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Positive District Changes during Financial Reorganization

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10 hours ago, yknot said:

I'm thinking district roles really need to change. We keep looking at restructuring from a top down perspective. I think we need to start from a CO/unit level up perspective. Everyone is talking about recruiting good volunteers, more volunteers, any volunteers. Well, volunteers are disappearing or at least morphing in the Millennial generation. This may be blasphemy to some but I think more district roles may need to be paid resource positions. I think more district roles will necessarily need to be in direct support of unit volunteers, making their lives easier and providing resources that are becoming scarce at the CO/unit level. Other youth organizations have had to make this transition. Once we figure out what districts need to do to keep the local programs running and expanding, then we can decide what Councils should be doing. That's how I look at it. A lot of these traditional top down roles people are talking about may not be relevant in two years. For example, what is the point of worrying about Council level fundraising and Fortune 100 board influence if our youth numbers continue to decline?

I don't think it's blasphemy, my opinion is that adding more Paid positions is unrealistic. 

Barry

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10 hours ago, yknot said:

I think more district roles will necessarily need to be in direct support of unit volunteers, making their lives easier and providing resources that are becoming scarce at the CO/unit level.

What kind of things would you suggest here?  

Generally though - I think the job of any level in Scouting is to make that level successful.  A den leader's role is to make a den successful, a Scoutmaster a troop, a district advancement chair the district, etc.  Now, it goes without saying, one of the best ways to achieve success in Scouting is to focus on the quality of the program.  So, at a district level that does indeed mean that the district needs to have a concerted focus on having strong units.  I think that's one of the challenges for a volunteer challenged district - how does a district team of a limited number of volunteers have a meaningful impact on unit quality?

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I have been an adult Scouter about 20 years now, since Scoutson joined Cubs and along the way wife became CSDC Director.  We have not physically moved  in almost 30 years, but we have lived in 6 (six) different, named Scout Districts.  The Council Executives do their thing as any new manager will:   Re arrange things in their own image, in a belief that they can make things more "efficient", more "customer friendly". We went from one whole county to two Districts to three Districts to six Districts to one Big District with three "service areas"  to three sort of Districts under one Area Director to ( ! ) three Districts.  Our DE's have been by turn wonderful, short (one resigned after one RT and six days),  temporarily assigned over three Districts,  sort of learning as they go along,  meant well and (presently) very dedicated and needs to be congratulated.  The local Commishers and such have tried mightily to keep Scouts connected and to have opportunities available (Camporees, Klondike Derbies, District PWD, Training sessions, newsletters, etc. ).  

In my short tenure, it is all about three things: 

**Communication:  The connection between like minded people.  Telephone, email, facebooks, newsletters (both print and electric),  whatever.  

**Availability of experience:   If you know something, it needs to be demonstrated and passed on to someone else, SLS, IOLS, WB,  NYLT, RT,  the example of adults showing the new generations who can show THEIR new generation HOW to work together, HOW to survive in less than perfect conditions, HOW to serve your God by serving your neighbor,  HOW the "Me First"  idea is fine now but doesn't work when you consider the next 50 or 100 years.  And ultimately,,,,,,

** All Scouting Is Local:  The folks at Irving , at the Council office,  constantly need to be reminded that their desire to assure the consistency of policy and rank requirements is dependent on the LOCAL Packs, Troops, Crews, Ships, Posts acceptance of any changes.  Notice how the tendency is for  folks to WANT the traditional Scouting (outdoors, pioneering, PWD,  fire, hikes, canoe, etc. ) . That is not to say that STEM and such can't be added, they should,  but not at the loss of what made Scouting successful, remembered and desired.  Why the sudden discussion about girls not liking the entrepreneurial cookie sales but would rather be  hiking and camping ?  Yeah some GSUSA Troops are outdoorsy, but that is not their trend, so here we are. The Troops that do not actively participate in District/Council events  seem to have their own success stories.  Why?  

For example:::  The National Jamborees are wonderful opportunities for Scouts to see that they are not alone, but that their "LOCAL" group is indeed, part of a much larger group of like minded individuals (communication?).  The ideals, skills, goals of the BSA are indeed common thruout the WOSM, if one but looks for it.

