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Stosh

What's it going to take to make the perfect UC?

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I'm positive this topic will end up in the I&P crapper, so I'll just start it out here.

 

A number of threads have focused around a number of issue concerning the UC role in scouting.  It seems to be the consensus that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."  and what we have here is broke.

 

Do we need to fix it?

 

Do we need to drop it?

 

Do we just keep ignoring it?

 

What about effective training?

 

What about a listing of duties and expectations needed for the position?

 

What about maturity and experience?

 

Is all the paper work necessary?

 

With all the units out there feeling a big disconnect from the DE's and SE's is this a symptom of not having a real UC?

 

The door's open in the free-for-all section.  How's about coming up with something that would be useful to the situation instead of just griping about what's wrong with it.  Can it be fixed?

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boy, can it be fixed?  I can't answer that.  Don't have any great ideas on that one.

 

does it need to be?  Yes.  i think so.  Well at least based on the role that it seems to me they should be filling anyway...

 

When I was first coming up to speed as a scouter for the pack, especially as I started as Cubmaster, I actively seeked out a UC.  I was hoping very much to buy a UC a cup off joe, and brainstorm a bit. I wanted to know how other units do things.  Also we had some problems that I would have loved to have an experienced perception of.   On top of that, our old guard didn't have effort or a mechanism to pass along the knowledge.  We were just thrown into the pool.

 

Since I can't really remember my cub experience back in the 1970's, this pack is the only one I have seen modeled.  I know how our old guard did things, and I could see some weaknesses.  I had been participating here I think by that point so I had some ideas, but as a new guy they weren't fully develop.  Maybe they still aren't.  I figured a guy like a UC would have seen several units and not just on a single visit.  That person would maybe have several examples of different ways to do things.

 

Anyway, we had a guy, and old timer I met while I was ACM once after I was in the job for a long while.  He seemed like a great guy with good experience.  Seemed like a scout's scouter kind of guy, not a politician napoleon general.  But I was disappointed that I had not met him before.  He had never searched me out.  Anyway, I searched him out when becoming CM but he was in the process of retiring.  As far as I know we never got another.  

 

I sure would have liked to talk over a venti grande whatever at Starbux or dunkin.  I might have even bought a guy a doughnut!   I could have used some advice!

 

So yes, I think the idea of that is a good one and is sorely needed to help new scouters form having to reinvent the wheel every time!

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I agree with a few that have said the UC concept is broken.
 

Do we need to fix it? Depends. We need to define (and prioritize) as an organization what is broken or needs maintenance before we can design a role to fix it. If the goal of an UC is to coach a unit's Key 3 to build and maintain a robust unit/program, then my answer is yes, the role is needed.
 
Do we need to drop it? See above.
 
Do we just keep ignoring it? See above.
 
What about effective training? If the role is as I described, then we need effective training and a way to identify (and keep) those people recruited to the role of UC. To paraphrase an old sea chantey, "What do you with a retired scout leader...". Make being a UC a logical, non-burdensome next step.
 
What about a listing of duties and expectations needed for the position? Yes. A standard role description that cannot be made up by the DE/DC de jour.
 
What about maturity and experience? See "What do we do with a retired scout leader" above. ;)
 
Is all the paper work necessary? No. But existence justification is a profession in BSA. Let's give an award for the least paperwork. Maybe a sash. ;)
 
With all the units out there feeling a big disconnect from the DE's and SE's is this a symptom of not having a real UC? Possibly. It can also be that BSA and councils/districts put their own spin on things too much and there is too little standardization. In technology terms we are too decentralized with few standards. This leads to everyone "rolling their own". Too many cooks...
 
The door's open in the free-for-all section.  How's about coming up with something that would be useful to the situation instead of just griping about what's wrong with it.  Can it be fixed?

- Eliminate the needless paperwork.
- Make a serious effort at centralizing the role and job description of the UC.
- Make the role have a narrowly defined focus, not a catch all for all the stuff district or council wants to collect (i.e., no FOS, no JTE, no recharter).
- Make the role something retiring Scouters would want to take. Avoid burdensome activities or requirements.

