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Eamonn

You Are The District.

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For a well-run troop of 30 boys, or a well-run pack of 50, the district is of no value.  However, to those smaller units, struggling to get started or to stem decline, districts are invaluable.  They (provided the district is run sustainably) provide activities/camporees, veteran leadership, "been there" contacts, recruiting resources/access, etc.  None of this is needed if you can get everything you need from within your own unit.  But not everyone has that luxury.

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For a well-run troop of 30 boys, or a well-run pack of 50, the district is of no value.  However, to those smaller units, struggling to get started or to stem decline, districts are invaluable.  They (provided the district is run sustainably) provide activities/camporees, veteran leadership, "been there" contacts, recruiting resources/access, etc.  None of this is needed if you can get everything you need from within your own unit.  But not everyone has that luxury.

 

I am okay with this. It was my suspicion as well. I was just curious if better run districts actually have value for every unit beyond the EBOR rep.

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For a well-run troop of 30 boys, or a well-run pack of 50, the district is of no value.  However, to those smaller units, struggling to get started or to stem decline, districts are invaluable.  They (provided the district is run sustainably) provide activities/camporees, veteran leadership, "been there" contacts, recruiting resources/access, etc.  None of this is needed if you can get everything you need from within your own unit.  But not everyone has that luxury.

 

I don't disagree but I find it interesting you say districts are a value to start up units.  My frame of reference is mostly at the cub level so I can't speak as well for troops, but I've seen a number of pleas on here from small and/or new packs claiming no support from the district.  In such cases I always wonder "why is it an issue?"  I think for small/new packs you can get a great foundation built if you just focus on the scout books and rank activities.  Perhaps I'm wrong?

 

I also think many local unit leaders struggle because they look around and expect someone to tell them what to do and wait for someone else to take charge and responsibility.  That's probably natural, but the reality is those local leaders just need to take the initiative and realize they are the ones to lead themselves.  I'd venture many complaints with the district come from local leaders seeing the district as a crutch and then they have issues when that crutch isn't there.  Many problems would be avoided if the locals realized a crutch isn't needed.

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Picky picky ...

 

@@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.

Sorry for those of you with red-blue colorblindness. Didn't feel like changing fonts.

 

Not everything that a district does will be of value to every unit. A district shouldn't do anything that is of no value to any unit. But, it sounds like that happens a lot outside of (the great) Seneca district. For that, I feel sorry for you all.

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After two years of struggling on my own, gathering adults and boys and getting the unit off the ground, we still haven't had contact with our DE.  We picked up our rechartering packet from the council office.  We don't recharter at the same time as all the rest.  We have yet to have a third party UC assigned to us.  I am a UC and my ASM is the DC, so we have it covered, but had we not been commissioner overloaded by chance, I don't know what the district would have done.  

I did have a conversation with the SE and he said he would initially charter us with less than 5 boys so we wouldn't have to wait a second year to get on the books.  Fortunately we were able to pull together 7 for chartering.

 

If I wasn't an experienced unit builder, I would have had a real struggle with this whole thing. 

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IMHO, the title of this article is dead on right.  "You are the district."   Bad attitude about the district pretty much sets your fate for a long time.  Willing to be flexible and give it a chance, things improve.  Willing to contribute and help the district, the district drastically improves.

 

In my district, the training is so so, but we have lots of opportunities and places to go.  The round tables are hit and miss.  The unit commissioners are like fairy tale unicorns; they don't exist.  But the activities are regular if not monthly.  Pinewood derby.  Scouting for food.  Cub Annapolis.  Fall camporee.  OA coordination and conclaves.  Winter activities.  Units with not much going on can leverage the district fairly well to add program elements.  

 

Districts are like all things in life ... you get out what you put into it.  

 

I'm sure there are bad districts, but my experience is things only improve when you get involved and give it a chance.

