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How to increase Venturing membership and prospects?


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Venturing enrollment has decreased significantly during the course of recent BSA challenges.  This thread will focus on: What could or should be done now to increase the membership and prospects of the Venturing program as in independent BSA program unit?  Feel free to comment on both administrative and programmatic elements of Venturing, including its advancement program.  Please focus only on Venturing and not Sea Scouts or Exploring.  Next week I will post a thread asking for suggestions on how Venturing might be structured as part of Scouts BSA – so please defer that discussion until then.    

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I will start with broad observations and policy views on Venturing.  I was not part of the “Churchill” effort, so these thoughts are my own.  A scouting-type program for older youth has existed in in the BSA in some form for many decades.  I believe the BSA should serve these older youth as a matter of fulfilling its organization-wide purpose if it can do so without undermining its ability to strongly re-establish and support Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA.  With the exception of Sea Scouts, older youth programming has been inconsistent and dramatically overhauled every twenty years or so.  This relatively frequent overhauling is a principal reason the programs do not have a robust base of supportive adult volunteers and alumni.

If Venturing continues as an independent BSA program, it might become a council-optional program to be managed and serviced exclusively by volunteers on a council or territory basis.  I believe professional resources need to be focused on re-establishing and servicing lost Cub Scout and Scouts BSA units for the foreseeable future.

Girls who once joined Venturing for the purpose of accessing a BSA advancement system can now advance through an all-girl Scouts BSA Troop.  For this reason, the Venturing advancement system should be evaluated to determine whether this has diminished overall demand for Venturing advancement below viability.

If continued as a stand-alone program, Venturing must be supremely inexpensive and easy to form and operate.

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Posted (edited)

@Cburkhardt the one striking omission: older youth -- especially 18-20 year olds -- do not need a pair 21+ year old adults of the appropriate sex to meet and plan adventures. They would rather risk (or perhaps are ignorant of the risks of) the potential abuse inherent in meeting on their own in the absence of adults (or in the presence of just one adult of the opposite sex), and bring in, as needed, the occasional adult based on his/her qualifications to supervise their activities of interest.

IMHO, this, above all other things, undercuts BSA's ability to fashion venturing into the umbrella program that it once was.

In the face of that, these other items are immaterial, but could go a long way to recognizing venturing as a viable "next step" for many scouts:

  • Advancement is immaterial. My guess is about 0.1% of youth in this age range are interested in obscure awards. I don't think ALPS is discouraging to youth, but I do think it lacks appeal because of the lack of connection to American scouting. The dissonance in award names is a huge problem. I believe First Class Venturer, Star Venturer, Life Venturer, and Eagle Venturer would convey real value to anyone with a scouting background.
  • Along those lines venture scout rolls off the tongue way more easily than venturer.
  • Finally, program should be identifiable with only epaulets on the standard BSA field uniform shirt: a color for cubs, a color for scouts BSA, and a color for Venturers. Epaulets for persons in both programs should have combined colors.

Basically, the obsession with branding differently will have to end.

Edited by qwazse
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Qwazse:  Please be very direct.  Which ages are you in favor of being in a continuing "stand alone" program?  There have been several age-range ideas floating around and I'd like to know the format you favor and why.  Thanks, Cburkhardt.

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My thoughts.

1. Sea Scouts has been the exception to the Older Scout problem because they have customs and traditions dating back to 1912. Even when Sea Scouts turned into Sea Exploring, and  you had traditional and non traditional ships, those traditional ships survived and thrived.

2. regarding advancement, that was NEVER meant to be a focus for Venturing, hence the original 5 Bronze in specialties, Gold, and Silver Awards. They were optional items.

3. Regarding the term Venture Scout, that term was already in use to those Scouts in Venture crews within troops. When Venturing came out in 1998, they took over the term crew,  and caused Venture crews to be renamed Venture patrols. Now that Venture Patrols are dead, I see no reason to not to rename Venturers  to Venture Scouts since they already appropriated the unit designation.

4. While I love the concept of Venturing, heck I would have loved an active HA Exploring Post back in the day, the biggest challenge is adult volunteers. Sadly you a need number of dedicated, adventurous adults willing to work with the young adults.

5. Why is talk about increasing Venturing membership coming up when I though the Churchill Plan looked at maximizing the age for all BSA programs at 18? I know that fact motivated some Venturing folks, and 99.9999999% of the Sea Scout Community to save the programs, FOR THE MOMENT.  I emphasize FOR THE MOMENT because if you remember the response to the Churchill leak DID state they leave the 18-20 year old question open to future shutdown  discussion. Yes, I remember the national Sea Scout commodore, being taken completely by surprise by that. The topic of shutting out 18-20 year old Sea Scouts had never been discussed with him, and he was the national volunteer in charge of Sea Scouts.

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16 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

Qwazse:  Please be very direct.  Which ages are you in favor of being in a continuing "stand alone" program?  There have been several age-range ideas floating around and I'd like to know the format you favor and why.  Thanks, Cburkhardt.

My observation is that my high school age kids benefited greatly from being in fellowship with college age youth. So I see no point in changing the age range from the current one.

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16 hours ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

 

4. While I love the concept of Venturing, heck I would have loved an active HA Exploring Post back in the day, the biggest challenge is adult volunteers. Sadly you a need number of dedicated, adventurous adults willing to work with the young adults.

 

This is the main driving problem. A successful  Venture, Venturing, Sea Scout, Explorers, or whatever you  want to call program must have passionate adults and sponsors. My Scuba Post was sponsored by a very passionate Scuba Outfitter that pushed the program until he died.  Sea Scouts has it's own following, but I remember one member here years back saying his program struggled from lack of adults. The most successful older scout units have good sponsors or passionate adults. If it were me leading a charge to increase membership, I would start with a recruiting program to find the right adults. Scouts go where the fun is at, so find the adults and then market the fun.

