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Jameson76

What are the BSA priorities??

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12 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Where I'd love to see national focus is on really encouraging hands on volunteering in Scouting again.  Really focusing on supporting tools & methods for council & district Scouters to get out and engage with new volunteers to help them in strengthening their unit programs.  Creating decent local training, teaching local leaders how to run a modern roundtable, how to really build a local membership program, etc.  National could do a lot to recognize that basic leader training, IOLS, and Wood Badge are not enough to really prepare a local team to run a Scouting program in a city or several small towns.

1. Upfront, National needs to respect and trust volunteers.  Respect their time and money investment. Respect their privacy. Trust them to do their best in safely delivering the program.

2. Listen and respond to their feedback.

3. Train remembering #1 and #2.

My $0.02

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40 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

 

@Eagledad - can you talk about this a little more please? 

To give you some context.  Our district is largely staffed with an "old guard" of volunteers who have weathered many district chairs.  This has had the net effect of creating a pretty consistent district experience. 

The problem though is that our district program is "just good enough" but it's not great.  We have some training courses, have a camporee, hold a merit badge event, do some membership work.  Not to diminish our volunteer's efforts - but our expectations are just too low.  We've had several district chairs come through who have tried to impact this, but get burned out by status quo.  We've had some district chairs even quit part way through their term. 

If you said this to our district volunteers I'm sure they'd be offended as they all think they're working hard.  But, when you look at camporees with small turnout, most units with 50-60% trained leaders, round tables with just a few participants, declining membership year or year, you can clearly see a pattern.  I liken it to a struggling unit.  They think that they are doing the right things but can sense there is a problem.

What have you seen in your travels that make high functioning districts successful?  Any advice on how to break the cycle of mediocrity?

Mods: If you want to spin this off into another topic feel free.

The answers aren't easy. First, district level positions are chair position, which are generally director level, or even visionary level positions. Most districts don't recruit volunteers with director level skills. In fact, they "likely" don't even have the skills for their specific responsibility like membership chair. So, right at the beginning the district is managed by incompetent volunteers who were recruited only because they were willing to fill a slot. And, district is responsibile for the activity chairman. Our district camporees and Webelorees were getting worse and worse each year. When the committee recognized that most of the directors where volunteering to complete a WoodBadge ticket, we changed the policy of how to recruit district activity directors. But, I can honestly say that the committee still didn't understand their problem, because their solution was to "assign" Scoutmaster to direct these activities. As if all Scoutmasters had the skills to plan and run these events.

Where I'm going is that for a district to be the leader in unit quality, quality recruiting is imperative. I would guess that the reason your District Chairman who are burned out by the status quo weren't good recruiters because their committee is reinforcing the status quo. In my opinion, Council should recruit a District Chairman who has the qualifications to RECRUIT. Ideally the District Chairman should also be a visionary and direct the committee toward the goals. But, I would be happy if districts just found someone with recruiting skills to fill their chair positions with competent volunteers.

The other area that districts are lacking is a vision or set of goals for the units. I hinted on this moment ago, but think about it, have you heard your committee express goals for standardizing a higher quality programs. Or, are they just doing what they have always been doing. When I was asked by the new district training chairman to help her develop a new district training program, the first thing we did was create a vision to guide our development, then I went out and recruited professional teachers to help develop a plan for reaching the goals. Our program was recognized for a high quality program and the district training chairman earned the Silver Beaver from all those efforts. 

Finally, quality expectations for units are best set and maintained by the district training committee. The reason I was willing to help the new training chairman was because I knew we could make a big difference with unit quality. Training is the one area where all units typically get continued instruction at the adult level. Training is the one area that can quickly change trends of poor programming. Training has the mechanism to continually inform all the units of acceptable unit performance. 

I'm not sure if those thoughts help or not. In once since, good recruiting seems logical and even a simple solution for building a quality district committee. But, that isn't so simple if the authoritative folks who control recruiting aren't concerned with qualifications. Probably the hardest step toward a quality district is finding someone with the authority to believe good recruiting is important. And then the next step is the vision. 

