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Pselb

Is BSA Sustainable?

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2 minutes ago, an_old_DC said:

Why is it that the adults who were never Scouts resist training and mentoring, and scream the loudest about changes away from a "sign off-focused"

It's not so much they resist it, I think they just don't believe the pay back of letting the scouts learn from their mistakes outweighs advancement and faux leadership. In their minds they believe a scout "might" develop some character, but in their advancement directed program, they will definitely leave with rank and leadership experience. Even if that experience is really just filling a space.

I had several mothers who would shake their head yes as I explained how our patrol method program worked, and then question every move we made. It takes about a year for them to see what we are talking about. And then they turn into our biggest program cheerleaders. I have so many stories of converting moms. One hard conversion mom was so passionate about our program, she became a CC to make sure nobody, like her before the conversion, interrupted our program.:laugh:

And, once an adult starts in a specific direction, it's hard to switch to another trail.

Still, there is hope. I once taught a boy run/patrol method course. One adult frustrated with my "let the boys learn" tone stood up and basically said I was full of crap. He challenged me to how he could direct his troop toward a more boy run program. I suggested letting the scouts do a five mile hike without adults. He did not like that idea at all. I told him my method of getting over adult fears is to train the scouts so that I felt comfortable letting them do the activity. He sat down and I didn't see him again until two years later at a Wood Badge course where he ran up to me and praised my suggestion for letting he scouts hike five miles without adults. He was a converted scouter.

We adults are proud and stubborn. We need a lot of motivation to admit we are wrong.

Barry

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2 hours ago, ParkMan said:

We have examples where the program can and does work well.  Those packs and troops grow.  Yet, we hear about declining numbers nationwide.  Where is the disconnect? 

The real question is why is the BSA not benchmarking these successful troops.  Success might be X number of years of growth, or X years of sustaining the number of Scouts.  Also should be other real unit metrics like Scouts at camp, nights camping, advancement, etc

If BSA looked at the 10 - 15 most successful units (and yes that could be very debatable) in a number of councils, then likely there would be some similarities or common threads.  With this information you would have some indicative evidence on what can or should be working.  Then you could structure engagement and training to work towards growth.  Not saying do surveys, or have focus groups, I am talking down in the mud actually out with the units and seeing what is happening.

Edited by Jameson76
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4 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:

This actually sounds pretty cool.  I would love to see more older scouts get involved with the Cub Scout program.  I’m not sure if it would work but it sounds like a great idea.  We see this with soccer camps and teams here where high school students help coach youngsters and are the primary  resources at camps.

That said, I do think you can burn out as SPL and PL.  I was ASPL at 14 and SPL and Eagle at 15 in a “Boy led” Troop.  At 16    with three varsity sports, NHS, etc. I had no desire to also teach 11 year olds to tie their shoes.  I wanted HA outings and mentor the new SPL.  Most of my friends quit by then (girls and lost interest in scouting).  I stayed on board until I aged out.    Few in my Boy led troop did.  That program is long as well, even in boy led Troops.

@Eagle1993, I'm afraid you are reading what I describe through rose-colored glasses, just like the scouts from Eastern-block whose parents saw their situation through mud-colored glasses! The reason the youth have to step up is because the adults, raised under communism, were beat down. Except for the oldest of SMs, they had no concept of volunteering time in youth programs. Secondly, most schools anywhere else could not afford the facilities to offer the panoply of sports and activities that ours do. Your 16 year-old counterpart in another country would not have the options (distractions?) you describe.

Our crew's biggest hit? When the school installed a climbing wall! Suddenly, one didn't have to take the better part of a Saturday on a Cope course ... plus nobody was asking you to tie your own figure eight on a bight!

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I understand that this is out of necessity, but that can drive innovation and solutions we can learn from.  Perhaps we (my pack) underutilized the Den Chief model.  I know they don’t run the meeting, but t having Den Chiefs come in and assist could be a great help to overworked den leaders and also give Cub Scouts a older peer mentor.  While what you stated could be extreme I think there could be lessons there.  

 

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@Jameson76

Does JTE reflect an “ideal” Troop?  If not, then BSA should address the gaps and emphasize the true key metics.  At that point, they should have their District Commissioners (hopefully retired from the best Troops) work with units who don’t score well to identify the gaps and work to improve.  I think some of the framework is there, but not sure if they are driving the right attributes and commissioners are hit or miss from my experience.

