying at events, and based in part on what I hear from other people. But without jumping in and testing the waters myself, that is what I have to go on. I would rather just spend my time directly supporting Scouts in one troop.

Edited by NJCubScouter

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Things I get from the district that are no small feat ...

  • someplace once a month for scouters of all sorts to get together,
  • a list of counselors for every MB (not just the ones my troop has experts in),
  • someplace to send each pack's best PWD car
  • day camp
  • an advancement chair for every Eagle BoR
  • a means for my crew to invite every scout in our community to help them place flags on veterans' graves in the city's not-for-profit cemetary
  • camporees
  • fliers printed on council's ink
  • council calendars
  • a place for good men to serve when their time in a unit has run its course
  • my boys get to know that the SM and I aren't the only adults that expects them to suck it up and carry their weight.

Yes, sometimes my people get guff from high-handed UC's. (Ron, if you're reading, love you man. But, we're not about to be bothered by the burrs up other folks' butts.) And they have to put up with me yanking the chain back. Small cost of doing business, I figure.

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@@qwazse, I wonder what a valuation of the district's products and services would look like if we tracked the item, it's costs versus it's value.

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*sigh*

 

"The work is done by whoever shows up"

 

A Scout District is a way for like minded folks (Scouters) to organize for the greater good.  Like a Labor Union.  If the worker sees "the Union " as the office over there, and not as himself and his buddies, then "the Union" is not doing it's job.

The Scout (BSA) vision of the District, like many things in Scouting, is often not fulfilled.  It is up to the members (Scouters) to make it work. 

Roundtable?  It can be a reading of somnolent  memoes, or a gathering of friends who come to discuss with a podiatrist  about shoes and socks and blister prevention.  It can be a reason to get out of the house, or a reason to learn about new camping venues and techniques.

Camporee?  It can be a place to meet other Scouts from waaaay over there, or just another place to park the Troop trailer and veg around a charcoal grill.  That is the difference between a Camporee themed after the Civil War or one themed about the Survivor TV show and one that just says "come and camp HERE." Your Troop can always do the latter.  The idea is that a larger camp CAN offer more stuff to do  ( climbing wall? Corps of Engineers?  Pioneering  in the extreme?)  Takes planning and cooperation and phone calls (if not emails and tweets).

Council?  In BSA parlance, that is the franchise holder, them and the CO.   They have money responsibility, own camps, charter COs,  licenses CSDCs, etc.  

Done well and correctly, everybody has a role, everybody supports THE SCOUT in his (her?) journey with the Scout Promise and Law. 

Now, I gotta go cut the grass at my Yearly Meeting Office.   See y'all later.

Edited by SSScout

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