So  how should Scouter dot com denizens address the future?   Doom and gloom,  Scouting is about to dry up and blow away?  Why do we do what we do, after all?   

The three words no Scoutmaster wants to hear, but might  even rejoice in hearing them:    "Hey , Watch This !"  

Edited by SSScout
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When I look at what District could do to make a cub leaders job easier, it's not so much what district could do, but what National could do. Reduce the program to a manageable level for the "Average" volunteer. Tigers alone requires more adults than the rest of the program. The maturity of the Tiger age youth is closer to toddler than elementary youth. If National believes they can raise membership with TIger age scouts, then create a new program for 4 and 5 year olds that doesn't come under the responsibility of the Pack. Of course I'm not sure the helps with the adult burnout problem, but at least it lightens the load for pack leaders. We could also look at trimming the other end of the program with Webelos, but I believe Tigers weighs down the volunteers more than the rest of the Cub program, so give it 5 years to see where the packs are sitting.

Barry

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

Reduce the program to a manageable level for the "Average" volunteer. Tigers alone requires more adults than the rest of the program. The maturity of the Tiger age youth is closer to toddler than elementary youth. If National believes they can raise membership with TIger age scouts, then create a new program for 4 and 5 year olds that doesn't come under the responsibility of the Pack.

Looking at other countries, it seems like they do lots of stuff in 3ish year blocks. I could easily see cub scouts broken into 2 age groups of k-2 and 3-5. The k-2 grade group could meet regularly, but do less camping (because camping is more difficult with that age), have a less intense program because it requires more volunteers and adults, then move to the 3-5 grade program which would look more like a webelos program now, with a bit more camping, loosening of those tight safety rules, etc. But because that age group is more independent, it would take a bit less adult/volunteer effort. 

Edited by malraux
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4 hours ago, ParkMan said:

What kind of things would you suggest here?  

Generally though - I think the job of any level in Scouting is to make that level successful.  A den leader's role is to make a den successful, a Scoutmaster a troop, a district advancement chair the district, etc.  Now, it goes without saying, one of the best ways to achieve success in Scouting is to focus on the quality of the program.  So, at a district level that does indeed mean that the district needs to have a concerted focus on having strong units.  I think that's one of the challenges for a volunteer challenged district - how does a district team of a limited number of volunteers have a meaningful impact on unit quality?

I know experiences vary by region but in our area the CO relationship is troubled. I'm not sure the traditional structure is viable long term in some if not many places, and I think it could be argued that failures in this franchise style relationship have allowed some of our worst abuse scandals to fester. I think it's something that has to be corrected going forward. I think this is where a district level resource might be needed, either to do more hand holding with COs, to work with a differently structured CO relationship or, in some cases, maybe even replace them. Which would require more than volunteers. 

Another area is in outdoor experience and leadership. Nationally, we can't ignore downward trends in hunting and fishing licenses, increasing loss of family farmers, the fact that children are increasingly being raised by parents who have spent little time out of doors and are very uncomfortable in it and are even more uncomfortable in volunteer roles connected to it. The experienced older scout volunteers who would train and safely guide younger volunteers in these life skill areas are getting harder to find. A few weekends of training can't do it. I don't know how we're going to run an outdoors based program in the future without a lot of volunteers who have this expertise. The only way may be to pay for it. I think a model for this exists in youth sports where a lack of volunteers has led to hiring coaches and other paid staff. Such resources, if they were ever able to be provided, would to me most logically be placed at the district level. 

I don't think a volunteer district staff can pull any of this off.  I don't have an answer for where the money would come from. But I do think looking at some of these functional issues should inform national what it needs to be looking at as opposed to whatever navel lint contemplation they do. On the one hand, we can decide not to focus on growing membership and instead focus on delivering our legacy program to declining numbers of families who are able or interested in accessing it. On the other hand, we can look ahead to solving some of these problems and trying to discern what Millennial families and even Gen Z families in the next 2 to 10 years are going to want. This is all complicated by the fact that we are possibly looking at least two to five years of unpleasant publicity related to lawsuits and bankruptcy that is going to make us toxic to a lot of the entities we might want to reach out to for help. I am not trying to be doom and gloom, I am just trying to be realistic. I think our best strategy to counter this is to focus on the unit level and making the program as inviting as we can to both potential scouts and their parent volunteers and to do that more resources need to be available. 

