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fred8033

Kudos to my council - Northern Star

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23 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:
  • Commissioner role is not commonly understood; Approach to unit service varies in performance and effectiveness    

Again people speak of commissioners and the reason the role is not commonly understood is that so few folks / units have actually seen one.  They may file reports, but very few are seen in the wild.

The commissioner should know the units leaders, the CC's of the units, the key unit leaders (not the leader or CC, but the ones who actually gets stuff done).  This would entail more than maybe an annual visit.  Honestly if you query most units about their commissioner you will get "who??" or "what??"

Not saying it could not or should not be a useful role, but the execution is often times lacking.

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There is much room for meaningful UC leadership/help/ e Explore branch of scouting. Some  Post committee/Advisor folk do not have backgrounds in scouting, and do not receive the same support from the general population to the DEs.  Some do YP, then proceed not knowing about the 360 page handbook, online training, awards program.

Units need to be diverse in their approaches to serve the larger scouting community effectively. I don't thing UCs should be arguing over unit administration unless there are serious violations of protocol.  In my view, UCs should be prompting, and reminding unit leaders and committees to have succession plan, a steady inflow of folks joining the Scoutmaster Corp, an Outdoor Program that excites the youth and facilitates advancement.  Getting new ASMs to comprehend the value of comprehensive training should also be on the agenda.  The online training gets one in the door. A growing  SM, CC, and senior ASM should have in their possession the TLGB, GSS, GRA books.  Being purposefully uninformed will result in wasting one's own time, as well as the scouts and other leaders.  A UC trying to be a backseat SM is just dumb.

Commissioner service is increasingly a critical component of council and district work since some DEs are now being tasked with serving multiple districts at the same time.  It helps to have a D committee that is ready to fight fires.

Now for my obligatory offensive remark of the month....

If one holds a position in any level of scouting whether it be a Chaplain or a DC member, do your best, and do your job.  So may people just want to BS, and walk around with uniform bling.  Scouting is work, it is service.  If one is dead weight, and doesn't do their job, they compromise the whole organization by setting a poor example, and unwittingly lower the bar for all.  

 

Edited by Onslow
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I was a UC in several different councils.  When I introduced myself to units, the two main reactions were disbelief and suspicion. 

"I've been a SM for X years and you are the first UC I've met."

The well functioning units tolerated me.  Some struggling units were quite welcoming, happy to have another adult to go on campouts, talk about things, etc.  Other struggling units were quite content to flounder and resented any input.  Such is life.

As far as actual impact as a UC, I still have my doubts.  Moderate to minimal, even on a good day.   

The commissioner concept is great on paper.  Very rarely does it work as advertised.

Edited by desertrat77
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But let's assume there's some sort of commissioner that has the authority to make changes and the heart to help. Maybe like this neighborhood commissioner. That's a very different position than current commissioners and, with the right person, could help immensely. It gets back to leading as an example for the scouts to see. Instead, we have SMs with big egos because nobody is there to call them on mistakes. It's also a huge responsibility for the commissioner. I'd be up for it.

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Gotta admit - I'm thoroughly not impressed by this change. Two of the weakest functions in districts today are membership teams and unit commissioners.  It's utterly unclear what a district membership team really does.  Unit Commissioners are really hard to recruit because it's not really clear what value they bring.  So, this council is going to get rid of generally popular district roles (camping, activities, and training) and replace them with un-popular ones.  Really?  Who's going to want to do that?  This seems like board/professional nonsense at it's finest.

I do not believe that giving a unit commissioner power to impose their will over units is a good thing.  The reason that many units struggle is lack of leadership.  The unit leaders in place are not providing the leadership to build a strong program.  I don't see how bringing in yet another "boss" is a good thing.  You really just transplant the problem from the CC to the UC.  How does that help?

Instead, I would focus the council's energy on building strong districts.  Instead of throwing in the towel, let's build real training and mentoring for district leaders.  Focus on core responsibilities and skills.  Teach districts how to run quality roundtables.  Teach district offices how to recruit and build strong teams and programs.  

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How often do we advise a frustrated parent or scouter that their only recourse with a recalcitrant unit is to transfer? That there is no quality control by Council? 

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A core problem we have that contributes to wide variations in unit quality is a lack of official performance standards for units:  a single, accepted set of objective measurements covering every major aspect of unit program and operations.  When unit quality is simply a matter of personal opinion, it is hard to convince anyone that something needs to be done.  On the other hand, if you can point to a set of requirements that tells you whether a unit passes or fails and why, then the unit and commissioners and coaches can quickly zero in on problem areas and identify what assistance is needed.

