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Demographic analysis of scouting


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Thanks for sharing this study. For a hundred year old organization that has impacted millions of youth and adult, the Boy Scouts of America has had an amazing lack of serious, rigorous research. Instead we have relied upon anecdotal evidence to build our case that we are an effective program. 

It was announced in 2019 that Montclair University was launching an in-depth study (Building Evidence in Scouting Together) of  the impact of Scouting which was funded by a multimillion grant through the Bechtel Foundation. I am not sure where that study currently stands.

Edited by gpurlee
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gpgurlee:

You got me curious.  Montclair's research mostly says that High Adventure programs have the most impact on character development.

Below is the link to the reports published to date by the Montclair University research study on the Boy Scouts.  "With funding from the Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, we are working with Boy Scouts of America to conduct research to better understand how scouting helps to build character. We are collaborating with a team at the National BSA office as well as American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop a model of adult volunteer training and development as well as a model of character development in Boy Scouts youth members. The models will be validated by convening focus groups across the country and will be compared against the research literature. The team is also developing measures of adult and youth character development."

Follow the link to download any of the 17 reports to date.  I listed the reports after the link.  Each is only a few pages long.  Don't know if these are preliminary or final reports.

RYTE Institute - BSA BEST Study Reports

  • BEST Study High Adventure Executive Summary — “ Exploring the Impact of High Adventure Activities”
  • BEST Study High Adventure Full Report — “Exploring the Impact of High Adventure Activities”
  • BEST Study One Pager Overall — “Using Research to Strengthen Adult Leadership in BSA”
  • BEST Study Retention Findings Executive Summary — “Retention of Scouts Executive Summary”
  • BEST Study Retention Findings Full Report — “Retention of Scouts”
  • BSA BEST Study Research Question One: Preliminary Results Summary

July 2020

Data Use Meeting Reports:

  •    2020 Data Use Meeting Survey Final — “ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Youth and Adult Survey 2020 Data Use Meeting”
  •     Data Use Adult Interviews Diversity Report “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Adult Interviews 2020 Data Use Meeting”
  •     Data Use Observation Report — “Race, Equity and Inclusion: Observational Study”
  •     Data Use Youth Interviews Diversity Report — “Race Equity and Inclusion” Youth Interviews 2020 Data Use Meeting”
  •     BEST One Pager Fidelity — “Cultivating Adult Leadership in BSA”
  •     BEST SM Training Fidelity Report — “Implementing the BSA Scoutmaster Training Model as Designed: A Fidelity Assessment”
  •     Data Use General Training Packet — “BSA Trainings Overall”
  •     Data Use Training Intro Packet — “BSA BEST Study Data Use Introduction”
  •     Data Use Training IOLS Packet — “BSA BEST Study Data Use Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills”
  •     Data Use Training SMST Packet — “BSA BEST Study Data Use Scoutmaster Specific Training Packet”
  •     Data Use Training Wood Badge Packet — “BSA BEST Study Data Use Wood Badge”
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Thanks for following up on the lead!

Some interesting findings on retention:

"By far the biggest family-related factor affecting both retention and recruitment was the cost of Scouting, which arose in 20% of interviews. Several leaders commented that Scouting can be quite expensive when accounting for membership fees, uniform and supply costs, and the costs of summer camps or high adventure experiences. "

It raises the question of whether we are pricing a significant number of potential and current Scouts out of the program. 

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1 hour ago, gpurlee said:

 

Some interesting findings on retention:

"By far the biggest family-related factor affecting both retention and recruitment was the cost of Scouting, which arose in 20% of interviews. Several leaders commented that Scouting can be quite expensive when accounting for membership fees, uniform and supply costs, and the costs of summer camps or high adventure experiences. "

It raises the question of whether we are pricing a significant number of potential and current Scouts out of the program. 

That's some myth busting that has been much needed. So many scouters will argue that scouting is a bargain compared to other youth activities and yet we hear differently on the street... or, er... in the woods. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, gpurlee said:

It raises the question of whether we are pricing a significant number of potential andcurrent Scouts out of the program. 

 

4 hours ago, yknot said:

That's some myth busting that has been much needed.  So many scouters will argue that scouting is a bargain compared to other youth activities and yet we hear differently on the street... or, er... in the woods. 

