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Cburkhardt

Positive National Program Changes during Financial Restructuring

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EagleDad:  What I was getting at is that the current nature of the national-council relationship is that when the national structure rolls-out a program or emphasis, the Councils are expected to go along with everything (there have been a few exceptions, but not many).  The issue is whether councils should be able to pick and choose what to implement locally.  If they pick something I believe they should follow the national template.  Not every McDonalds serves the McRib sandwich, but if they do it will taste the same.  Should every council be expected to serve the entire menu of program options and follow every practice or standard?  The same issue has structure implications.  Should every council have to choose their professional Scouters from the nationally-approved list, or might they hire local business executives?    

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9 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

EagleDad:  What I was getting at is that the current nature of the national-council relationship is that when the national structure rolls-out a program or emphasis, the Councils are expected to go along with everything (there have been a few exceptions, but not many).  The issue is whether councils should be able to pick and choose what to implement locally.  If they pick something I believe they should follow the national template.  Not every McDonalds serves the McRib sandwich, but if they do it will taste the same.  Should every council be expected to serve the entire menu of program options and follow every practice or standard?  The same issue has structure implications.  Should every council have to choose their professional Scouters from the nationally-approved list, or might they hire local business executives?    

My experience is that units, districts and even councils do have some leeway toward a custom structure, but councils motivation depends on what they will get out of it, which often gets in the way at the unit level. I was given the the go-ahead by council to develop a completely new concept of a Council Level Junior Leadership Training Course. The concept and syllabus was completely different from Nationals JLTC/Brownsea courses both in the objectives and the structure of the course. Council was motivated for something completely new because the previous course directors developed such a bad course reputation with the course that Council needed to start over just to get some integrity back in JLT. On the other hand, our District had two Cub Packs that eliminated Tigers from the program because the overhead was to much for the leaders. Council fought (harassed) them hard to keep the Tiger program because they were afraid of loosing membership.

I can't say exactly where National draws the line in the sand for letting Council make these kinds of decisions, but their common goals and motivations will certainly drive some limitations that aren't advantageous to units. I believe if National is to give Councils more freedom to customize their structure, they will need guarantees of monetary and membership gains. The struggle has been for some time that National's goals don't fall in line with their Mission and Vision. The saying goes that unit goals of quality don't fit with nationals goals of quantity.

Now I know that you don't like this negative talk, but as an innovator, I've learn in my life that maturity and changes come from the fertile soil of humility. If the BSA is to really make changes toward improved program, National needs to display openness to listening and proof of action. Something?

Barry

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56 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Now I know that you don't like this negative talk, but as an innovator, I've learn in my life that maturity and changes come from the fertile soil of humility. If the BSA is to really make changes toward improved program, National needs to display openness to listening and proof of action.

Well said. Isn't this what servant leadership encompasses?

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Barry:  Interesting thoughts, none of which I believe are negative talking.  It is easy for these type of discussions to become overly “complaining”, which explains my requests for constructive thinking.

Are you generally in favor of councils being required to offer national programs and follow national standards more strictly or would you generally encourage national-council flexibility?  Perhaps youngest-age Cub Scouting would be a good example for you to offer an opinion.  I ask about the council-national relationship, because it really is the key operational relationship for national.

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1.  Reduce and focus the subject matter areas covered in the Cub Scout and ScoutsBSA programs.  That is, reduce and focus the subject matter areas covered in the advancement requirements in those two programs. Likewise, focus the subject matter covered in the Venturing program.  In order to compete against specific, well-understood youth activities such as soccer, piano lessons, tae kwon do, etc., we need to be able to state -- in three or four short phrases -- what youth DO in each program.  Identify those specific areas and clear out program elements that do not directly fall in those areas.  So, for example, ScoutsBSA might be:

  • Outdoor adventure
  • Save the environment
  • Respond in emergencies

2.  Simplify ScoutsBSA advancement in two ways: 

  • First, make all rank requirements experience-based with multiple instances of each experience.  For example, at least three separate overnight campouts at least three weeks apart and totaling at least six nights camping, each in a different and increasingly rustic environment, and each with certain requirements (sleeping in a tent, cooking a meal, etc.); or three hikes of at least five miles, each one in a different type of terrain with certain requirements (use of map and compass, purifying water, etc.); or three different service projects over three months, each requiring at least four hours of active participation.  The focus of these experiences, and the subject matter of boards of review (held after completion of each experiential requirement) is the degree of the Scout's personal effort in those experiences and the Scout gaining skill, knowledge, and confidence in the particular subject matter.
  • Second, flatten rank progression to make ScoutsBSA more accessible to older youth.  Completion of each experience is rewarded with some token, but it takes awhile to complete all the various experiences needed for rank.  So, for example, X number of completed experiences in A, B, C, and D subject areas is rewarded with Star rank (generally taking at least two years); Y number of completed experiences in B, C, E, and F subject areas is rewarded with Life rank (another year); and Z number of completed experiences in A through H subject areas is rewarded with Eagle Scout rank (another year).