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35 minutes ago, yknot said:

 

Another area is in outdoor experience and leadership. Nationally, we can't ignore downward trends in hunting and fishing licenses, increasing loss of family farmers, the fact that children are increasingly being raised by parents who have spent little time out of doors and are very uncomfortable in it and are even more uncomfortable in volunteer roles.

I dunno if being outdoors is in danger. The National Parks are being loved to death. The AT and PCT are increasingly overcrowded and outdoor product companies are making record profits. People are still going outdoors. 

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9 minutes ago, Sentinel947 said:

I dunno if being outdoors is in danger. The National Parks are being loved to death. The AT and PCT are increasingly overcrowded and outdoor product companies are making record profits. People are still going outdoors. 

The operative words were experience and leadership. Yes, the selfie generation is out there trampling flowers, climbing over fences at waterfalls, falling into hot springs at national parks, and letting their children try to pet wild moose only to see them tossed in the air. We are losing the kind of people who develop common sense based on a lifestyle or a profession spent in the out of doors and can turn around and teach that to others and oversee them. Again, it might be more a reflection of my personal regional experiences, but over the span of about 15 years we went from having almost all our leaders knowing what they were doing based on lifestyle or profession to almost none of them knowing. I think it's a problem. There just isn't an app for some things. And while the number of people who report going outdoors is going up, the average number of days they go out is going down. Meaning, we have more citizens who visit national parks and features as a special event, but fewer who are living it as a regular part of their lives. 

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1 hour ago, yknot said:

The experienced older scout volunteers who would train and safely guide younger volunteers in these life skill areas are getting harder to find. A few weekends of training can't do it. I don't know how we're going to run an outdoors based program in the future without a lot of volunteers who have this expertise. The only way may be to pay for it. I think a model for this exists in youth sports where a lack of volunteers has led to hiring coaches and other paid staff. 

As long as we are heading down this slippery slope, why don't we just pay the older scouts to remain in the units?  Make it a job instead of a POR.  This would create a lot of jobs in a market where teenage employment opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce.  If the adults aren't willing to volunteer their time, why should the teenagers be asked to do it for free?  

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5 hours ago, Eagledad said:

When I look at what District could do to make a cub leaders job easier, it's not so much what district could do, but what National could do. Reduce the program to a manageable level for the "Average" volunteer.

Reducing or simplifying the program to make it easier on volunteers should be national's vision. That vision should be simple enough that every volunteer understands it. That would help everyone. Volunteers, parents, scouts, district, council, donors, prospective parents. Everyone.

Let's just say the vision is "fun with a purpose" and the purpose is developing responsible young adults with good character. Cub burnout is certainly going against that as so many cubs leave before they get to scouts. Another problem is advancement at all costs. It seems like a lot of district effort goes into that. It's not that advancement is bad it's just that it's sucking limited resources. One event that districts shouldn't have to put on are MB fairs.

Shouldn't the district focus be more on helping units achieve the aims of scouting? Rather than a MB fair a video on how to cold call a MB counselor as well as efforts to make more MB counselors available would better help that vision. Good training is something the district or council can provide. One thing I've noticed is that the reason there's so much focus on advancement is that it's all laid out. Requirements, ranks, badges. It's all so simple. Just follow along. On the other hand, having fun learning skills is this vague abstract idea that requires a lot of work for people to turn into something concrete. It requires some imagination and time to play with the ideas. I've spent years coming up with ideas for my troop and the district and it takes a lot of time and effort. Training to help scouters with that might be really beneficial. The same goes for developing camaraderie within a patrol and the patrol method for that matter. That is getting closer to the vision. That all said, the district nor council have the resources to make this training available. Again, national could really help with this.

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3 minutes ago, David CO said:

As long as we are heading down this slippery slope, why don't we just pay the older scouts to remain in the units?  Make it a job instead of a POR.  This would create a lot of jobs in a market where teenage employment opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce.  If the adults aren't willing to volunteer their time, why should the teenagers be asked to do it for free?  

