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Scouting Magazine - betting the farm on girls

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1 hour ago, malraux said:

It’s not everything, but more overall numbers means more ability to afford summer camps, high adventure camps, better materials, etc. 

That makes sense. I agree. I also think that those who use these resources should pay for them. 

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21 hours ago, packsaddle said:

Gblotter, I am aware that 'overall membership' is and has been a concern for 'top brass' in this organization for quite a while. But at the unit level, I am not sure why overall membership should be a great concern. It seems like at that level, the well-being of the unit and its members and families should be the top priority. Sort of an 'all Scouting is local' approach.

No disagreement at all that the well-being troop members and their families should be the top priority for unit leaders. Absolutely true.

However, lower overall BSA membership is (or should be) a concern for folks at all levels of Scouting (including individual units). When money is tight, facilities are not maintained, staffing is cut, training is shortchanged, and money pressures start forcing decisions to be made for the wrong motivations (i.e. not for the good of the boys and the program, but for the survival of BSA the corporation).

In our little corner of BSA, I'm seeing this everywhere I go. Our heroic district staff is stretched so ridiculously thin that I keep wondering how long they can continue in this mode. Our council owns three camp properties but one sits almost completely idle (even during the busy summer camping season). Enough council funds exist to maintain only one camp property so all three are all in a state of slow decay. Paid, trained, professional camp directors have been eliminated, with their jobs now filled by seasonal volunteer replacements. The resulting lack of continuity in camp leadership leads to all sorts of cascading problems with camp staff recruitment and retention. And camp staff problems naturally result in declining camp program quality. When troops notice the poor condition of our camps and programs, they quite logically start looking elsewhere at summer camp options which only worsens the revenue problem for our council. Many more examples could be cited.

Such problems do not remain hidden indefinitely. If quality drops enough, people take notice (and not just us Scouting enthusiasts who hang out on Scouter.com). Once the stink of a failure takes hold, people flee to other higher-quality alternatives. After that happens, it is nearly impossible to ever get them back. Without being too dramatic, I worry that Scouting is getting close to that tipping point (the LDS exit is what initially spawned such thoughts in my head). Our troop was strong in tradition and attended the same in-council camp every year for 30+ years. Then we started noticing a different camp director each year. We started overhearing grumbling and dissatisfaction from camp staff. Each year there was a "new and improved" camp program that was in reality getting worse with fewer offerings. Each year, we noticed fewer troops and Scouts in attendance at that camp. Finally things got bad enough for our troop to start investigating other summer camp options and we discovered a whole new world of possibilities. We never looked back and there is little chance we will ever return to our old council camp. A loyal customer has been permanently lost. I apply the same analogy to the loyal multi-generational Scouting families who are being alienated by BSA's recent decisions. Once lost, these Scouting loyalists will be gone forever as they move on and devote their time and energy to other worthy pursuits. I very seriously doubt the number of new girls joining BSA will come close to replacing the membership losses resulting from this alienation. Thus, the original problem of declining BSA membership will be compounded rather than fixed, hastening even more desperate decisions. It's all so very sad for me to watch.

I hope you can see how declining overall BSA membership creates problems for all levels of Scouting (even at the unit level). Declining membership results in less money which results in constrained resources which results in degraded quality of the Scouting experience for everyone (even if an individual troop happens to be large in numbers and well-funded). Not to be insulting, but the phrase "All Scouting is Local" is frequently deployed to dismiss hard problems and bad decisions that folks just don't want to think about or deal with.

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Thanks gblotter, that's a lot to digest at once. Back when I was an ASM our unit also became frustrated with various aspects of council and district. That was almost 20 years ago now. Our solution was basically to shrug off the nonsense and just do what we thought was best for our unit and then apologize if someone thought we had broken some rules. We basically were in a 'local option' mode. 

No offense taken. We made our decisions with the unit as the top priority. I suspect that we are not alone in that approach. I've never been that much in awe of the decisions that are made 'top down' anyway. I've always wondered why it is that nearly everyone claims to want to live their own lives and make their own decisions....and then practically fall on their knees in reverent thanks when rules are imposed on them from the outside. It's just me. I wonder about a lot of things.

Edited by packsaddle

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