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I'll take the counterpoint--"you" are not the district in many places in the BSA.   When "you" show up, either new to scouting or experienced but new to the area, "THEY" will let you know in a very clear manner that THEY are the district...and you are not.

 

Your prior experience, willingness to serve, real-world professional life, charm, etc., doesn't matter one bit...if THEY don't want you, adios.

 

Or they'll "allow you the privilege" of serving in a set capacity...and then make you so doggone miserable with their micromanagement and passive aggressive antagonism that you'll say "screw this" and not volunteer again.

 

If your district is working, or even half working, please understand that that is not necessarily true all around the BSA.  

 

I'm a district staffer.  We have a very small staff, and are often double/triple hatted.  Whole committees unmanned, save the multi-hatted chair.   But, every man and woman that is on the staff welcomes unit input and respects what our troops, packs and crews are doing.   Our last I'M THE DISTRICT type retired last year and it's been blue skies and clear sailing since.   Sure there are a lot of "improvement opportunities" to get the district up to BSA "expectations" but we have a visible energetic DE, District Chair and Commissioner both solid, humble, outdoor-oriented, pro-unit, hardworking scouters.  

 

I count my lucky stars.   But that isn't true everywhere I've been.   In those places, the district could fold and everyone would be better off.   

Edited by desertrat77

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If your district is poor, there is no one to blame but yourself, and all of the other people in the units with the same negative attitude that you have.

 

Camporees suck the wind from your sails?  What are YOU doing to help them improve? Nothing?  Then stop whining.

 

Never seeing a Unit Commissioner?  When was the last time YOU helped recruit a Unit Commissioner from your unit (of course you're not seeing any unit commissioners, no one in your district is willing to step up to help anyone other than their own unit).  Never?  Then stop whining.

 

District is an "old-boys club"?  Then what are YOU doing to change that?  Nothing?  Then stop whining.

 

Roundtables are boring?  Then what are YOU doing to help make them more informative?  Nothing?  Then stop whining.

 

Don't know what your DE does?  When was the last time YOU sat down and chatted with him/her?  Never?  Then stop whining.

 

All these folks on here talking about all the great things there district does have something in common - they are in districts where the people aren't whining about how bad or how valueless the district is.  They're in districts where people are volunteering at the district level to make a difference, not to just park it somewhere.  They're in districts where the units are involved and don't have an attitude of being lone cowboys in the middle of the desert.

 

Want to make camporees better?  Get involved!  Want to make roundtables more informative?  Volunteer to teach some skills, or lead a discussion, and encourage others to do the same.  Want to end the "old boys club"?  Get involved with like-minded people and force the change.  Want better training? Then get trained as a trainer and do it better.  Sitting on the sideline whining and moaning about how bad the district is like complaining about the policies of the President if you didn't bother to vote.  Whine all you want, no one will take you seriously.

 

If it's as bad as you claim it is, then it's not going to happen overnight - do what you can.  Maybe you start by helping out at Roundtable (or are we really just expecting one person to hand us everything on a platter at roundtable?), and recruiting more people to come.  Maybe you start out becoming a trainer and leading training sessions.  Eammon is absolutely correct with his title - YOU are the District.

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I kinda thought that it went without saying that we all do what we do for the youth in the area where or near where we live.

Sometimes this youth is not as yet a member so we serve him or her by offering  something that will attract him or her into our ranks.

 

While the adults in a unit are the people who make the rubber hit the road.

From a District point of view helping recruit new members both youth and adult  is important.

Starting new units that will serve the local youth is sometimes a bit of a pain in the neck and requires a lot of hard work which sadly often sees the new unit fail within a couple of years.

It is far better and far easier to work on retention.

Kids vote with their feet, if they are not happy they will walk away and any good that might have been possible goes out the window.

 

The District Activities and Camping Committee helps organize events that hopefully will interest the youth members and be fun.

They can help supplement what the unit is offering.