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3 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Some of us here think it is in the training. I also believe adults who haven't seen it work as a youth struggle to trust the program will work to the level we say it can. Adults just don't believe a 16 year old can manage a troop, so they only give them a short leash to try.

THIS IS THE KEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The more I hear about what my current troop did back in the day, the more I realized that one of our Eagle ASMs was not involved in a true Scout-led, and why he has such a hard time letting the Scouts struggle and learn.

 

 

I find that adults who never had the scouting experience tend to vision a troop of advancement, while adults who had a youth experience tend to have a vision of camping. Even though both adults may have the same goal of building character, the two differences describe the philosophical approaches toward their program design.

 

This is so true. I was in a Scout led troop. We struggled, we had challenges, and we grew from them. Even those who should know better, but have not expereinced true Scout led, have a completely different approach.

 

 

 

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50 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

@Jameson76

Does JTE reflect an “ideal” Troop?  If not, then BSA should address the gaps and emphasize the true key metics.  At that point, they should have their District Commissioners (hopefully retired from the best Troops) work with units who don’t score well to identify the gaps and work to improve.  I think some of the framework is there, but not sure if they are driving the right attributes and commissioners are hit or miss from my experience.

I think JTE is a good start, but maybe not the whole story.  Also as it is self declaratory, could be some fudging (on my Honor yeah yeah).  Though at least to get Gold you will have to camp out and go to longterm camp

Since it is self reporting, that is where the benchmarking  and hands on can come into play.  Go on some outings with the "best" troops, go to meetings, go to Greenbar meetings.  See what a thriving troop is doing and how they do it.

Real institutional issue is that those that are making decisions on possibly how to improve Scouting are NOT working in the units.  Most of them likely have not been on a camp out with an actual troop or dealt with an actual scout in years.  Gotta get your hands dirty and sleep in the rain to really grasp the current state of the program.  

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6 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Some of us here think it is in the training. I also believe adults who haven't seen it work as a youth struggle to trust the program will work to the level we say it can. Adults just don't believe a 16 year old can manage a troop, so they only give them a short leash to try.

I don't think it's that simple. It's amazing what ranges of parents I've seen. On one end are the snow plows and on the other are the "suck it up" parents. That phrase came from a parent meeting for children going on a year long, overseas exchange program my daughter went on. While a bit crass, the phrase suck it up really means their children will have to figure it out on their own. There are a number of parents that like this approach and it's independent of scouts or outdoor experience (or exchange programs for that matter). Those parents don't really need much scouting experience to understand what it's about.

Unfortunately there are fewer of those parents around then there used to be.

As far as your comments about fun vs advancement is concerned, yeah, but maybe that's a different axis. Some just see eagle and some see fun.

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On 4/4/2018 at 6:22 PM, Jameson76 said:

I think JTE is a good start, but maybe not the whole story.  Also as it is self declaratory, could be some fudging (on my Honor yeah yeah).  Though at least to get Gold you will have to camp out and go to longterm camp

Since it is self reporting, that is where the benchmarking  and hands on can come into play.  Go on some outings with the "best" troops, go to meetings, go to Greenbar meetings.  See what a thriving troop is doing and how they do it.

Real institutional issue is that those that are making decisions on possibly how to improve Scouting are NOT working in the units.  Most of them likely have not been on a camp out with an actual troop or dealt with an actual scout in years.  Gotta get your hands dirty and sleep in the rain to really grasp the current state of the program.  

Shouldn't the PLC understand what makes JTE points?  Wouldn't that help them understand the ulterior motive of JTE by seeing the metrics?  Of course, some may just want to check the boxes to earn the points...but don't we all do that initially until we fully understand?

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On 4/4/2018 at 9:51 PM, Pselb said:

Sounds like BSA isn't into giving up their idealized crystal ball and adopting Best Practices.  From my perch, it would seem that the processes in place don't seem to be directly connected to any real solutions.

First of all it would seem that the people here on the forum recognize a "problem".    It would be a rather obvious consensus that it seems to be revolving around the loss of membership over a period of multiple decades. 