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24 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

A core problem we have that contributes to wide variations in unit quality is a lack of official performance standards for units:  a single, accepted set of objective measurements covering every major aspect of unit program and operations.  When unit quality is simply a matter of personal opinion, it is hard to convince anyone that something needs to be done.  On the other hand, if you can point to a set of requirements that tells you whether a unit passes or fails and why, then the unit and commissioners and coaches can quickly zero in on problem areas and identify what assistance is needed.

Good point. A place to start would be to define the core areas of the program, and describe what quality looks like at differing levels of competence. This is a different approach than "requirements" which are check-boxes. For example, if we define Uses the Patrol Method as a core area then the levels could be:

LVL1. Patrols are created by adults. Patrols are mixed up at events based on attendance. Patrols make no decisions for themselves and rely primarily on adults.

LVL2. Patrols are created by scouts with parameters decided by adults. Patrols sometimes stick together but usually not. Patrol decisions are primarily about menus and kp, and make little/no decisions about activities and rely on adults for most other things.

LVL3. Patrols are created by scouts with guidance from adults. Patrols usually stick together at events. Some Patrol decisions are guided by the PL and made by the patrol. Most aspects of patrol activities are within the troop structure. 

LVL4. Patrols are created by scouts with guidance from senior scouts. Patrols always operate independently from each other. Patrols make all decisions guided by the PL. Patrol activities are independent of troop, however multiple patrols may choose to coordinate via the PLC.

 

This example is just a rough idea to illustrate the concept. Many aspects are not included, and other core areas are obviously missing too. The idea is to first create a description of what a "perfect program" would look like, then break it down into different core concepts which are then "leveled" to assess a unit at each core concept. There should never be an expectation that a unit is "perfect" ie LVL4 in all core areas. There should be an expectation that they are not at LVL1. The purpose of levels instead of check-box reqs, is the levels provide specific descriptors to which strive.

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I think something like this is good to incorporate into training.  I would shy away from making yet another metric ranking system.

The problem I see isn't a lack of documentation on quality.  It's a lack of local, hands on people who can help in relaying the concepts and making them understood.  It's the lack of enough effective commissioners who understand how to enable and support units.  The solution to the problem isn't yet more docs - it's getting people into roles who can make local training and coaching happen.  The step needed to make that happen is a more effective district development process.

We need to address the core problem.

Edited by ParkMan
grammer

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Agreed. It should not be used as a ranking system, but one for self-evaluation. UCs could help with the self-eval and then provide training and support to help the unit improve. 

However, if a unit is functioning at a lvl 1 in almost all areas and refuses to improve then the council should not renew their charter as the CO is not providing the proper oversight, leadership, and is in default of the chartering agreement.

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Sounds like a chicken and egg scenario. We want good people more than documentation or metrics, but in order to create those good people we need a definition of a good unit. But in order to define a good unit we really need a concise description of the goals and how the big pile of methods support those goals. My guess is most everyone here has their own view of these things, mainly because it's very vague in any documentation.

I'm honestly tired of trying to convince people that our main jobs, as scouters, is to work our way out of a job and have the scouts own it. Everyone says sure, that's obvious, until they see that the new scouts aren't advancing to some schedule. I could really use something, anything, that I can point to for these adults to go read. The trainers don't have it (they have trainer's edge!) The commissioners don't have it. The idea of levels of patrol method above is a great idea. But it will never become widely used . Someone could get it to work at their district and it would be great until that person left. The waves of new people would just slowly wash it away like a sandcastle on a beach. All we have is JTE, because that's what the BSA has backed. Any new scouter will be taught JTE, so it will continue.

I'm not so sure it's documentation or good people. What we really need is leadership. Good, bottom up, support your people, leadership. Just like all these scouts are supposedly learning. We will never see it as long as the focus is on money and old crimes. This is just like a church or temple that has to pay for their expensive building and start worrying more about money than spirituality. We need a CSE that is more interested in the spirituality of scouting than anything else. The only way to get that is to get drastic and remove the massive debt load the BSA has. Another option is to find one council that has a strong CE and no money issues and see if they would take this on for, say, 5 years. Proof of concept. Could a district do this? I kind of doubt it. Mine is certainly too week. And my council, however, has got to be one of the worst in the nation with respect to money problems and leadership, so I'm out.

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51 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

The solution to the problem isn't yet more docs - it's getting people into roles who can make local training and coaching happen. 