I will admit that as District Chair. I tried to push the idea that the District was doing too much and this was getting in the way of what the units were or should be doing.

At that time the District was holding a Spring Camporee, a Fall Camporee, a winter camporee a Klondike Derby, a District First Aid Competition and a District Pinewood Derby.

My thinking was that with all these District events along with what the OA was doing we were not giving Troops enough time to offer a Troop program.

I didn't manage to get my way. The argument against my plan was that we had a good number of Troops who if it wasn't for District events wouldn't have any outdoor activities.

The District Activities and Camping Committee also promoted Summer Camp and in our District worked with the OA in helping with the OA Elections.

They also worked with Troops who needed camping equipment and with new leaders who maybe needed help, sometimes having them camp a few times with one or two of the better Troops in the area.

The Membership Committee tracks membership throughout the year, which as a rule is no big deal as it is really hard to remove a name from a charter once it is on.

In our area very few Troops do any real recruiting, they tend to rely on  Cub Scouts moving up / crossing over. Tracking these little guys, trying to talk Troops into holding an open house of kinds is sometimes hard.

School Sign-Up Night is the big event in our area.

When it works well, it's great but when for whatever reason something happens that gets in the way coming up with a Plan B is a real pain.

This committee really does work hard.

The Advancement Committee tracks all the advancement in the District. If it becomes clear that a Troop has little or no advancement  this can act as a red flag.

They work on ensuring that Scouts receive their ESBOR in a correct and timely manner with all the paperwork done as it should be. The Dean of Merit Badges works on the list of approved Merit Badge Counselors and makes it available.

The finance committee helps put out the word about popcorn sales and other Council sales, but they can also help units with budgets and financial management.

The Training Committee is responsible to ensure that every leader receives the training that is needed. They work on organizing training events and if need be one on one.

 

The eyes and ears of the District are the Unit Commissioners.

Not only do they work on the rechartering, but the right person serving the right unit really can be a true friend of the unit. They also help keep units informed of what's going on and organize the monthly Round Table meetings.

This list doesn't get into all the people who might get asked to help, be it with a training event or camporee.

 

I totally get that maybe you and your unit don't need the District.

But having served over ten years as a District Key 3 member, the District and the kids in the area where you live are a lot better off when you offer to lend a hand and get involved.

Eamonn    

 

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Calico,  if I'm a unit level scouter, I don't have time to babysit the district.   Most districts, their problems are self-created and self-perpetuated.   And a bonus:   they are either blind to them or they are fine with the status quo.

 

If the district doesn't respect unit level scouters--the very principle that many "pro-district" scouters miss--then it is not worth the unit scouters' time to do anything with, or for, the district.     

 

Recruit a UC?  Tough enough to recruit a new ASM or a committee member. 

 

Even if a unit scouter adopts the idealism of your post, I submit it's still a waste of the scouter's time IF the district doesn't want any help or improvement.

 

The unit scouters' job is tough enough as it is.   The last thing they need is to jump into fix it mode to salvage a district.

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I'll reiterate, what services do districts offer that serve the units? Some have replied well. Other just say "you get what you put in to it". That's a cop out. Districts exist to serve units. Unless the district provides my unit something they need they're useless for my unit.

 

I get some units need districts because they cannot do some of the things my unit can. Fine.

 

But let's not pretend that districts must exist at all costs. They are the welfare office of councils. Units that need them use them. Those that don't, won't. But don't tell me I need them or have to support them if they do nothing for me.

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I agree that both Districts and Councils should do everything that they can to serve the units.

Happy units make for happy Scouts.

 

I also understand that many of us by nature have a hard time telling anyone NO.

 

Trying to ensure that "The District" doesn't become a inclusive club of silver-tab wearing old cronies can be hard.

While I would never ever ask a unit leader to take on a position on a District Committee, I have no problem asking any Scout youth or adult for help.

 

My view point is that we are all stewards.

I would hope that every unit leader hopes that his or her unit will be around for a very long time.

