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Received an interesting call today.  A guy met one of our den leaders on Saturday selling popcorn.  He must have been directed to our site and got my number.  He is concerned about the growing violence in the city near us and wants us to come talk to his church's men's group about the benefits of Scouting and how to start a unit.  This is like two classes of my MPH rolled into a single Saturday.  I have been building a list of resources for the past month, detailing various social determinants of health and the affect Scouting can have in early intervention.  I think I have the benefits parts cover. Who has started a troop from scratch before?  I'm not looking to do a sales pitch, but rather a no kidding, this is what is involved, these are the pitfalls, these are the costs, etc.  

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Wow, a lot to unpack there. I won't even try in a single post.

I don't want to sound like I'm trying to talk you out of this, just the opposite. But the reality is starting units CAN be an uphill battle, better to know what you face so you can take proper steps. 

First - Is there really an unmet need? It's great that the adults want the unit, but is there enough youth to support it. Are you in an area that there are enough youth but external obstacles to getting them to join? The former is a problem, the latter is an opportunity. 

Second - adult support. Units need adults, and a minimum level of financing - not every location has family's able to pony up the funds to do all the outings get needed equipment (even minimal need). Transportation to events. etc. Suburban units usually have the easiest time. More often than not urban units struggle getting adult leaders. In many cases the finances are easier. Big donors like writing checks for under privileged units. Rural units can be tough on both. In farming communities the adults (and sometimes the kids) work if the sun is up. Often they are stretching's their dollar, and there just are not as many big donors. Also, youth sometimes have to travel farther to get to meetings. 

3rd - active Charter Organization. It is easier to survive a passive CO if you are established. Its much harder for new units. Active CO's will usually bend over backwards to help: space, people, finances, equipment drives, camping locations etc. Sounds like you may be ahead of the game on that one. 

4th - become good friends with your DE and Registrar. There is paperwork and problems with paperwork. They will be a God send if you have issues. 

5th - prioritize needs. You likely will not come out of the gate with everything you need, uniforms, handbooks, equipment etc. If not, make a plan and prioritize. Make sure you have basic elements for a program, things that can be used to teach scout skills, share handbooks if funds are tight, use the same color t-shirt for your uniform if everyone can't afford one. Build a plan and fund raise and build up to having the "full kit"

6th - Focus on fun and skills with the youth. From the get go, let them know this is their unit, and work to be youth led. Let them design the program with your guidance. Don't try to be over regimented. Things will go wrong and they will fail. let them, just don't let them crash and burn. 

7th - learn old school scouting - by that I mean youth led, patrol method, skills oriented. Unfortunately all of that is foreign to too many units, but youth thtt join scouting at the troop age are looking for that. Learning to tie knots, build fires, properly use a knife and axe are thrilling things to a 13 year old. 

I'm done for now. 

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I haven't had an opportunity to gather intel on the location, beyond a map recon.  There are no troops in that area, but there are a few neighborhoods and a couple of schools.  I have no idea what level they want to start at.  From my experience, a Pack is far more labor intensive than a troop.  At this point, I'm on a fact finding/fact giving mission.  It will be up to them to determine the ability of their organization and the will of the community.  I think our council and district have a funding stream for this sort of thing.  They set up a troop in a smaller city that failed.  I'm trying to get in contact with the people running that program and see what they did wrong.  I'm betting they were doing more of an externally driven effort, akin to nation building, than an internally driven program with external support.  My plan is the latter.  I'll give them the support they need to do the job themselves, but in the end, it's their program to succeed or fail.  I have my own Pack to nurture and grow.  Given the lack of legacy Scouters in that community, I imagine the need for a leader mentor program.  Maybe some sort of thing where the new leaders will shadow leaders in an established unit so they can understand what is involved, both at the committee level, and where the rubber meets the road.  I think a small troop could be run effectively with a COR, a Committee Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, SM, and ASM.  It will require especially dedicated Scouters.  I need to find a budget from a troop that breaks down all of the costs.  I have one for my Pack.  We are coming out of popcorn season, so fund raising opportunities will be nil for a bit.  Good idea about the t-shirt as a temp uniform.  I think one of the things that was an issue in the other troop was accountability.  The Scouts didn't have to earn their uniforms and didn't keep track of them.  These are all things I will have to tell them about so that they can keep an eye out for them.

 

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First and foremost, CONTACT YOUR DE ASAP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They have all the tools and resources needed to start a new units.

Second, DO LET THE DE TAKE ANY SHORTCUTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is a 12 step process to starting a new unit. It is extremely time consuming, and DEs are under pressure to get it going ASAP. I took me 6 months one time to get a unit started, and I was under constant pressure by my bosses to hurry it up. Supposedly it takes a minimum of 2 months, but iof you want the unit to last, TAKE YOUR TIME.

Third,  You can guide and mentor, BUT DO NOT TAKE ANY ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES!!!!!!! Being in charge in one unit is hard. Being in 2 different units with 2 different COs is a  major PITA and can lead to a FUBAR experience. Been there, done that, got the patches and loops, and had one unit's t-shirt.. :)

Good luck

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

Correct, Meant DO NOT....

I was a little confused. besides normally you don't need to ask your DE to take short cuts, or procrastinate, the normal status! 

Seriously, I love you guys though!

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I have only one experience with starting up a troop. It had a supportive CO, enthusiastic scouters, enough equipment, and parents who thought their boys would benefit from Scouting.

What it didn't have was many boys who were enthusiastic about Scouting. Their parents, mostly church going single moms, made them join up.  Also the boys had lived all their lives in the city. Camping in the woods wasn't an adventure to them, it was scary and strange.  There was also a pretty serious 'hood dynamic " He can't be in our patrol 'cause he lives on the other side of 4th Street! ". 

To sum up the scouts have to want to be there.  Otherwise you're just trying to nail jello to the wall 

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6 minutes ago, Oldscout448 said:

I have only one experience with starting up a troop. It had a supportive CO, enthusiastic scouters, enough equipment, and parents who thought their boys would benefit from Scouting.

What it didn't have was many boys who were enthusiastic about Scouting. Their parents, mostly church going single moms, made them join up.  Also the boys had lived all their lives in the city. Camping in the woods wasn't an adventure to them, it was scary and strange.  There was also a pretty serious 'hood dynamic " He can't be in our patrol 'cause he lives on the other side of 4th Street! ". 

To sum up the scouts have to want to be there.  Otherwise you're just trying to nail jello to the wall 

That's the part that I will emphasize to them.  They need to make sure they can build a unit - even if it's just 5 boys.  The program has to be fantastic AND visible in the community so that it motivates others to join.  

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12 step process

It was referred to but here is the actual process. Don't take any shortcuts or assume anything! Get your professional involved as soon as possible! Everything here is in order and should be followed in order...

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On 10/5/2021 at 8:45 AM, Armymutt said:

That's the part that I will emphasize to them.  They need to make sure they can build a unit - even if it's just 5 boys.  The program has to be fantastic AND visible in the community so that it motivates others to join.  

I’ve put that burden on scouts who wanted a crew. I told them if they could bring me 5 buddies who weren’t in scouts, we’d get rolling.
Yep, cover the twelve steps. That will get the DE involved. It will also build the mindset that you need.

Regarding churches, they really need to be able to dedicate the space and provide a COR willing to give oversight.

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