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  How's about coming up with something that would be useful to the situation instead of just griping about what's wrong with it.  Can it be fixed?

Well I'm curious stosh, you are are the most anti-BSA program contributor on this forum. What could we teach a UC that would work with both stosh scouts and the mega troop down the street?

 

From observation, districts with good UCs have good District Commissioners that know and understand the responsibilities. Bad DCs, bad UCs.

 

By the way, I have not been a UC, but I took the training (long time ago) and I believe that most folks don't really understand what is expected of a UC. If we could review that first, we won't be going off into the woods with answers. Does anybody here have a syllabus and manual that can guide us with the BSA's expectations for a UC. 

 

Barry

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Do we need to fix it? Depends. We need to define (and prioritize) as an organization what is broken or needs maintenance before we can design a role to fix it. If the goal of an UC is to coach a unit's Key 3 to build and maintain a robust unit/program, then my answer is yes, the role is needed.

Why is it that National is having so much difficulty in standardizing the role of the UC.  It must have been a really great idea in the first place, what happened along the way? 

 
Do we need to drop it? See above.

Has it become irrelevant?
 
Do we just keep ignoring it? See above.

If it's being ignored, why?  Shouldn't someone at least be looking into why the comments are so negative towards UC's?
 
What about effective training? If the role is as I described, then we need effective training and a way to identify (and keep) those people recruited to the role of UC. To paraphrase an old sea chantey, "What do you with a retired scout leader...". Make being a UC a logical, non-burdensome next step.

From a lot of the comments, one would think that there are many of the old entrenched Old Guard that would fit that concept as well as those that have burned out or just have had enough just become their last child has aged out.  I don't know if a one-size-fits-all will work for that.
 
What about a listing of duties and expectations needed for the position? Yes. A standard role description that cannot be made up by the DE/DC de jour.

Agreed.  I think it needs to be a formalized position.
 
What about maturity and experience? See "What do we do with a retired scout leader" above. ;)

Same dynamics of carry-over.  I was thinking more along the lines of younger people recruited because of their expertise, not simply breathing and have a kid in the program.
 
Is all the paper work necessary? No. But existence justification is a profession in BSA. Let's give an award for the least paperwork. Maybe a sash. ;)

I often wonder if anyone ever reads any of these reports anyway.
 
With all the units out there feeling a big disconnect from the DE's and SE's is this a symptom of not having a real UC? Possibly. It can also be that BSA and councils/districts put their own spin on things too much and there is too little standardization. In technology terms we are too decentralized with few standards. This leads to everyone "rolling their own". Too many cooks...

National doesn't allow a spin on anything else, why is it tolerated here?
 
The door's open in the free-for-all section.  How's about coming up with something that would be useful to the situation instead of just griping about what's wrong with it.  Can it be fixed?

- Eliminate the needless paperwork.
- Make a serious effort at centralizing the role and job description of the UC.
- Make the role have a narrowly defined focus, not a catch all for all the stuff district or council wants to collect (i.e., no FOS, no JTE, no recharter).
- Make the role something retiring Scouters would want to take. Avoid burdensome activities or requirements.

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Do we need to fix it? Depends. We need to define (and prioritize) as an organization what is broken or needs maintenance before we can design a role to fix it. If the goal of an UC is to coach a unit's Key 3 to build and maintain a robust unit/program, then my answer is yes, the role is needed.

Why is it that National is having so much difficulty in standardizing the role of the UC.  It must have been a really great idea in the first place, what happened along the way? 

I suspect it has something to do with their organizational model. Too much autonomy in the councils and districts, lack of longevity in many positions, the burden of the workload, unreasonable expectations, lousy mgmt, etc. Take your pick.

 

Do we need to drop it? See above.

Has it become irrelevant?

Do we just keep ignoring it? See above.

If it's being ignored, why?  Shouldn't someone at least be looking into why the comments are so negative towards UC's?