Barry

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14 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Where I'd love to see national focus is on really encouraging hands on volunteering in Scouting again.  Really focusing on supporting tools & methods for council & district Scouters to get out and engage with new volunteers to help them in strengthening their unit programs.  Creating decent local training, teaching local leaders how to run a modern roundtable, how to really build a local membership program, etc.  National could do a lot to recognize that basic leader training, IOLS, and Wood Badge are not enough to really prepare a local team to run a Scouting program in a city or several small towns.

Agree 100%

The challenge is so many of the volunteers that plot direction, lead efforts, implement the new and most current WB training, etc etc, have NOT actually seen a Scout or Cub in years and years.  They may "attend" a big event, but it is at best a drive by.  For many they have not done a full weekend camping event in eons, if ever at all.  By this I mean being in the CO lot before the Scouts come, hooking up the trailer, stepping back and gently reminding the youth leaders what needs to be done, driving to the campsite, setting up (often in the dark), helping the youth ensure the program is running, maybe some first aid, helping the youth that need it, packing up, unloading at the CO, waiting for the last parents, unloading your own gear later...etc etc

These council / national volunteers are well meaning, but they need to fully get WHY the kids are there, (probably not STEM or the latest flavor of the week; most likely it is they are looking for FUN with their friends, a break from the routine) and actually what brings them to an outing and Scouts.  Chatting with some at a big event does not make give the answers.  Time in the woods, in the mud, with the burned meals will.

Edited by Jameson76
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4 hours ago, fred8033 said:

People aren't hunting and fishing.  People aren't gathering as families every weekend like they used to do.

I'd challenge you here a bit @fred8033, lots of the boys I've worked with hunt and fish and camp with their families.  They also drive ATVs, and snowmobiles, and farm equipment.  When they experience the limitations in boy scouts it looks lame to them.  I've had more than a few conversations with young men explaining to them the rules aren't written for them but for the average.  

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On 10/29/2019 at 10:29 AM, HashTagScouts said:

BP's original Scouting for Boys had Tenderfoot as the joining rank. http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/yarn03.pdf

 

The Dump, if unofficial,  is  great resource for Canadian Boy Scouting.  There are, however, contradictions with reality.  E.G.., the Dump has B-P write : "To be a Scout you should join a Scout Patrol or a Scout Troop in your neighborhood, with the written permission of your parents." B-P write 

http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/yarn03.pdf

That language always seemed odd for something written starting in 1907 and completed in early 1908 at the very dawn of Scouting (When there were no ranks.  The  Boy Scouts Association was only formed in 1910.  Official tests for ranks came in 1914. ).   "Instead  B-P wrote:  "You join a patrol, or raise a patrol yourself by getting five other boys to join.”   

 

E.g.: since Canadian Boy Scouting adopted the election of leaders (Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol leader), the Dump attributes elected leaders to B-
P's "Patrol System,' which it never was and never has been.  Per the literature and an exchange of emails a few years ago, in the Patrol System in the UK, the adult unit leader appoints to leaders.

 

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2 hours ago, Jameson76 said:

Agree 100%

The challenge is so many of the volunteers that plot direction, lead efforts, implement the new and most current WB training, etc etc, have NOT actually seen a Scout or Cub in years and years.  They may "attend" a big event, but it is at best a drive by.  For many they have not done a full weekend camping event in eons, if ever at all.  By this I mean being in the CO lot before the Scouts come, hooking up the trailer, stepping back and gently reminding the youth leaders what needs to be done, driving to the campsite, setting up (often in the dark), helping the youth ensure the program is running, maybe some first aid, helping the youth that need it, packing up, unloading at the CO, waiting for the last parents, unloading your own gear later...etc etc

These council / national volunteers are well meaning, but they need to fully get WHY the kids are there, (probably not STEM or the latest flavor of the week; most likely it is they are looking for FUN with their friends, a break from the routine) and actually what brings them to an outing and Scouts.  Chatting with some at a big event does not make give the answers.  Time in the woods, in the mud, with the burned meals will.

