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2 hours ago, dk516 said:

Look at the two countries running high membership numbers above: both recently rebounded in almost 2-digit percentage numbers after years of losses. Scouts UK states "Our waiting list now sits at 90,000 young people". When have we heard about a waiting list for finding BSA units the last time? 

Switzerland just had its national Jamboree this summer after 14 years of absence. They managed to motivate 60% of their members to attend. Leading up to the event was a National Scouts campaign for 2 weeks spotlighting Swiss Scouts during national TV prime time every evening (not shiny marketing but real participants and volunteers over 3 generations). National media had their own onsite production outlet during the Jamboree with daily coverage. I think up to now I have heard about the 2023 Jamboree in national prime time TV once, and again in negative or political context rather than positive values.

Some observations about Swiss Scouting or Pfadi. We hosted a young man for a semester who was a Pfadi member (he is now finishing medical school). When we visited his family in 2014 he showed some of their Scouting program.

(1) Very community owned with many towns and villages supporting a scout house for meetings.

(2) Very much more youth led than in the USA with most of the unit leadership being in their 20's.

(3) Older (than in their 20's) adults were essentially relegated to fund-raising and board functions. Most of us would be on the sidelines.

(4) The Rover program (18 to 25) was very active in both leadership and activities. There was a high social aspect to the Rover program.

(5) Scouting appeared to be much more a part of the Swiss outdoor culture.

(6) Perceived by Scout age youth as being "cool". Neckers were the typical wear instead of uniforms.

(7) Almost totally volunteer operated with very few professional Scouters in the entire country.

(8) The majority of expenses were on direct youth activities and a very few limited regional Scouting facilities.  Summer camp often was in a farmer's field with high program ownership by the youth, and young adult leaders.

(9) While the international Kandersteg is in the Swiss Inter-Lochen region, surprisingly few Swiss scouts seemed to attend. I guess if it is in your own backyard, it loses some of its fascination.

(10) Much less structured and regulated (at least when we visited).  It is worth noting than the culture is very different. It is very common for a 15-year-old to jump on the train (excellent, cheap public transit) and travel with friends across the country or into a neighboring country for the day or weekend (good hostels are available). 


So, there are significant structural, cultural and program differences. Hard to compare in some ways but definitely some ideas worth considering.



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Well kind-of.  Certainly the social issues had an impact on membership, but I suspect it's not the lion's share of the issue.  A very significant issue has been scope creep in sports combined with the

I've heard about that research, but not seen it.   I question reaching the conclusion from the research.  We may be losing opportunity with some families that become committed to other programs,

Some observations about Swiss Scouting or Pfadi. We hosted a young man for a semester who was a Pfadi member (he is now finishing medical school). When we visited his family in 2014 he showed some of

23 hours ago, dk516 said:

Rebuild/Rebound/Recover can happen but only with some serious marketing on all levels. And I think it has to be real marketing showing achievements, highlighting local community support, Eagle projects benefitting the community but also how Scouts benefit the community and how Scouts benefits the individual members being in the program. I don't think however this is achieved by shiny corporate slogans, studio marketing materials and shiny photos on popcorn bags. We need to go back to highlight the real achievements and benefits of the organization. 

While I agree with the marketing remarks I also think a huge part of the problem is RETENTION. We used to have in person training, Pow Wow's and roundtables. Roundtable participation where it is 'in person' is often very low compared to a few years ago. Volunteers were better equipped to run high quality local unit programs that better met the needs/interests of both youth and parents. Cubbing retention is generally poor in part to having to hold a members interest for 5 1/2 years. We can do better.  

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Isn't retention another way of saying program quality?

I just got back from a camporee and the quality of the camporee program was really good. The patrols that did well had phenomenal teamwork. The patrols that struggled had scouts that weren't motivated for whatever reason and just had obvious teamwork problems.

There was one patrol of AOL girls along with their den chief that was just as impressive as a couple of patrols that were mostly older scouts that just clicked. Anyway, the den chief was a rock star for the program. That was an older scout making the program for younger scouts. Just like the Swiss scouts, it's the relationship between the older and younger scouts that make the program.

When I asked why our troop didn't have den leaders like it used to the response was that the scouts don't have time for both a patrol and a den meeting every week. That's fair. But then the issue is why isn't there more flexibility to let those scouts that want to work with younger scouts do that? Why doesn't the program encourage it? When I was SM and a scout wanted to be a den chief then that was considered an important POR and if all they did with their patrol was show up for a few campouts but they helped at all the den meetings then they were considered very active. Instead, troops are encouraged to create PORs for no other reason than to sign off reqs. So scouts that might really help the program aren't encouraged.

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1 hour ago, MattR said:

Isn't retention another way of saying program quality?

Great point!!! But we need to remember that means that the Den meetings for cubs need to be geared to their interests and abilities and grow with them and the pack meetings need to incorporate elements that recognize and interest all 6 grade levels... Field trips can be done by dens so older kids do more challenging things. In troops it means engaging all of the scouts in a meaningful way at the patrol and troop level. Monthly camping, hiking or other interesting and challenging activity along with one (or more) high adventure type events... Canoe trip, Historic trails challenge, caving, rock climbing (even at an indoor facility for climbing and rappelling) or other significant program. Most of our members time is spent in meetings and if they are dull/boring that can be deadly to retention. Thanks for the comment. 


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