3.  Simplify and design uniforms that look like what youth actually wear everyday.

4.  Link at least one unit of each program level with at least one unit of every other program level so that, for example, Arrow of Light youth are automatically and seamlessly promoted to and registered in a  a known, related ScoutsBSA troop, unless the youth decides to go to a different unit or drop out.

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dkurtenbach:  Great detail and support for your ideas.  Now relate them to the financially downsizing period coming up for us.  Will your suggestions streamline any costs?  Will they impact the priority of the districts?  Ideas that make excellent program sense and which simultaneously respond to our organization’s challenges will get maximum traction.

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14 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

dkurtenbach:  Great detail and support for your ideas.  Now relate them to the financially downsizing period coming up for us.  Will your suggestions streamline any costs?  Will they impact the priority of the districts?  Ideas that make excellent program sense and which simultaneously respond to our organization’s challenges will get maximum traction.

  • Simplifying the program means fewer people needed to monitor and maintain it over time - lower costs.
  • Simplifying and focusing the program makes it easier to sell to busy families - more membership, more revenue.
  • Flattening ScoutsBSA advancement and making it more experiential should make it easier to recruit older youth (who might be turned off by "Tenderfoot" rank or by being outranked by a Scout two or three years younger) - more membership, more revenue.
  • Uniforms that look contemporary provide an up-to-date, relevant image to the public, putting more focus on what the youth are doing now rather than calling to mind a creaky old traditional program, and signal that Scouting has turned a corner and is no longer tied to the bad old days of discrimination and child abuse - better marketing, more public support, more donations.
  • Automatic registration and promotion to the next program level means more retention of existing Scouts - more membership, more revenue.
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23 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

older youth (who might be turned off by "Tenderfoot" rank

I had a fourteen-year-old who joined BSA with extensive backpacking experience who absolutely detested and despised the name "Tenderfoot".

Go back to Baden-Powell's original definition, "A Tenderfoot is a boy who is not yet a scout"  from Scouting for Boys page 36.  Call the kid a "Tenderfoot" as soon as he or she turns in his/her registration form.  Leave the rank requirements (and insignia) for "Scout" and the current "Tenderfoot" the same as they are not, but call them "Fourth Class Scout" and "Third Class Scout".    

It really seems backwards for "Tenderfoot" to be a lower rank than "Scout"

 

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31 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

Uniforms that look contemporary

GSUSA tried this.   Starting circa 1970.   In my opinion it was a disaster.    GSUSA no longer has uniforms,  merely a badge-sash or a badge vest.  

Girlguiding in the UK is doing this now.   Take a look at their "uniforms".

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3 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

Are you generally in favor of councils being required to offer national programs and follow national standards more strictly or would you generally encourage national-council flexibility?  Perhaps youngest-age Cub Scouting would be a good example for you to offer an opinion.  I ask about the council-national relationship, because it really is the key operational relationship for national.

I'm kind of a big picture person, so I don't look at national standards and flexibility as choices. I believe organizations need a consistent structure that doesn't change from state to state, or even from generation to generation. Scouts across the U.S. and their grandfathers should feel they come from the same program. But, my experience at the council level showed me that there has to be flexibility for different cultures and personalities of members. The education and experience of the average leader in a city is far different from the leaders 30 miles a way in farm communities. So there has to be flexibility for those two cultures to fit in the same program. And, after working at the Council to unit levels, I feel the flexibility is there. I certainly pushed the edges of program. 

One of the areas that a lot (A Lot) of leaders have complained about over the years is the Webelos program. Most of the critique is pointing the lack of flexibility of the programs for adventure, and lack of development for getting scouts ready for the Troop program. But, after several years as a user,  I have always countered that the Webelos program is pretty good and very flexible. It does exactly what it needs to do for the maturity of Webelos ages. Scouts don't need troop program training, they need confidence development for self confidence. Where many Webelos leaders fail is in their lack of creativity for doing the Webelos Activities in the outdoors. I believe the troop leaders who want their crossovered new scouts with more troop experience are actually neglecting their new scout program. It's not the lack of skills that scares new scouts, it the idea they are going into the deep dark woods without the security of adults. The perspective of a new scout is that Patrols are just a bunch of kids, and that is terrifying to a young new scout who has had every decision of their security made by adults up to that point. They need some time to see that a patrol full of kids is a safe place.

Where I struggle with National is the communication with the users of the program. I can give a lot of examples, but I will highlight my frustration with this example; During the time I was the Council JLT Chairman, I was invited to be on the National BSA forum to advise changes to the then JLTC course. The forum was advertised as an advisory forum to develop a new Council Level JLT course (NYLT). It was a very good forum with lots of good discussions. I was excited to see what was coming. But what National published was junior level 21st Century WB course. Now, I understand National's reasoning of taking what the adults learn from WB can be transferred to the Scouts. But the WB course isn't really a leadership development course, it is a team building course. Scouts need real leadership development. We could debate whether that is appropriate or not, but there was no discussion on the forum for such a syllabus. National ignored the recommendations from the users of JLT and implemented their own course. If National had any integrity with me, they lost it then. The same thing basically occured with the changes they made to the Tiger program in 2000. The recommendations we gave to National basically suggested less responsibility on the adults. National did just the opposite tripled the work on the adults. National wasn't listening to the users to the level of understanding the situation. So you see, National is not listening. Or if they are, they aren't showing it.

