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Beccachap

Commissioner role

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We have a very large, strong troop, pack, and crew.  We have leaders whose experience spans 10 to 20 years or more.

We have a wonderful UC who is a gem of a resource for us.  He helps us problem solve, keeps us aware of new issues and ideas, and helps us interpret council and national rules.  He's very well connected outside the unit, so he's a wonderful resource as we look at accomplish ambitious goals.  The troop needs a resource at Camp, he can help us make the connection.  The pack needs to solve a registration issue, he helps us to accomplish it.

It would be harder for us if we did not have such a resource.

My .02 - a UC is a resource.  Like any resource, the value you get from it is up to you.  The UC can be an asset to the troop if you embrace them.  If the UC you have doesn't match your troop's personality, talk to the DC - see if they have someone who is more in tune with your troop.

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We've had a couple of commissioners over many years. One was totally useless, but we got him because our troop was very strong. Our troop is still good and we have a commissioner that shows up at all of our committee meetings. He is a good source of information about the district. He hasn't been asked to solve any of our problems and does not attempt to.

@Beccachap, there might be other reasons for a quick change in cognition, such as something to do with meds. As for kids that want to join but the parents don't speak English, you can ask the kids to translate for you. Or ask them to ask the parents if there's someone else that can help, such as an older sibling. Or use google translate.

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As a new Committee Chair I had consulted my UC regarding a volunteer's request to perform multiple roles in the Troop.  The UC agreed that it would be inappropriate, but then outright accused me of having a personal issue with the volunteer.  This was completely untrue as I had just recently met the volunteer. And this was my very first conversation with the UC!

This same UC also sits on the District Advancement Committee.  He recently chaired a District EBOR for a Scout he had prior interactions with (as his Troop's UC and as a merit badge counselor) and had told others that he went into the Board with the opinion that he was not going to make him an Eagle Scout - and the Board didn't.  So much for District objectivity...

Let's just say that my DISTRICT Commissioner is wonderful and is now the only one I will defer to if absolutely necessary...

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As a former UC and district commissioner, I believe the commissioner concept is a good one.  However, it rarely works as advertised.

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3 hours ago, MattR said:

As for kids that want to join but the parents don't speak English, you can ask the kids to translate for you. Or ask them to ask the parents if there's someone else that can help, such as an older sibling. Or use google translate.

Ah, sorry, I should have been clearer. I don't mean kids who want to join, I mean kids who have already joined last fall and participate. At present I have a pair of brothers, Tiger & Wolf, who are seriously keen, but none of us seem to be able communicate to the father that they are supposed to be in separate dens to complete their own adventures. Both kids are way behind despite attending a large number of meetings because they don't go where they are supposed to go, but they are having a great time. So it's hard to redirect them, and the den leaders don't want to rock the boat with the Dad or with the kids who just eat up any activity right in front of them. They always show up 20 minutes late then just pile into the first interesting thing they lay eyes on. 

I suppose explaining this to the kids is the way forward, but both boys are slippery. They are 90 miles an hour, fingers in all the pies sort of kids. If they never get a rank they probably won't care anyway. 

We had another family who's child joined, then they got upset that they misunderstood the information about where to be/when for repeated events, despite using Facebook which translated event info into their native tongue. They kept saying that they heard from someone that they should do something different, then that lead them astray. Once they even cited me to my husband as being a source of misinformation. I recalled in that conversation having to repeat to them instructions for a swim adventure over and over to confirm we all understood, but of course they did not. The biggest frustration is that they profess - and believe - they understand English much better than they really do, and chaos ensues. Anyway, they got mad and quit, but oh well. We really tried hard.

Edited by Beccachap
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4 hours ago, MattR said:

 As for kids that want to join but the parents don't speak English, you can ask the kids to translate for you. Or ask them to ask the parents if there's someone else that can help, such as an older sibling. Or use google translate.

Might I suggest that the parents be referred to the UC.  ;) 

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8 hours ago, desertrat77 said:

As a former UC and district commissioner, I believe the commissioner concept is a good one.  However, it rarely works as advertised.

This concise statement is probably the most accurate assessment of the BSA commissioner program that I have ever seen.  In the real world, a product or commercial service or business process that is a good idea but rarely works would have long since vanished -- especially one as labor-intensive as this.

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2 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

This concise statement is probably the most accurate assessment of the BSA commissioner program that I have ever seen.  In the real world, a product or commercial service or business process that is a good idea but rarely works would have long since vanished -- especially one as labor-intensive as this.

Rarely do volunteer organizations function with the efficiency of a business because, well because they are operated by  “volunteers”. This is by no means a criticism of desertrat, who I have a great deal of respect, but the performance of commissioners is directly under the management of the District Commissioner. The District Commissioner is also a volunteer.

Done correctly, the Commissioners duties are not labor intensive. 