Then there's the subject of "What's causing the decline" and multiple threads seem to do well in justifying blame all the way around, from the boys all the way up to this entity known as "National".  To-date, no problem has ever gotten solved by blaming anyone, but that doesn't seem to slow anyone down.

Then one reaches the point where, does anyone really know what the issue really is?

 It has been alluded to a few times here, but it would make rather good sense to ask the customer what it is they wish to buy and go from there.  Is the "customer" the real driving factor in the development of the program or is the program the focus and somehow that's going to lure the customer in out of some sense of curiosity?  It's kinda like the old "coupon" game.  We're going to give you a coupon that knocks the price down on items in our store.  Let's say it's 40% off.  So the customer comes into the store and quickly realizes it doesn't apply to items already on sale, are big ticket items, or seasonal items, or any item in the store you feel would be interested in in the first place.  So, how many feel that this customer will ever darken the door to that store any time soon?

So, there's this big recruiting push.  I don't know what those are, somehow my boy found out about scouting and wanted to join and so we registered him.  As long as he feels he's getting something out of it, getting his money's worth, and is a satisfied customer, I think he will stick with it.  He has not ever said one way or the other other than things are fine and he's having fun.  I have no idea what that means, he likes his den leader?  He likes the program?  He likes the kids there?  I don't know and I don't care as long as he's happy with it.  He's the customer.  Had they dumped with a "Bait and Switch", he would quit in a heartbeat.  "Hey Boys, what we have here is a Fun Adventure of a Lifetime program!  Join up!"  So what happens down the road and it isn't a Fun Adventure of a Lifetime?

As it stands, from what I'm reading here on the forum (I have no other references to go by) the decline has been going on for many years and 1) society has changed, 2) youth involvement in activities has changed, 3) the BSA program has changed..... and nobody really knows what to do about it.  A lot of guessing is going on trying to address the symptoms, but no one is really interesting in pursuing the cure of the root cause.  Does anyone really know what the root cause is?  From where I sit here on the outside, the answer seems to be "Nope".

 

I wanted to say it is awesome that your son joined up, without any of the prods (no parent kicking him into it as a "legacy").  For Cubs, you hit it exactly right as to what the solution is to helping Cubs thrive- make it fun! Going back to my days as a Cub, to what I see now in that program, there are awards and pins, belt loops, arrowheads, beads, yada yada.  Way, way too much focus on awards than just keeping it simple and getting the activities fun.  And when it isn't fun, the kids are not sticking it with it because they want to, they are in effect being forced to stay.  

What challenges the Cubs, however, is what I see now challenging the Troops.  Everyone wants the advancement, and they want it now.  I wanted my son to get involved in Scouts as a Cub, and when he learned what activities the den he would join does, he felt it was boring.  Too much of "following the book".  Simply, he felt he could learn the skills from me, why did he need Cub Scouts? I was a Scout from Bobcat (I am in my mid-forties, we didn't have Tiger back then) through WEBELOS (the WEBELOS program was 14 months long in those days, there was the Arrow of Light Award, but we didn't call them "AOL Scouts").  I stayed up until I was 17- my troop folded for several reasons, and I just didn't fell like moving on to another one.  I was Life Scout by 13 1/2, SPL during the time I earned Life, had 40+ Merit Badges, but got there from a ton of work and ambition on my part, but also was having a crap load of fun.  My troop did not have "advancement time" on campouts (meaning we didn't set 3 hours aside on Saturday purely to have advancement classes), so I got my advancement by watching the older boys, then trying things on my own, and asking them for help/guidance when I needed it.  Same ent for Merit Badges- we very, very rarely ever had "Merit Badge" nights during our troop meetings, I earned them by seeking out counselors and doing the work in my "non-Scout" time.  