I personally believe that the general structure of the BSA is very good. And it works successfully where I've seen it implemented as it was intended. I believe that the bad reputations that have developed were the result of National's drive for increasing numbers. I think to get the program back on balance, the program needs to be scaled back to the 70s program. Then tweak it for todays culture of youth.  

Barry

 

Edited by Eagledad
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53 minutes ago, Treflienne said:

GSUSA tried this.   Starting circa 1970.   In my opinion it was a disaster.    GSUSA no longer has uniforms,  merely a badge-sash or a badge vest.  

Girlguiding in the UK is doing this now.   Take a look at their "uniforms".

The GSUSA scouts in our town follow the Boy Scouts every year at the local 4th of July parade and laughs can be heard through the crowd. What I've noticed in movies and TV shows is the girl characters in scouts (not necessarily GSUSA) are typically dressed like the traditional GSUSA scouts so that they are especially identifiable as girl scouts. One of my favorites are the scouts in the movie Dodge Ball.

Barry

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1 hour ago, Treflienne said:

I had a fourteen-year-old who joined BSA with extensive backpacking experience who absolutely detested and despised the name "Tenderfoot".

I agree.  It may have seemed funny 100 years ago, but it seems remarkably obsolete in this age of anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies.  

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2 hours ago, Treflienne said:

I had a fourteen-year-old who joined BSA with extensive backpacking experience who absolutely detested and despised the name "Tenderfoot".

Go back to Baden-Powell's original definition, "A Tenderfoot is a boy who is not yet a scout"  from Scouting for Boys page 36.  Call the kid a "Tenderfoot" as soon as he or she turns in his/her registration form.  Leave the rank requirements (and insignia) for "Scout" and the current "Tenderfoot" the same as they are not, but call them "Fourth Class Scout" and "Third Class Scout".    

It really seems backwards for "Tenderfoot" to be a lower rank than "Scout"

 

 

Apparently, BSA agrees.  "Tenderfoot" is, of course, a higher rank than "Scout."

Edited by TAHAWK
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Some random thoughts based on some of the comments here: 

  • Update uniforms for simplicity, economy, and functionality. Program fees are likely to go up. BSA can help by making uniform expenses go down. The year to year uniform changes required in cub scouts is a good example. Theoretically, a family needs to replace hat, scarf, belt clasp, slide, and socks every year. At the Troop level, the "field" uniform is more like a dress/parade uniform and yet we expect scouts to show up in it for everything short of marathon running. In other areas of their lives, most kids are used to weather friendly, durable, comfortable, performance wear. National also needs to get out of merchandising. 
  • Program repetitiveness and redundancy. By the time a scout traverses from Lion to Troop, they have performed a version of some requirements multiple times and it gets boring. Also remove material that scouts already cover in school. No need to do it twice. This is both in cub ranks and scout merit badges.
  • Food/cooking needs to be re-imagined in the program. Food allergies, issues, sensitivities are making some of the requirements very difficult to meet as written. Many COs like schools or churches will not allow food items on the premises due to food issues. Creating acceptable meals can get very expensive. BSA needs to remove economic barriers to scouting.   
  • National needs to de-emphasize the box checking culture of the Eagle and advancement driven mentality. This business/marketing/membership mentality needs to be tempered by a more experiential focus.  
  • National needs to innovate some new fundraising options other than popcorn to help fund program goals. Some units/councils have excellent results with popcorn. Many, many do not. We need some other options to help raise cash. National is uniquely suited to come up with BSA branded fundraising items and partners related to preparedness, safety, etc.
  • National should benchmark with other youth organizations to learn about other program delivery innovations in the face of changing social and demographic trends. Other folks are dealing with this better. 
  • In our area, an extremely high percentage of scouts achieve Eagle and often at very young ages. At that point, they leave the troop. Some come back as parents decades later to serve as ASMs, but as young adults we lose them. National could help program by coming up with some kind of Eagle scout service award or Eagle active status ranking that might encourage these kids to come back and do some kind of mentoring or unit support if they are high school students, over summer if they are in college, or as young working adults wherever they land. There's nothing that I know of right now? 
  • Why are we losing so many scouts at cross over or not long after? In my area, most of our Webelos/AOL scouts are very proficient and have done lots of camping. They don't fear being on their own so much as they hate the chaos of boy led if the transition isn't well mentored by older scouts and adults. Scouting attracts a lot of kids who are very self determined and motivated. They often have a hard time transitioning into a patrol -- essentially team -- environment. So do their parents, and we lose them. Not sure how national can help with that, but it's an issue to be looked at. 
  • For program to work, unit level leaders need to be able to have a respectful and receptive line of communications with national. Right now, they do not see or hear us. And, given the prototypical lack of communications from our new leader, they don't reach out to us either. That needs to change. 
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