Barry

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On 2/15/2020 at 6:17 AM, Beccachap said:

Also, what exactly is the value - if any - to a Commissioner?

 

If you are a large and active troop with well trained and very experienced Scouters, a UC might just be helpful in terms of some of the paperwork and reporting, or acting as an outside resource if you have some internal issues in the unit or within the Chartered org, but that's about it. For smaller units or newer leaders, the UC should be a mentor and resource for how to do things well. 

If nothing else, I cannot tell you how many times I have had unit leaders complain that they never see anyone "from the district". The whole point of the UC is to be the local representative of the district to the units, just as the COR is the representative of the local units and their chartering org to the District and Council. 

I'm in a geographically huge district - multiple countries - I would love to have a UC in each locale where we have units, but it is unrealistic, sadly. A lot of their work ends up being done via email - then it is a little hard to see the value when the District Commissioner is the go-to guy for a lot of units directly. It just ends up sharing the workload on his end, but to the units, they just see one more email address and not sure who to copy for what, so they just tend to include the DC, DE, UC, and me all the time in everything. Despite best efforts. 

Historically, UCs also had something to do with recharter, but now that everything is all online an inaccessible to them, they can't really do much there. 

It is helpful whenever you need a district representative for something - like an Eagle BOR - to have a commissioner around. Or if you need help navigating BSA resources or awards nominations, and the like. 

Ideally, they are there to help your leaders succeed. They are not there for the Scouts - you are. The UC is there for you, the adult volunteers, whether on the Committee or SM/CM and assistants. 

 

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Curious about commissioner best practices: is there supposed to be a big feedback loop between units and the district staff? For example, there are 4 packs that can't get anyone to step up, let's have a barbeque and talk about how easy it is to run a pack. My district doesn't have the power to do that but I'm just wondering if that's the idea. As best I can tell the focus is mostly on fixing i's and it's. The issues most units have are people related - get more that know what they're doing.

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37 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Rarely do volunteer organizations function with the efficiency of a business because, well because they are operated by  “volunteers”. This is by no means a criticism of desertrat, who I have a great deal of respect, but the performance of commissioners is directly under the management of the District Commissioner. The District Commissioner is also a volunteer.

Done correctly, the Commissioners duties are not labor intensive. 

Barry

Thank you Barry, as I have the deepest respect for you and all you've done for scouting.

To explain a bit further, the biggest challenge is finding commissioners that will actually perform their duties, and do them with the proper spirit.  In my travels, these two simple qualities seem to elude the vast majority of commissioners.  Some will do one or the other but not both.  Others make no effort to do either.  I think this is why the commissioner concept is so tarnished at unit level.   

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The best District Commissioner I knew gave his UCs 3 units. A successful one, a medium performing one, and a struggling one. The intention was to use the resources and experiences of the three to raise the performance of all three. 

But, they don’t have to fix all the issues they see; when I was the District Membership Chairman, the district learned that I had some ability for helping struggling unit adults leadership teams get back on track. So, I got a call once in a while by UCs who identified problems with their units leaders.

I think a lot of UCs feel they have to fix every problem they find. More often than not, their time is better spent finding someone who is better for the job.

Barry

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48 minutes ago, desertrat77 said:

Thank you Barry, as I have the deepest respect for you and all you've done for scouting.

To explain a bit further, the biggest challenge is finding commissioners that will actually perform their duties, and do them with the proper spirit.  In my travels, these two simple qualities seem to elude the vast majority of commissioners.  Some will do one or the other but not both.  Others make no effort to do either.  I think this is why the commissioner concept is so tarnished at unit level.   

How much of this is District Commissioner vision & leadership?

Yes - some people are simply not right for the role and should never be UCs.  But, for the bulk of us, I think how the DC approaches their role is a big part.  Does the DC challenge, encourage the UCs on their team grow?  Or, is it simply - "Hey Bob, did you file your unit visitation reports?  What's the status on recharter?

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20 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

How much of this is District Commissioner vision & leadership?

Yes - some people are simply not right for the role and should never be UCs.  But, for the bulk of us, I think how the DC approaches their role is a big part.  Does the DC challenge, encourage the UCs on their team grow?  Or, is it simply - "Hey Bob, did you file your unit visitation reports?  What's the status on recharter?

I believe the DC is the most powerful and I misunderstood volunteer position in scouting. Not only are they responsible for UCs leadership, but they are also one of the Key 3 (vision).

Barry

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

I believe the DC is the most powerful and I misunderstood volunteer position in scouting. Not only are they responsible for UCs leadership, but they are also one of the Key 3 (vision).

Barry

Sorry, busy morning.

I believe the DC is the most powerful and misunderstood volunteer position in scouting. Not only are they responsible for UCs (leadership), but they are also one of the Key 3 (vision).

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