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George

Patrol System in Venturing?

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I'm the Advisor for a new (6 months and counting) Venturing crew with 12 Venturers.  To date, we have been following the organizational structure suggested in the Handbook for Venturers and Venturing Advisor Guidebook.
 
As we continue steadily growing, I've begun to consider discussing with the crew president whether we should look into implementing the patrol system.  But the BSA's Venturing publications make no mention of patrols.

 

I can only assume this was an intentional decision; after all, the earlier Explorer Scout Manual organized Explorer Scout posts into patrols (called "crews").  (Interestingly, Explorer Scouting also used program committees comprising at least one member from each crew, which would seem to water-down, at least to some degree, the patrol-centric nature of the "classic" system.)

 

Does anyone have any information about this decision?  Do any of your crews use the patrol system?


As an aside, it's not immediately clear to me whether the BSA's decision on this point is in keeping with international practice.  While Canadian Venturer Scout companies seem to use ad hoc "expedition teams" rather than patrols, at least some British Explorer Scout units use patrols.  WOSM publications, like "Empowering Young Adults: Guidelines for the Rover Scout Section," direct that "[t]he team [patrol] system is a fundamental element of the Scout Method and it exists in every section of the Scout Movement in a way that is adapted and specific to each age group."  Does anyone with international Scouting experience mind sharing their observations?  Does Venturing adapt the patrol system to our age group, and I'm just not seeing it?
 
Thank you in advance for your thoughts on this topic.
 
Yours in Venturing,
 
George
Advisor, Crew 4 (Great Smoky Mountain Council)

VenturingCrew4.org

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One additional data point:

 

 

WHEN we officially started Senior Scouts in 1946 we tended to soft-pedal the Patrol System.  Our intention was to stress that Senior Scouting was much more adult than Boy Scouting and every possible difference in organisation was stressed.  Thus, instead of full-throated Inter-Patrol Scouting, so distinctive and successful in a thriving Boy Scout Troop, we tended to run our activities on a Troop basis [. . . .]  Experience has, in my view, shown that this is excellent in theory and works well in practice for a few months, but, quite frankly, I don't recommend it as a permanent feature.  I am tending more and more to emphasise the building up of a strong Patrol spirit in each Patrol and encouraging the authority of the P/L by every means in my power.  But do not imagine that the inter-Patrol rivalry of the Boy Scout Troop will go down well in the Senior Scout Troop - because it won't.  A much lighter type of pastry is needed.  I find they don't want inter-Patrol competition of the running sort so successful in the Boy Scout Troop.  Inter-Patrol competitions taking place will go down well providing the dominant note is fun and not intense rivalry.

Another difference is the size of the Patrol.  I have come to favour four and I prefer three to five.  [. . . .]

 

Melville Balsillie, Running a Senior Scout Troop: An Official Handbook for Scouters 23-24 (1964), available at http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/runningsenior.pdf.

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Welcome to the forum and thanks in advance for all that you do for the youth.

And, advisor to advisor, you're in for a wild ride.

 

My crew has varied in size from 5 to 40 over the past 12 years. At no time was a patrol method warranted. Rather, subgroups in the crew centered around interests, e.g. Philmont contingent (aka, hike a month club), Seabase contingent, ski group, blood drive managers, etc ... Each of those had its own activity chair or two, accountable to the VP of program.

 

This can be confusing to outsiders looking in. (I had an exchange student from Italy this year, and a lot about our boys perplexed her.) But with high school and college and military youths' diverse schedules and interests, it's really hard to solidify patrols for more than a weekend.

 

That's not to say that if the youth want to arrange themselves into patrols, you should discourage it. As long as it's their idea, not yours, let them give it a try.

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Thanks for your comment, qwazse.

 

I should have mentioned this in my original post, but this possible discussion with the crew president about the patrol system will be broader than just a discussion about that one system.  My intent is to pose questions about organization and whether what has worked for us as a small crew will continue to work as we become a larger crew, what adaptations or adjustments need to be made, how to make sure new Venturers are able to participate in the crew's decision-making, etc.  If they want examples, I was going to suggest the current Venturing structure, the Explorer Scout "program committee" structure, and the patrol system.