IN SEARCH OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION

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On 10/29/2019 at 10:41 AM, Treflienne said:

I don't know that the name "Scout" is the best choice.  But the content is a helpful preliminary orientation.  The focus is on understanding how being a scout works:  (scout oath, scout law, "four steps of Scout advancement", what ranks are, what merit badges are, how scouts provide leadership in the troop, the types of patrols in your troop, etc, etc.  And of course going throught the YPT pamphlet with ones parents.)   There is very little in the way of outdoor skills. (3 knots, whip and fuse rope, "tell" about pocketknife safety.)   

So later on when the scout wants to be signed off the very first time they, with help, stumble through a skill activity,  one can ask them whether they remember the "four steps of Scout advancment" in which "You learn" and "You are tesed" are separate steps.

BSA at least tolerates the practice of many councils of handing out awards with no attention to whether the Scout has actually passed the "requirements."  The only reform in decades, has been the (expressly discouraged) option the unit leader now has to refuse to award the badge if it "could not" have been earned (Personal Management from scratch in five, fifty-minute sessions at Camp Frontier.; Pioneering in four, fifty-minute sessions despite the inability to tie even one of the required knots or lashings at Camp Mountaineer; Merit Badges with no involvement by actual, registered Merit Badge Counselors at numerous council camps ) .  But, with an average of less than a year experience and weak training, the "unit leader" has little incentive to storm that hill, especially given the attitudes of many parents of the "Good job!" generation.

In addition to the terrible "values" lesson for Camper and Staffer, such a system does not promote actual learning of skills. 

What our masters miss is that is does not promote membership ($$$$$$$$$$$) either.

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9 hours ago, Eagledad said:

The answers aren't easy. First, district level positions are chair position, which are generally director level, or even visionary level positions. Most districts don't recruit volunteers with director level skills. In fact, they "likely" don't even have the skills for their specific responsibility like membership chair. So, right at the beginning the district is managed by incompetent volunteers who were recruited only because they were willing to fill a slot. And, district is responsibile for the activity chairman. Our district camporees and Webelorees were getting worse and worse each year. When the committee recognized that most of the directors where volunteering to complete a WoodBadge ticket, we changed the policy of how to recruit district activity directors. But, I can honestly say that the committee still didn't understand their problem, because their solution was to "assign" Scoutmaster to direct these activities. As if all Scoutmasters had the skills to plan and run these events.

Where I'm going is that for a district to be the leader in unit quality, quality recruiting is imperative. I would guess that the reason your District Chairman who are burned out by the status quo weren't good recruiters because their committee is reinforcing the status quo. In my opinion, Council should recruit a District Chairman who has the qualifications to RECRUIT. Ideally the District Chairman should also be a visionary and direct the committee toward the goals. But, I would be happy if districts just found someone with recruiting skills to fill their chair positions with competent volunteers.

The other area that districts are lacking is a vision or set of goals for the units. I hinted on this moment ago, but think about it, have you heard your committee express goals for standardizing a higher quality programs. Or, are they just doing what they have always been doing. When I was asked by the new district training chairman to help her develop a new district training program, the first thing we did was create a vision to guide our development, then I went out and recruited professional teachers to help develop a plan for reaching the goals. Our program was recognized for a high quality program and the district training chairman earned the Silver Beaver from all those efforts. 

Finally, quality expectations for units are best set and maintained by the district training committee. The reason I was willing to help the new training chairman was because I knew we could make a big difference with unit quality. Training is the one area where all units typically get continued instruction at the adult level. Training is the one area that can quickly change trends of poor programming. Training has the mechanism to continually inform all the units of acceptable unit performance. 