I can't tell if you are being sarcastic, but I think that's a thought worth considering. Maybe a stipend available to Star and up scouts for helping out. Other youth organizations have gotten very innovative about things like this why not scouts.    

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1 minute ago, yknot said:

I can't tell if you are being sarcastic, but I think that's a thought worth considering. Maybe a stipend available to Star and up scouts for helping out. Other youth organizations have gotten very innovative about things like this why not scouts.    

Of course I'm being sarcastic.

 

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Thanks @yknot

Some follow up questions/comments.

47 minutes ago, yknot said:

I know experiences vary by region but in our area the CO relationship is troubled. I'm not sure the traditional structure is viable long term in some if not many places, and I think it could be argued that failures in this franchise style relationship have allowed some of our worst abuse scandals to fester.

Can you share what you see here?  Are COs ceasing to sponsor units?

47 minutes ago, yknot said:

Another area is in outdoor experience and leadership. Nationally, we can't ignore downward trends in hunting and fishing licenses, increasing loss of family farmers, the fact that children are increasingly being raised by parents who have spent little time out of doors and are very uncomfortable in it and are even more uncomfortable in volunteer roles connected to it. The experienced older scout volunteers who would train and safely guide younger volunteers in these life skill areas are getting harder to find. A few weekends of training can't do it. I don't know how we're going to run an outdoors based program in the future without a lot of volunteers who have this expertise. The only way may be to pay for it. I think a model for this exists in youth sports where a lack of volunteers has led to hiring coaches and other paid staff. Such resources, if they were ever able to be provided, would to me most logically be placed at the district level. 

Thanks - this is the kind of info I was hoping to learn.  Maybe it's just me - but I get the sense that there are two issues here:

  1. having enough volunteers
  2. having outdoor knowledgeable volunteers

I believe both require focus from the BSA.  In our district, those units who have weak programs and put out the "help wanted" sign seem to struggle.  Strong units who recruit individuals do just fine. 

Similarly, I see strong programs with a track record do fine in introducing parents to the outdoors.  Yet, even in those programs there are relatively few people who instantly show up with the confidence, knowledge, and experience to instantly lead outdoor activities. The successful units seem to have a knack for growing parents into leaders.

I do think a District could help here.  I can see a role for increased training at a district level on how to build a unit program, recruit leaders, and to take Scouts outdoors.  I think this is what Roundtable was supposed to be.  But, it got too caught up in process and procedure and many leaders simply bailed.

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1 minute ago, David CO said:

Of course I'm being sarcastic.

 

OK. Sarcastic or not, I like it. It would be great to be able to offer some kind of stipend to older scouts who stick around to help especially  in under served communities. In sports, older kids get paid to be coach's assistants, equipment managers, field managers, etc. It keeps them around.  You don't lose their expertise. They are a role model for the younger kids. It's not so crazy.

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6 minutes ago, David CO said:

As long as we are heading down this slippery slope, why don't we just pay the older scouts to remain in the units?  Make it a job instead of a POR.  This would create a lot of jobs in a market where teenage employment opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce.  If the adults aren't willing to volunteer their time, why should the teenagers be asked to do it for free?  

 

Just now, yknot said:

I can't tell if you are being sarcastic, but I think that's a thought worth considering. Maybe a stipend available to Star and up scouts for helping out. Other youth organizations have gotten very innovative about things like this why not scouts.    

Of course, one upstream reason for camp sell-offs is the increasing cost to hire qualified youth staff. So, any such deal would require hefty contributions from a local Leadership Foundation. Most such foundations might at least buy into covering registration fees of qualified applicants. If you've paid to be a member of BSA until you're 13, why not pay only $5/year from age 14-18?

But, @David CO, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Compensating youth for an intrinsically rewarding program might be inappropriate, but compensating young adults who put their careers on hold by saying "no" to an overwhelming work schedule may be quite appropriate.

Let's dream of doing one better. Pay 1.5*interest on student loans while every qualified 20-something serves as an ASM or SM. Qualifications would include First Class rank, at least 2 years of college or trade school, and full time employment or part-time employment and part-time enrollment in trade school or college.

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