 

Your point about activity chairs forming subgroups around that activity is interesting.  We have only had one activity chair do that, and it happened at last week's meeting.  If that becomes a trend, then it might check some of the same boxes that the patrol system checks, especially the ability to ensure that every member can influence the unit's program.

 

Thanks again for your comment.

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Posted (edited)

@@George, have your current venturers gone through the Venturing Leadership Skills Course (either by taking a weekend out to do it -- as recommended, or by you presenting the material in small bits at every meeting)? That will help them get a sense of how they should perform.

 

What organizational charts you present beyond the venturing model depends upon where the youth are coming from. I've always had a mix of boy scouts, girl scouts, and non-scouts who weren't interested in competing against one another -- their attitude was much like what Balsillie observed in that quote that you found. They attended different schools (some with intense rivalries), so they got plenty of that in sports, band, and theater (all competitive activities). Many craved time in large groups and preferred to attend Venturing Officers' Association (VOA) activities where they could have social time with like minded youth. (One council officer called it "structured unstructured time.") Some wanted to hike the tar out of our region with a handful of buddies, and others really were craving time to talk with adults about hobbies and professions and life in general.

 

I've found myself spread pretty thin. (Like I said, a wild ride.) So, we don't pursue an activity if there isn't a youth stepping up as activity chair (or an officer claims it as their pet activity). That includes responsibility for research, sign-ups, and collecting forms and funds and reckoning with the adult treasurer.

 

That's another reason why we move away from the patrol method. Crew officers should assume many of the responsibilities that get assigned to the committee members of most troops. (Periodically discussions in the patrol method sub-forum arise regarding responsibilities that adults have assumed, depriving boys of agency over their troop.)

 

Have your youth appointed officers. Have any attended your council or area VOA?

Edited by qwazse
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Posted (edited)

We have elected officers.  We're hoping to have the Council VOA officers instruct ILSC (they previously did Crew Officers Orientation for us); we're just waiting for them to complete their changeover to schedule it.  In the meantime, I have been introducing some of the key points at relevant moments.  We're also waiting for the VOA meeting schedule to begin sending one or more crew representatives (the previous VOA officers met on the same night as our crew meeting night, so we have not previously sent representatives).

 

Upon chartering, we elected officers, completed Crew Officers Orientation, and then did a very abbreviated form of annual planning--more like quarterly planning--so that we would have activities on the calendar and activity chairs appointed to organize them right away.  “A [youth] on joining wants to begin Scouting right away," after all.  We conducted our first outing, a full-moon night hike in a nearby national park, less than 30 days after starting.  We then went backpacking and fishing in that same national park, had an evening of belaying instruction and then free climbing at a local climbing gym, completed wilderness first aid training, and most recently had a service project for Memorial Day.  We're two weeks away from our next outing, a weekend camping trip to our Council's rustic/primitive campground.  We have now completed program planning for the rest of this calendar year.  For each event, there has been an adult--an associate advisor, committee member, or me--designated as the consultant/supporting volunteer for the activity chair to call on for advice/assistance, as needed.

 

Our youth are likewise a mix of Boy Scouts, (former) Girl Scouts, and non-Scouts.  The Boy Scouts come from local troops that are patrol-based only in a very superficial sense; they're essentially "troop method" outfits.  The (former) Girl Scouts left the GSUSA for lack of outdoor programming.  The non-Scouts just enjoy doing outdoor things and are absorbing the conceptual framework of Scouting through osmosis.  I agree with your point (and Balsillie's) that inter-patrol competition would not be their cup of tea.

Edited by George
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Sounds like a fun crew, and your expectation for growth is reasonable. Regardless of potential conflicts with your meetings, I would encourage you to send one or two venturers to your VOA and report back the next week. In the long run, this will make sure your crew adds to the flavor of district and council activities.

 

Because of that, I wouldn't inject patrol method as a structure for the crew. Getting everyone up to speed with the venturing organizational structure will be hard enough. In a year or two, the ones who are really interested in leadership training will attend NYLT and get to practice the PM there.