My son finally showed the interest towards joining Scouts when he was 11 and had finished 5th grade.  More options for "adventure" exists for the Boy Scout level, and that was what he wanted.  The first troop he joined didn't have it, so he moved on.  He is like I was when I was a Scout, he had ambition and ranked quickly and at 14 figured "why wait", and started on his Eagle project.  At 14 1/2, he became an Eagle.  Now, as he gets ready to turn 15, he's involved with NYLT staff in neighboring council, summer camp staff at another neighboring council camp, and actively involved and trying to get even mores with his Order of the Arrow Lodge leadership group.  That stuff for him is fun, and keeps his interest in Scouts.  His troop program though does not hold his interest anymore.  He's wanted to do high adventure, but the adult leadership isn't interested in the same things he is.  I've offered to help the planning and coordination to pull that off, even if only 5 of the Scouts wanted to do it, but the response was "we can't only have a few go", which lead to "why would we have activities that don't involve rank advancement opportunities?".  So, he sits registered with a troop, but the time has come that he isn't actually involved with the troop.  I can't blame him- I wouldn't have stayed in Scouts as long as I did as a youth if it was the same program, same camping spots, same expectations year over year.  I enjoyed teaching younger Scouts, but I didn't want it to feel like it as my sole "job" as a Scout.  Boring!

The solution, which you do allude to as being elusive, for me, is to consider whether trying to grow numbers or even to think "why can't we get back to the numbers we had 10 years ago" is even what our focus needs to be.  As a kid, I can tell you when organized soccer became available to us as kids- but, we didn't have town teams AND travel teams AND club teams, and we didn't have indoor leagues where soccer could literally be a year-round commitment.  I could say the same about other sports (we knew nothing about lacrosse or rugby in this area then).  I can remember when T-ball started up as a thing.  Most of my peers also had moms who didn't work, or worked during school hours, so we could be involved in activities from say 3:00 in the afternoon, as well as another in the evening.  That just doesn't exist as much as it used to.  The BSA is acknowledging as much in their justification for the addition of "Family Scouting".  But, to me, it still misses the boat.  

Focus on making the program for the kids you have as awesome and fun as it can be, and that is what is going to be the decision point of whether more kids get involved.  Adding more age groups or girls gives no assurance that the program as a whole is going to grow, if you don't fix the fun factor.   Units that are lead by adults who would think that youth X who plays three sports and is around Scouts 25% of the time should advance at the same pace as youth Y who is around 90% need to be shut down.  Cubs needs to cut down on all the micro awards- your Tiger/Wolf/Bear/WEBELOS/AOL awards are enough.  Having three Packs of 20 youth in one town  (or three Troops of 15) can't continue to be the commonplace reality- consolidate, the few active adults now can share the land better, you don't need three sets of physical resources, etc.   If the kid doesn't ge the AOL, its not the end of the road- did he have fun trying to get there? If the answer is yes, then it was a successful venture! Stop caving to the "everyone should get a trophy" nonsense.  The entire marketing motto of the BSA is "Prepared. For life.", but it is less and less what the reality is that our programs are keeping step with that.  Failure is actually a part of life- how we react to it is the key.  Not everyone is going to be an Eagle- and guess what, we survived!  Teach the skills, but also realize these are youth, and they are only going to be youth for a short time in the span of their life, so give them the opportunities to have fun and do things they my not get the chance to do again, and most likely not with their friends they have as youth.  And do that for who you have in your units, not fretting about those you don't. 

 

Edited by HashTagScouts
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@Pselb, membership decline isn't the problem, it's a symptom. It is the effect of policies and procedures, culture, and economy.

As individual scouters, we can manage some of those things more than others. But, by reading about each other and sharing what we learn with others (at multiple levels of responsibility, from the troop librarian to the chief scout executive) we hope to help everyone.

So, don't expect a consensus statement from these forums. Do expect what you have to say to be taken seriously.

BTW, as a kid, I was all about bugs (and building a computer- 4 bit processor- manual switches). Sounds like your son's on he right track.

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I'm not sure if it was this thread or another, but we talked about how to describe the program succinctly so everyone can understand it.

On 4/5/2018 at 9:24 PM, HashTagScouts said:

Focus on making the program for the kids you have as awesome and fun as it can be, and that is what is going to be the decision point of whether more kids get involved.

Hillcourt called this ""Fun with a purpose." I'd say for a cub the purpose is to develop friendships to get ready for boy scouts. For boy scouts the purpose is responsibility, to God and country, to others, and to self. But it has to be via having fun. That seems to be the part that gets dropped. The documentation that come out of national seems to lead the way in dropping fun. More requirements that aren't any more fun. Rather than dilute the fun they should consider diluting the boring requirements and expanding the fun ones. Don't talk about the food plate, learn to cook an omelette. If the scouts are truly having fun then they will learn the boring requirements anyway.