Scouting is not a bargain.  Worth the value when done right, but often over promising, under delivering and at cost.

I'm betting there were multiple years where we spent $500 per month on average.  Four summer camps + being a leader and usually at the camps + plus often an extra week of summer camp for multiple kids + one high adventure base per kid + monthly camp outs + activities + extra costs + leader costs + gas + equipment.  It really adds up.

My sons and I definitely benefited from scouting, but it was not a bargain.  We could have done much more as a family (money and time).  But then again, you do need to spend your time somewhere and Iike the outdoor and adventure aspect.  

 

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12 hours ago, gpurlee said:

Thanks for following up on the lead!

Some interesting findings on retention:

"By far the biggest family-related factor affecting both retention and recruitment was the cost of Scouting, which arose in 20% of interviews. Several leaders commented that Scouting can be quite expensive when accounting for membership fees, uniform and supply costs, and the costs of summer camps or high adventure experiences. "

It raises the question of whether we are pricing a significant number of potential and current Scouts out of the program. 

I can't recall anyone saying that scouting was a bargain, poor choice of words. But, they will say the value of what they got from scouting is worth the price. Still, I know the cost can be intimidating. Our units, district, and council, always had scholarship funds available FOR ANYONE that wanted to participate, but was limited by their funds. If families wanted to participate, funding is there. But, in general, the families that ask for help were the ones that felt the program was worth the asking. Same goes with the families that could afford the cost. If scouting has to measured as a bargain from a funding perspective, then it has to show value from participation. While I could go on and on about the value of growth and character (I'm pretty good at it), National got a lot of traction from the Eagle. What is the Eagle worth? A lot apparently.

While the analysis does paint a picture, the program still is one of the largest youth programs in the world. When the Canadian Scouts followed the program that was much the same as the BSA program, it was the largest youth program in the world. So, in context, it's worth it. Good scouting isn't cheap, but it has value.

Of course now the cost is much much higher and the challenges much much greater. Ironically, I think the efforts to make the program affordable for all would kill the spirit of what makes it valuable. It killed Canadian Scouts. 

Barry

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I'm sitting here thinking about the families who struggled with funds and eventually chose to leave the program. In many cases it wasn't the funding that drove them off, it was the participation expected of the parents time. The real issue is that parents of low income families don't have a lot of time to participate or volunteer. Funds (lack of) are the easy excuse, but not the reason. I saw this a lot with Tiger families. 

I remember one mother who was nervous about her deaf son joining our troop. She felt compelled to participate to insure he would be safe in our program. That was despite our deaf Eagle Scout and his parents insuring her that we worked well with deaf scouts. Funding was difficult for her, but she was assured that it wasn't a problem for the unit. It was her lack of time that eventually motivated her to withdraw the whole family.

Barry

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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

I can't recall anyone saying that scouting was a bargain, poor choice of words.

Maybe not here, but  on Facebook the "Scouting is a bargain compared to..." is heard all the time.  And folks do not realize as much as a "bargain" Scouting is, it is still expensive for some families. I lucked out last year, summer camp was cancelled, and the fees refunded helped me with recharter and an Eagle Court of Honor. This year, Oldest ages out, so that is one less registration fee I have to pay.

But I know folks who are on "scholarships" to help them remain in Scouting. Fundraising helps, but with COVID putting a nix on it for the time being, it is a challenge.

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Time is money in this case. A much cheaper high adventure or summer camp can be done but it costs time.

I read through some of the thesis and my impression is there have been numerous forces against the BSA that nobody has figured out how to deal with and it's been going on since the 50's. The East coast was already losing membership in the 60's, and that was the supposed golden age. Add in a culture war, the changing economy, poor management, sexual abuse and here we are. 

On the other hand, this past weekend I went camping for the first time in 18 months and kids still like playing in the outdoors. They will still help the younger scouts and they just smile when they make their first dutch oven cake. They still don't like boring meetings and their brains are still a bit mushy at times.

The kids haven't changed. I'm still hopeful.

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On 5/4/2021 at 10:41 AM, MattR said:

I read through some of the thesis and my impression is there have been numerous forces against the BSA that nobody has figured out how to deal with and it's been going on since the 50's.

We asked my grandpa, would could have been a Scout in the 1930's, if he was a Scout. He said "only rich kids were Scouts". Granted it was the great depression, but still. 

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