 

There's no point in you being critical of other troops' poorly implemented patrol method. But, what you can do is raise the expectations of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts by making sure they are fully responsible for what does and does/not happen in their own crew. Eventually, through advisor conferences and such, you can encourage them to do the same in their respective troops. The hardest part of advising, I found, is getting a youth to tone down the rhetoric of how an adult-lead "home" unit is messing with them, then getting him/her to reflect on how to be an agent of improvement.

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There's no point in you being critical of other troops' poorly implemented patrol method. But, what you can do is raise the expectations of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts by making sure they are fully responsible for what does and does/not happen in their own crew. Eventually, through advisor conferences and such, you can encourage them to do the same in their respective troops. The hardest part of advising, I found, is getting a youth to tone down the rhetoric of how an adult-lead "home" unit is messing with them, then getting him/her to reflect on how to be an agent of improvement.

I ran into the exact same problem with our JLTC (now NYLT) course staff. The youth instructors where using bad adult-lead examples from their home troop during their subject instruction. I pulled them together and basically advise them the same as qwazse. I also pointed out that they were coming off as immature and juvenal because their personal examples sound more vindictive than instructional. They needed to present the experience in such a way of being positive for change and improvement without sounding personal. I think qwazse's line of "getting him/her to reflect on how to be an agent of improvement" nails it. The staff took the hint and did very well.

 

Barry

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For a number of reasons the patrol method can do quite well and/or flop miserably. Forthe purist, there's a real challenge. For someone with an understanding of small group dynamic it holds promise. I have worked with youth my entire adult life. For Boy Scouts it's a mandatory part of the program. For Cubs it's pretty much waste of time, it's all adult led except for the token gesture of Denner where the boy's only responsibility is to wear the cord and feel you have succeeded in something important.

 

With Venturing, I incorporated the concepts of leadership responsibility without actually calling it as such. Individuals were singled out according to their skills and interests. No badges or patches, but every one knew if they needed something, they knew who to go to.

 

I do the same thing with my church youth group. They are currently broken into 4 leadership teams that plan and implement the program on a rotating basis. Maybe Team 1 plans the program, but Team 2 plans the meal and Team 3 cleans up.

 

The name of the game is to get every one involved in a responsibility like GBB's patrol model requires. Kids are more apt to keep coming back if the feel they are a value to the group.

 

No, I don't think the patrol method can work well outside Boy Scouts, but much of its dynamics can be adapted.

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For a number of reasons the patrol method can do quite well and/or flop miserably. Forthe purist, there's a real challenge. For someone with an understanding of small group dynamic it holds promise. I have worked with youth my entire adult life. For Boy Scouts it's a mandatory part of the program. For Cubs it's pretty much waste of time, it's all adult led except for the token gesture of Denner where the boy's only responsibility is to wear the cord and feel you have succeeded in something important.

 

With Venturing, I incorporated the concepts of leadership responsibility without actually calling it as such. Individuals were singled out according to their skills and interests. No badges or patches, but every one knew if they needed something, they knew who to go to.

 

I do the same thing with my church youth group. They are currently broken into 4 leadership teams that plan and implement the program on a rotating basis. Maybe Team 1 plans the program, but Team 2 plans the meal and Team 3 cleans up.

 

The name of the game is to get every one involved in a responsibility like GBB's patrol model requires. Kids are more apt to keep coming back if the feel they are a value to the group.

 

No, I don't think the patrol method can work well outside Boy Scouts, but much of its dynamics can be adapted.

We don't often agree, but this is a good post. I tried to post something similar, but gave up because the point got lost in my wordy reply.

 

I do think Stosh has patrol method and dynamics backwards. Patrol method is another name for the dynamics he describes using outside the troop. The dynamics is just called Patrol Method inside the troop program. The only reason Patrol Method appears different is because prepubescent males are mixed in with everyone else and that does present some different aspects of the same dynamics. Venturing doesn't require the role modeling of a patrol of younger scouts. Let me say that differently; Venturing requires a different kind of role modeling for the ages involved. 

 

qwazse has a very good grasp of the dynamics as well, which is why he makes it work in both Venturing and the troop program together. Having a name for the process of teams working together successfully toward common goals isn't important. Getting the process to work under it's own momentum is the goal.

 

Barry

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