I don't think advice that does as I suggest would be irrelevant. I suspect many units would find true help of that nature beneficial. Need fund-raising ideas? See this BSA toolkit to help. Struggle with recruiting ideas? He's what I've done as an SM in the past or things I have heard worked for colleagues. BSA pays lip service to these things rather than giving concrete ideas and plans. I always laugh at their teaching templates. For TLT they have a slide that literally said "Insert comments about why leadership is important and how to develop good leaders ehere" rather than to actually GIVE an example and concrete plan.

 

What about effective training? If the role is as I described, then we need effective training and a way to identify (and keep) those people recruited to the role of UC. To paraphrase an old sea chantey, "What do you with a retired scout leader...". Make being a UC a logical, non-burdensome next step.

From a lot of the comments, one would think that there are many of the old entrenched Old Guard that would fit that concept as well as those that have burned out or just have had enough just become their last child has aged out.  I don't know if a one-size-fits-all will work for that.

Quite possibly. BSA needs to help these folks understand that helping people with less knowledge is not beating them over the head with what they did wrong, rather showing them how to do it right. It is not making every unit fit into their idea of what a unit should be doing. Templates are a start, but customized, real examples and help are what many units need. If the old goats cannot avoid being pedantic then get rid of them. Or better yet, revise the criteria for some of these old goat and silver jackal awards to directly tie to giving decent help to a unit in need. Make it measurable and quantifiable, don't put limits on the award and make sure folks are trained.

 

Is all the paper work necessary? No. But existence justification is a profession in BSA. Let's give an award for the least paperwork. Maybe a sash. ;)

I often wonder if anyone ever reads any of these reports anyway.

Nope. I put in one report that our shooting sports even include AR-15, AR-7 and .38 service side arms training. I got an email back from council that said, "Sounds like fun! Good job!". It was from the RSO from the council. ;)

 

With all the units out there feeling a big disconnect from the DE's and SE's is this a symptom of not having a real UC? Possibly. It can also be that BSA and councils/districts put their own spin on things too much and there is too little standardization. In technology terms we are too decentralized with few standards. This leads to everyone "rolling their own". Too many cooks...

National doesn't allow a spin on anything else, why is it tolerated here?

You never kill your tax collector...unless he's skimming. ;) 

 

Why did national allow NY to hire gay scouts? There's your answer.

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I agree it's broke until all of the stakeholders can agree what the commissioners should do.

 

What the BSA wants:

a dedicated corps of volunteers carrying out the Unit Service function of a local district.  National wants at least one commissioner for every 3 units and wants the commissioner to hold no other role in scouting.  They want the commissioner to act as a coach and mentor and to uphold BSA standards but not quite at a "council cop" or "uniform police" level.  Commissioners are supposed to visit their assigned units once a month (not necessarily in person or at a unit meeting) and report on them as well as assist with re-chartering.  BSA has not changed the unit to commissioner ratio or visit frequency to reflect the availability of electronic communications.

What the district wants:

to make JTE goals by having enough visits logged into UVTS even if they have to dual-hat commissioners, assign unit leaders/assistants as commissioners to their own units, or have commissioners serve more than 3 units.  Also they want to use the commissioner staff as the DE's henchmen and round out volunteer shortages in the other district service areas (membership, finance, program) even to the point where commissioners are tasked with making FOS presentations to their own units (VERY BAD!) or at least

 

What the commissioners themselves want: varies.  Stick around and serve after "retirement", have coffee at roundtable with the old guard, help units, volunteer in a minimal commitment position, etc.

 

What the unit wants:

IT DEPENDS.  Make the council guy go away, we don't need to see him.  We need a commissioner now (when they really need additional adult leadership)!  and everything in between.

 

When they can get all that straightened out, maybe we can fix the problem.  Being a commissioner should be a calling, not a Wood Badge ticket item to do for a year.  BSA should get rid of the ego-stroking associated with the position.  Eliminate the statements on how commissioners are "commissioned officers" of the BSA and wear a "wreath of service," the "commissioning" ceremony mentioned in the training guide, and the whole "Doctor of Commissioner Science" nonsense.