Around to help serve the values of the CO and be part of their youth program.

 

I seen my part in this as being there to help and support.

I will admit to being a lazy little toad and sometimes a bit of a coward.

Lazy because it is sometimes just so easy to ask someone you know and know will more then lightly say yes then go out on a limb and bring in new blood.

A coward because sometimes removing someone who isn't doing a good job and has held the position for a very long time can cause upset and pain.

 

I happen to think that it's important that Scouts know that there is a world wide brotherhood.

This brotherhood starts by know the Scout from a different school, working with adults from outside their home unit.

The OA does a wonderful job of this.

Scouts and Scouting works so much better when we work together, when we bring our ideas and experiences and are willing to share them.

If all a District can offer is popcorn sales (I hate the stuff! and bully units to rechartering on time?

That's just sad.   

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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

 

Sorry for the delay,

 

Yep I recruited youth for packs and troops. I also worked on establishing new packs, a troop, and tried to get Exploring (I'm dating myself) restarted. 

 

But not only did I recruit youth, I also recruited adults. OK mostly for packs, but I did send a  person or two to a troop. But My primary focus was trying to get adults on the district committee.

 

I also worked on getting sponsors and donations for various activities the district had: day camp, camporees, district banquet, etc.

 

I also coordinated with one brand new pack and troop and a donor to help get them off the ground. I also was able to get them cmaperships for summer camp.,

 

I also served on the training staff to help get new leader up and running. In fact, district training chair at the time is my son's SM.

 

When no one wanted to do the awards banquet and recognize the leaders and youth I had to do all the work.

 

I had to spend one summer working summer camp.

 

I had to help with rechartering. Heck I volunteered to type into the data into the brand new SCOUTNET2000 system so that everything would be in on time.

 

I even visited with the IHs like DEs are suppose to do.

 

As for serving the individual units, we didn't have a commissioner corps. the district commissioner was also the acting chair since we went through 3 chairs in the 18 months I was a DE. And he inherited the situation that he couldn't worked on. Since I wore a 'wreath of service" I was an acting UC and helped units with problems. I had calls all hours of the day and nite. And the best wedding gift the volunteers gave me was a pledge not to call me after 10PM or before 6AM. They didn't want to wake up Grumpy ;)

 

I also acted as the mail man, bringing paperwork and advancement to and from the untis and the shop since I went every friday.

 

There  is a lot of behind th scenes work that the DEs do.

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@Eagle94-A1thanks for the reply. It appears that from what most have posted successful healthy units may not have much need for district. TThose less fortunate units might have great need, assuming the districts are well run and do what they are supposed to. I also get for that to happen units have to step up and help.

 

The problem still exists though, that if your unit is healthy most of your volunteers are already too stretched to do more, thus most focus on their unit and not district volunteering.

 

Maybe ddistricts and councils should focus more on getting those units healthy and not relying on other units to make that happen. In many cases you're cannibalizing the healthy unit for the good of the district and other units. Seems a poor model for the mission its chartered with.

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<<The problem still exists though, that if your unit is healthy most of your volunteers are already too stretched to do more, thus most focus on their unit and not district volunteering.>>

 

 

 

I don't agree with that.

 

Most units do a poor job of soliciting adults to help with stuff.  If they asked more people to help,  they'd have more people to help.

 

I'm currently involved with helping our district Cub Scout Day Camp to work this summer.  Towards that end, and the Cubmaster has agreed to be the Tiger Twilight Camp Director,  a Den Leader is sharing the Program Director job with me.  So that's three top day camp volunteers from one small pack.

 

I've been calling other Cubmasters to ask them to help with the Day Camp program,  but mostly they aren't doing much.

 

Why is my pack providing more leadership than another dozen packs COMBINED?  Because I'm asking people and selling them on the idea that it is fun and/or important to do.

 

That's the only reason I can think of.

 

 
 

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