Barry

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Are there sufficient numbers of capable adult volunteers to save Venturing?   

Commenters are sharing that a principal challenge for continuing a stand-alone Venturing program is recruiting a sufficient number of adults to vigorously support Venturing Crews.  The reality is that Venturing youth and adult membership has shrunk so much that a stand-alone Venturing program probably would need to be fundamentally re-established in many localities.  My observation is that the professional and volunteer structures above the unit level will continue to focus on re-establishing Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA -- putting the future of Venturing in the hands of interested adult volunteers.  Nobody has posted any numbers or other evidence to counter the impression that Venturing adult volunteers are vanishing and not being replaced in in numbers to retain fundamental "stand alone" program viability.  Absence of sufficient Venturing membership will cause the discussions about Venturing advancement and youth age ranges to become irrelevant.  

My experience is that the indispensable and most-effective adult volunteer leaders for Venturing (and previous outdoor adventure Exploring) are parents of youth who matriculated from Scout Troops.  If these parents are no longer volunteering in sufficient numbers, this may determine the future of "stand alone" Venturing.

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33 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

My experience is that the indispensable and most-effective adult volunteer leaders for Venturing (and previous outdoor adventure Exploring) are parents of youth who matriculated from Scout Troops.  If these parents are no longer volunteering in sufficient numbers, this may determine the future of "stand alone" Venturing.

Respectfully disagree. The best leaders for Venturing are the 18-20 year olds who are craving HA, but also are giving back to the troop as well. Sadly because BSA no longer gives the 18-20 year olds the respect they deserve, i.e. they no longer  count towards 2 deep leadership, needs 2 registered adults over 21 when teaching a MB or 1 over 21 registered adult and 1 parent with them when teaching a MB, making them choose between Scout friends and schoolmates since they have to apply YPT policies to non-Scout life, but again they do not count towards 2 deep leadership,  We are losing a lot of experienced folks.

I would rather have a 18-20 y.o. ASM who grew up in the program, and has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to work a successful program, than 30+ year old who just crossed over from Cub Scouts and has no idea what Scouts BSA truly is like.

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40 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

... My experience is that the indispensable and most-effective adult volunteer leaders for Venturing (and previous outdoor adventure Exploring) are parents of youth who matriculated from Scout Troops.  If these parents are no longer volunteering in sufficient numbers, this may determine the future of "stand alone" Venturing.

Anointing parents of scouts as crew leaders is absurd on in face (and I say that as an advisor who had 2 of his 3 kids enroll while also in a troop). Across the bridge and tunnel* from me were two phenomenal a an advisors one who only had daughters and another who matriculated from a crew (no kids at the time). The latter woman out-shined me in every way, partly because she was brought up in a crew with young advisors who expected youth to train to be future advisors. About half of the crews in our council were led well by people who didn't have kids or whose kids weren't in scouting. The fact is, parents of youth in this age range are scrambling working extra hours to save up for fees in other activities and college tuition. That makes for a terrible time in life to be a good advisor, and as @Eagle94-A1 indicates, compared to 5 years ago, crews now need an exponential amount of time from beleaguered adults.

Let's also not discount that some very competent adult advisors and/or committee died or became disabled via the pandemic. Other's (including some on these forums) have needed to commit their time and talent addressing it. (Even I took on a side-gig for my pandemic guy.) These are typically the kinds of people who make outstanding advisors, and they have less free time.

*Bridges and tunnels are Pittsburgh measurements of space-time.

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On the bright side, we've all gained skills in remote connection. I think that means that there's real potential for better youth-facing tools for youth protection, and possibly a better way to multiply adult resources. So, here's a how-to:

Develop publicly accessible youth-protection and youth-development resources that directly communicate barriers to abuse as they may occur in and around the venturing program. This must necessarily include youth forums and safe-space for reporting and delivery of psychological and legal aid.

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If you think parents of potential youth members are unlikely to serve or are otherwise inappropriate to be a Venturing crew Advisor or Committee member, then where are these people going to come from to reboot an entire program?  I might prefer others, but of the many units like this I formed over the years, there were always at least a few parents among the most effective Advisors.  That is my observation and experience, not necessarily my experience.

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55 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

If you think parents of potential youth members are unlikely to serve or are otherwise inappropriate to be a Venturing crew Advisor or Committee member, then where are these people going to come from to reboot an entire program?  I might prefer others, but of the many units like this I formed over the years, there were always at least a few parents among the most effective Advisors.  That is my observation and experience, not necessarily my experience.

Our Scuba post was manage by the scuba teacher and equipment store owner. The Police Post, was manage by volunteer police, and so on. We have a rappelling Venture crew around here that is led by the rappelling teachers at the Air Force Base. Find the adults who live and have passion for the skills that the scouts want for their adventure. Send them to training and have the DE visit them once in a while. I'm sure the effort is a lot more challenging, but it just one idea to bat around for ideas.

Barry

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Posted (edited)

For Venturing Advisers, I would say go after the 21+ years olds who aged out of the program. Some do remain in the area, and others who are addicted to Scouting in general, and Venturing in particular do volunteer wherever they move.

Hard part now will be finding them. Sadly every single EBOR I have sat in on since 2018, the Eagles say they will stay active until aging out. Reminder that 2018 was when National said 18-20 year olds not only do not count for YP purposes, but also must essentially give up friends and/or classmates who are involved in Scouting who are under 18 because of YP rules that they must follow, but again do not count towards.

And if anyone says, "but 50% of the abuse is youth on youth now," I say show me the RAW data. Mark Twain said it best. "There are lies. there are d@&*ed lies. Then there are statistics."  

Edited by Eagle94-A1
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