 

Fix/eliminate emphasis on unneeded metrics from unit and district JTE.  A commissioner shouldn't need to beg or encourage a unit leader to fill out a JTE form.  A unit leader shouldn't have to rifle through mounds of paperwork to compute advancement statistics, especially when council has those numbers, but does not provide them in a timely manner.

 

Re-charter should not be so complex that you need a commissioner to help you through it.

 

Change the commissioner structure.  Have "visiting commissioners" (generalists) that actually make the bulk of the unit visits.  They can make in-person visits once every 4-6 months and should serve maybe 12-15 units (too high?).  They can report up to the ADC or DC on any problems observed and any problems or concerns the units self-report.  An action plan can be developed, the commissioner can visit more frequently and a "targeted" commissioner can be assigned.  "Targeted" commissioners do not routinely visit units.  They specialize in a specific area and are assigned when needed.  Target areas can include membership (recruitment/retention, Webelos transition), cub scout program (bad outings, boring pack meetings), boy scout program (outdoor program weakness, patrol method weakness), and parent involvement/leadership recruitment.  Add a skilled diplomat who can address units with infighting or turmoil, assign mentoring commissioners to units with new leaders, and continue the practice of assigning new unit specialists to recently chartered units.  Let commissioners find a role that suits them.

 

MY EXPERIENCE

I was a commissioner from late 2011 to late 2013.  I managed to annoy one pack (or one leader*) to the point of removal.  My bad! I tried to "coach" too much when they were already highly-functioning.  I had no mentoring from an ADC and did not heed the low-key warnings the DE was giving me.  Actually showing up every month to a meeting was too much for them. 

 

Yet I was highly successful with the one troop I was assigned.  They had a severe leadership shortage/parent involvement issues.  Both my "coaching" and presence were welcomed and I even took the troop to summer camp as commissioner (backed up by a 19 year old college scouter) because the SM and First ASM were taking the older scouts to Philmont and couldn't cover both.  Eventually, I got co-opted as their second ASM, but was asked by the DC to remain as their UC.

 

I have no desire to serve as commissioner again unless the role is redefined.  After taking a couple years off I'm only Troop Committee (and help Alpha Phi Omega chapters with scouting involvement

 

*=the pack trainer, who was really the power behind the throne and had the DE's & DFS's ear

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Nope. I put in one report that our shooting sports even include AR-15, AR-7 and .38 service side arms training. I got an email back from council that said, "Sounds like fun! Good job!". It was from the RSO from the council. ;)

But that does sound like fun!

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00Eagle,.

 

You make an interesting analogy in that one unit was too much and the other just right.  I'm sure there's another unit out there that might have been too little.

 

How is training going to help the UC know which unit is which?

 

Maybe the districts need to go to a Commissioner Corps idea where a unit contacts the DC and gets assigned a UC until they work through what it is they are concerned about. 

 

John is starting a new Pack, asks for UC help, one gets assigned from the Commish Corps who has the most/best track record with new units.

 

Mary is having problems with a couple of parents in her troop, asks for UC help, gets one assigned that has the the most experience with such issues.

 

Peter is having trouble keeping his Crew afloat, DC approaches and asks him if he thinks another eye on the situation might be of some help.

 

This way everyone doesn't need to be master of everything but might be a great resource person for just a temporary period of time dealing with a specific problem.

 

???  I dunno, just a thought.  I could have used a second person checking in and running some errands over the past 3 years of getting my troop off the ground, and I'm a trained UC besides, and my ASM is the DC.  Down the road instead of focusing on 2 or 3 units maybe I ought to be assigned to help someone start a troop somewhere because I have a been-there-done-that experience.

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Maybe it is not UC's that are broken so much as it is that councils and districts have their priorities mixed up. ;)

 

The emphasis at those levels should be in keeping units viable, not making fund-raising numbers, recruiting goals or other crap like that. Helping units stay alive and thriving will feed those goals but at a more personal level. Sure, Mary and John won't get Silver Beavers as a result because the success goes to the unit, but isn't that the point?