I'm not sure if those thoughts help or not. In once since, good recruiting seems logical and even a simple solution for building a quality district committee. But, that isn't so simple if the authoritative folks who control recruiting aren't concerned with qualifications. Probably the hardest step toward a quality district is finding someone with the authority to believe good recruiting is important. And then the next step is the vision. 

Barry

Hi @Eagledad,

Thank you.  This does explain much of what I see.  

What I see is a sort of tenure system where the district chairs come in and don't replace anyone.  Instead they continue with the people from the same before.

You're assessment is correct.  As well meaning as many of our district leaders are, they are not director level people.  I can see that we are doomed to the status quo because we don't have people with the knowledge or skills to lead the efforts that they are being asked to lead. I do think sometime we put district chairs in place with vision - but again, without the team there that can act on that vision, we are stuck where we are.

Again - thank you very much, this is most helpful.  If I could like your post 100 times, I would.

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"Since its inception, the BSA has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature."

BSA website.  10/31/2019

Good words.  Sadly ignored.

 

 

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On 10/30/2019 at 2:19 PM, walk in the woods said:

I'd challenge you here a bit @fred8033, lots of the boys I've worked with hunt and fish and camp with their families.  They also drive ATVs, and snowmobiles, and farm equipment.  When they experience the limitations in boy scouts it looks lame to them.  I've had more than a few conversations with young men explaining to them the rules aren't written for them but for the average.  

Our individual experiences may vary, but statistical trends are pretty clear.  Total number of licensed hunters/fishers has changed measurably down (some up, but mostly down) ... but "per capita", it's significantly down.  Further, the "median age" shifted from mid 30s up into the 50s (my interpretation is those who learned to hunt/fish when they were young still hunt/fish).  The median age is significant because it predicts the future.  It reflects the pool of future hunters / fishers that will maintain the trends.  https://www.outdoorlife.com/why-we-are-losing-hunters-and-how-to-fix-it/  

Anecdotally ... yes I see some with ATVs, but I just don't see the kids regularly fishing / hunting.  That has become "special events".  It was a regular / recurring family activity throughout the fishing seasons.  Now, it's more special events.  Heck, I remember when school started that kids would talk about fishing plans etc.  Now, it's all electronics.  

 

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On 11/1/2019 at 10:34 AM, fred8033 said:

Our individual experiences may vary, but statistical trends are pretty clear.  Total number of licensed hunters/fishers has changed measurably down (some up, but mostly down) ... but "per capita", it's significantly down.  Further, the "median age" shifted from mid 30s up into the 50s (my interpretation is those who learned to hunt/fish when they were young still hunt/fish).  The median age is significant because it predicts the future.  It reflects the pool of future hunters / fishers that will maintain the trends.  https://www.outdoorlife.com/why-we-are-losing-hunters-and-how-to-fix-it/  

Anecdotally ... yes I see some with ATVs, but I just don't see the kids regularly fishing / hunting.  That has become "special events".  It was a regular / recurring family activity throughout the fishing seasons.  Now, it's more special events.  Heck, I remember when school started that kids would talk about fishing plans etc.  Now, it's all electronics.  

 

 This is a marketing message BSA is missing. Getting America's Kids Outdoors would be a great positive message to counteract all the negativity. Doing more to save local Council camps that are closing. Protect parks. Developing partnerships with conservation groups that are working to protect some of the species that are linked to our ranks, like wolves and tigers and bears. There is very little real or functional connection in BSA to conservation, wildlife, parks, etc.  Our purpose is so muddled and we miss opportunities right and left to cast ourselves in a better light 

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On 11/1/2019 at 10:34 AM, fred8033 said:

Our individual experiences may vary, but statistical trends are pretty clear.  Total number of licensed hunters/fishers has changed measurably down (some up, but mostly down) ... but "per capita", it's significantly down. ...

I will point out that for a 16 year old in our state, the BSA registration fee exceeds the cost of a fishing and hunting license.

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