We got a new DE and he had no scouting experience. Zero. DEs become SEs become national. Most of the DEs in my council had no scouting experience as kids. So after decades of this how many people at national truly understand fun with a purpose? How many have run a troop or pack? How can they help if they've never done it before?

Scouting is certainly sustainable. I'm just not sure about the way the BSA is currently run.

 

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On 4/7/2018 at 12:05 PM, MattR said:

We got a new DE and he had no scouting experience. Zero. DEs become SEs become national. Most of the DEs in my council had no scouting experience as kids. So after decades of this how many people at national truly understand fun with a purpose? How many have run a troop or pack? How can they help if they've never done it before?

Scouting is certainly sustainable. I'm just not sure about the way the BSA is currently run.

While DE's are considered "Unit-serving Executives", I'm pretty sure it's well known program and how a troop runs is not a huge responsibility of our Jobs. It's good and bad the way BSA does promotions. It's nice knowing that 99% of the time, everybody in a SE or national role started out as a DE somewhere and worked their way up. 

 

The bad is that many SE's or national guys were DE literally decades ago. I have no problem saying many are out of touch with the program. The honest truth is you are promoted if you show great numbers.  So DE's in huge councils where there is more TAY tend to show better numbers, tend to get promoted. The dudes in smaller rural councils, tend to get left behind. In the local councils, it's tough to find qualified people for Program Director and camping director positions. Why? Because the professional pipeline prepares literally nobody for that. Those are positions I believe should be direct hires, not promoted from DE's. 

Edited by carebear3895

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2 hours ago, carebear3895 said:

In the local councils, it's tough to find qualified people for Program Director and camping director positions. Why? Because the professional pipeline prepares literally nobody for that. Those are positions I believe should be direct hires, not promoted from DE's. 

That's interesting.  I am wondering if that (at least for Program Directors) is still going to be the case in my council, with its recent reorganization.  We no longer have "District Executives," though we still have districts, with their own volunteers, program, roundtables etc.  The six districts have been divided into two regions with three districts each.  (I a not sure whether they call it a region or something else.)  Each reason has a Program Executive, a Unit Service Executive, a Development Executive and a Field Service Executive, all of whom report to the Field Service Director for that reason.  So I would think that someone with some years as a Program Executive for half the council would be a logical candidate for Program Director. Right?  Or would that person be leapfrogging over the Field Service Director?

I guess it also means that my council now has a Director of Field Service, 2 Field Service Directors and 2 Field Service Executives.  I'm sure that won't be confusing.  :)

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24 minutes ago, NJCubScouter said:

That's interesting.  I am wondering if that (at least for Program Directors) is still going to be the case in my council, with its recent reorganization.  We no longer have "District Executives," though we still have districts, with their own volunteers, program, roundtables etc.  The six districts have been divided into two regions with three districts each.  (I a not sure whether they call it a region or something else.)  Each reason has a Program Executive, a Unit Service Executive, a Development Executive and a Field Service Executive, all of whom report to the Field Service Director for that reason.  So I would think that someone with some years as a Program Executive for half the council would be a logical candidate for Program Director. Right?  Or would that person be leapfrogging over the Field Service Director?

I guess it also means that my council now has a Director of Field Service, 2 Field Service Directors and 2 Field Service Executives.  I'm sure that won't be confusing.  :)

In my time, a Director of Field Service (sometimes called assistant scout executives) is in charge of all membership and finance within the council. They are the #2 guy under the SE. They don't handle much on the program side of things, but Program Directors traditionally report to them. Field Service Directors (aka Field Directors) are middle management types, who directly oversee Unit service executives (DEs and SDEs), with membership being their focus. I've heard of a field service executive, I don't know what they do tho

 

Program Executives (I think their official title is Paraprofessionals), are either called like "cub scout specialists" are usually not full time staff, and I don't believe they hold BSA commissions. There is only one example I have ever heard of a Program Executive becoming a Program Director. Its very rare. Her promotion was very much looked down upon by other professionals, simply because she never "earned her stripes" as a DE. Program Director positions are highly desired.

Edited by carebear3895

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