Edited by Krampus

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Maybe it is not UC's that are broken so much as it is that councils and districts have their priorities mixed up. ;)

 

The emphasis at those levels should be in keeping units viable, not making fund-raising numbers, recruiting goals or other crap like that. Helping units stay alive and thriving will feed those goals but at a more personal level. Sure, Mary and John won't get Silver Beavers as a result because the success goes to the unit, but isn't that the point?

 

Well, if they had a "Corps" of Commisioners, the Districts and Council wouldn't have the opportunity to have their ready group of gophers to run around and do all the petty paperwork and hand holding, but would need to do that more for themselves.  The Commisioners would be freed up to focus on specific issues facing certain units on an as needed basis.  They would then tend to serve the units instead of being the errand boys for the Districts.

 

A corps of 6-10 commissioners wouldn't be able to do the popcorn, the FOS, the JTE, the rechartering etc., and those issues would then need to be handled by the RT Commissioners on the general broadcast of mundane issues.

 

Seriously, the only time one sees their UC's is when all hell breaks loose or some errand needs to be run.

 

If it were set up this way, the monthly meeting of commissioners could brainstorm the issues at hand and work out solutions to the issues amongst themselves to present ideas and resources to the units.  This way the newbie UC's could get some experience working with other commissioners before being assigned to a situation and then would still be able to retain a monthly contact of support from the corps as well.

 

It's a bit like having a beat cop assigned to the neighborhood now that wanders around checking to see if all the doors are locked, but if a crime is committed in the area, more than just one cop is called to the scene.  Maybe like 00Eagle noticed, being around too much didn't do much besides aggravate one of his units.  If I got into hot water or had a concern, a single phone call to my DC and voila, I have some help, would be kinda  nice.

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00Eagle,.

 

You make an interesting analogy in that one unit was too much and the other just right.  I'm sure there's another unit out there that might have been too little.

 

How is training going to help the UC know which unit is which?

 

I don't think training will help, only experience.  National likes to think that anyone can be trained as a commissioner and visit units and fill the 1:3 ratio.  In reality, unless you're experienced as an SM/ASM you don't know what to look for.  I relied on what I saw in my two troops growing up and two troops I helped in college to know what was right/wrong and what worked/didn't.  I've seen solid patrol method (patrol competition, patrol chuckboxes, patrol offices filled and functioning [the patrol grubmaster would actually buy the food the patrol picked, the patrol QM kept track of and maintained the equipment in the chuckbox]) and no/little patrol method (RED FLAG: the troop has two patrols but lines up in a single line in rank order for opening flags without a patrol formation).

 

 

Maybe the districts need to go to a Commissioner Corps idea where a unit contacts the DC and gets assigned a UC until they work through what it is they are concerned about.

  Might work.  I think all of our solutions rely on actually having enough volunteers around. 

 

Let's take an example under the current rules.  A pack has an assigned unit commissioner and the commissioners and pack leaders determine the pack has a recruiting problem.  The UC reports this to the DC as expected.  Ideally, the district has a membership guru: someone who can help this pack with recruiting, maybe the district vice chair for membership.  Either the guru mentors them on how to conduct a successful recruitment and/or the DE goes into the school for a "boy talk."  But something's supposed to happen. 

 

I've heard of cases where a district had a great motivational speaker who could go into a parent meeting of a failing unit and motivate the parents to step up and fill vacant leadership positions, saving the unit.  Not every district has one of these people around.  If commissioners can connect units to district resources great, but if there are none, what's the point of having commissioners.

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In our district, the UC is pretty much on their own.  When they get into a tight spot, they turn to the DE.  If the DE is less experienced than the UC, you're pretty much back to being on your own. 

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Maybe ... A change in uniform. Maybe UCs should only wear BSA dress (blue blazers) when fulfilling their duties. Keep them them from walking into the room with a row of knots and WB beads and a commish patch.

 

So, they enter the room looking very clearly like they are not an integral part of troop life. They look like service people not field people. They aren't a unit's "spare SM". They shouldn't look anything like one.

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So a UC does the work that a DE should, but for no pay?

 

Sounds like BS    A.

Edited by JoeBob
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