We absolutely need more effective training and coaching that is proactive in going out to units and is easily accessible to units who have questions and needs.  And we need fewer and simpler publications and materials so that it is a lot easier for unit Scouters to find the information they need. 

2 minutes ago, DuctTape said:

Agreed. It should not be used as a ranking system, but one for self-evaluation. UCs could help with the self-eval and then provide training and support to help the unit improve. 

Sadly, that is exactly the system we have right now.  Unit commissioners are supposed to work with unit leadership to prepare (and write up) a thorough unit assessment in Commissioner Tools, and then provide training and support to help the unit improve.  But there are no consequences for a unit that doesn't accurately evaluate itself or doesn't cooperate at all.  There are only consequences for the district (in the form of the district's Journey to Excellence rating) if the unit assessments don't get entered into the system by the end of the year.  Which means that you'll get a lot of unit assessments in which the unit did not participate and which involve a lot of guessing.

If we want to put a floor under unit quality, there has to be an effective review by an objective evaluator.  There has to be someone at the district level who has the authority to tell each unit where it stands in relationship to a set of objective standards, what the unit needs to do if it falls short, and what happens if the unit doesn't improve.  

If you don't want an inspection-type system like that, the only alternative is to have significantly ramped-up training requirements for unit Scouters so that the quality standards we need are drilled into them.  But no one wants that, either.

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But now that I think about it some more, there is one simple alternative that could do the job without either a top-down district review of a unit program or intensive training for unit leaders:  Put all of the performance standards into advancement requirements.  It is the one collection of guidance that everyone in the unit pays attention to.

The requirements would be re-written not to make them more difficult for Scouts, but to make the unit work harder to provide the opportunities for advancement.  For example:  "From your Patrol Scribe, obtain a copy of the Patrol Calendar showing the dates for at least twenty nights of short-term camping by the troop and at least five nights of summer camp in the next 12 months.  Give a copy of this calendar to your parent(s) or guardian(s), and talk to them about putting those campouts and summer camp on the family calendar."  For the Scout, this is an easy requirement -- get a copy of the patrol calendar and talk about it with his or her parents.  But the patrol has to have a Patrol Scribe and a patrol calendar, and the troop has to have a rolling 12-month calendar with at least 20 nights of weekend camping and a summer camp scheduled.  Do the same sort of thing for every program element that we think matters.  For the individual Scout, the requirements will have a comparable level of difficulty to the requirements we have now.  But the unit will have to have good structure, procedures, and practices in place to support the ability of the Scout to complete the requirements.

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30 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

... For example:  "From your Patrol Scribe, obtain a copy of the Patrol Calendar showing the dates for at least twenty nights of short-term camping by the troop and at least five nights of summer camp in the next 12 months.  Give a copy of this calendar to your parent(s) or guardian(s), and talk to them about putting those campouts and summer camp on the family calendar."  For the Scout, this is an easy ...

Stopped at "easy". Requirements have become increasingly verbose. All because we litigate the snot out of everything.

You know what was easy? When the requirement said, "Camp 50 nights."

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4 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

We absolutely need more effective training and coaching that is proactive in going out to units and is easily accessible to units who have questions and needs.  And we need fewer and simpler publications and materials so that it is a lot easier for unit Scouters to find the information they need. 

Sadly, that is exactly the system we have right now.  Unit commissioners are supposed to work with unit leadership to prepare (and write up) a thorough unit assessment in Commissioner Tools, and then provide training and support to help the unit improve.  But there are no consequences for a unit that doesn't accurately evaluate itself or doesn't cooperate at all.  There are only consequences for the district (in the form of the district's Journey to Excellence rating) if the unit assessments don't get entered into the system by the end of the year.  Which means that you'll get a lot of unit assessments in which the unit did not participate and which involve a lot of guessing.

If we want to put a floor under unit quality, there has to be an effective review by an objective evaluator.  There has to be someone at the district level who has the authority to tell each unit where it stands in relationship to a set of objective standards, what the unit needs to do if it falls short, and what happens if the unit doesn't improve.  

If you don't want an inspection-type system like that, the only alternative is to have significantly ramped-up training requirements for unit Scouters so that the quality standards we need are drilled into them.  But no one wants that, either.

The JTE is not at all what I am envisioning as it is simply a checklist. There is no quality continuum. There is a vast difference between a troop that has 20 camping nights a year all planned and executed by the adults where the scouts basically show up unload stuff from the trailer and maybe cook their own food. vs a troop whose patrols plan independent camping trips on their own (in accordance with ypt) where each patrol member is responsible for some aspect such as patrol qm getting/returning gear from the troop qm. 

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