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Commissioner Service, how do we make it more effective?

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I'm sticking this here since it's come up in a few threads, MODs, feel free to move it to Council Relations if you see the need.


I am a Commissioner and besides being an Assistant Chapter Advisor and an ASM (when I was in college), it's the only adult position I have held in the 10+ years I've been a scouter.


I really think that the commissioners who are out there making visits, contacting leaders, and attending RT, are being effective. But we can only do so much with the numbers we have....close to every district in every council could use more ACTIVE COMMISSIONERS (my emphasis, not shouting....or maybe I should be).


I have mentioned before that my district has about 8 commissioners on the books, with about half that active (meaning visiting units, making contact, entering visits in to UTVS, ect.), and we could realy use 15-20 active commissioners in total.


How do we increase the commissioner corps? I constantly hear, we don't have a Unit Commissioner...they're not effective...and we don't need the district's help. There's lots of complaints, lot's of solutions, but no one seems to step up and help.


Commissioner Service in its current form will work, if there are dedicated scouters who will take the time to get trained and go out there and make those visits. As a commissioner, I have seen two types...folks who like the cool patch with the wreath and Scouters who go out and provide unit service.


How do we attract those seasoned Scouters who have years of experience to come and help provide Unit Service? As I have mentioned, I have 4-5 Adults who would be perfect, but they would rather staff WB than be a commissioner (or on the district committee or the training chair's staff). I personally believe that unit service and providing the essential training (ITOLS, OWLS, BALOO, ect) is way more important than WB. (I'm not knocking WB, I went through the course and received my beads 5 years ago)


I think I am just frustrated...I see struggling and failing units, units on the edge and all they need is a little TLC from fellow Scouters...but instead of assistance, I see folks doing what they can do to chase that 3rd or 4th bead or a silver critter or the Witney Young Award.


I think National and the National Commissioner realize that great unit service will help with recruitment and retension of youth and are trying to do something about it. But I don't think that new position patches and knot awards are the way to go...but if it does work, maybe we'll get some of those Scouters who are chasing stuff for their uniform anyway!



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I applaud your efforts and the dedication you show. However I think that the reality is that the Commissioner Corps has seen its best days and are rapidly fading away into history in most councils. Truly it is one of the most under appreciated and thankless positions in scouting today, and that is why its members are shrinking away. You are right when you say the new awards and patches will attract certain scouters, but the question becomes are those the kind of people you want or need as commissioners?


IMHO, the real problem is the lack of quality in training unit leaders, especially the unit committee members, so they really understand their duties, and how to deal with these reoccurring problems that keep coming up in all units. Maybe that could be the new focus of commissioners instead of having to run all over the place constantly putting out little unit fires here and there. This new focus might also help in recruiting new members.



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Commissioner service is not a lost art!


Our district is experiencing a lot of success with younger commissioners using the UVTS system faithfully.


It makes our monthly meetings VERY easy!

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In the other thread it was mentioned replacing Commissioner Service with some sort of swap system, where you would visit other units. I like the idea, but it's hard to get units to send representation to RT...so I don't see them going to visit other units.


The problem just seems to perpetuate itself...we don't have enough UCs, which can't make visits, which can't help units, which fail. But it even works the other way around, we recruit (or sometimes can't) committee members, who don't go to training, who don't understand their jobs, who can't help their unit, which fail.


BP is right....Commissioner Service is a thankless job, but I think Committee service is as well (both at the unit and district level). We always get folks who will volunteer as a CM or SM (and sometimes fight over it), but it seems like no one wants to volunteer for the "paper pushing" jobs.


Granted, I'm not out at camp helping guide young men as they teach others who to tie knots, tie lashings, use a map and compass, and the like. But I really believe if I can help a unit succeed, then their unit leaders can provide the best program possible.


As far as UTVS, we use it and it can be effective. When an issue arrises, our District Commissioner Team can put in a plan of action to make contact, find outside help if neccessary, and try to find a permanant solution. The problem is, as mentioned before, we're spread way too thin. As an ADC, I am managing resources and still responsible for visiting 3 Packs.

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I am willing to bet even in your council commissioners are few and far between. Look, most unit leaders look at commissioners as "nosey busybodys and council spies" and do everything in their power to make them feel unwelcomed. UVTS does not change those leaders feelings or the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of commissioner visits.


Look it really is time for a reality check here, if you are going to keep the few commissioners we have left it is time to give them a new focus and methods that will make their positions more desireable to new scouters. Unit visits are a crock, they go in and ask how is everything and they either get the response, "What do you want, go away", or, "I don't have time for you and you are disrupting my meeting, please leave", and the UC checks off his visit list and NOTHING was accomplished, even with the UVTS.



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The commissioner system is a foreign one to many people. The idea of floating, roving mentors who don't come to every meeting, aren't part of the unit's core leadership team, have no real authority, are utterly unaccountable and have no personal interest in a unit is an odd one indeed. I think that's why there are so many "What's a unit commissioner?" responses in the help-my-unit-is-in-trouble threads.


We're more familiar with investigators and inspectors, people with authority and muscle, enforcers who can clean up a problem at the snap of a finger.


Does it make sense to give a volunteer the job of helping a unit grow and serve Scouts, without any budget, resources or authority, just by the sheer force of his or her example, experience and personality?


I'm not necessarily advocating paid enforcers, but the current system is just such a recipe for failure that there has to be another way.

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Good discussion.


There is an institutional barrier to consider. Good units are outdoors and moving fast. UCs are often perceived as "management" and thus part of the district/council perpetual meeting and training circuit, with little or no camp fire smoke on their uniform, which unit level leaders may view with healthy skepticism. Many UCs I know fulfill this perception.


The key thing is to recruit UCs that can relate to the unit. It's a hurdle to do so because if a scouter is outdoor minded, he/she is inclined to continue at unit level.


The first thing we should do is wipe the UC roster clean and start fresh. Most UCs are place holders any how. Everywhere there are graduated ASMs and CMs who are a little burned out, but not to the point of quitting completely. They are just the right folks to recruit as UCs. They know what a unit needs, and they will build a solid foundation for a future UC corps. They will be less inclined to say no thanks because they don't want to be associated with the current reputation of UCs, which is pretty poor (I say this as a UC myself).



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The current commissioner model had been dead for years, if not decades, but no one cares enough to give it a proper burial. Taking your 4-5 experienced Scouters and making them UCs is a wasted resource.


In 12 years with the pack and troop we have had two UCs. Both times was when someone from within the pack or troop took the job. In both cases they went through the training, did commissioner stuff for a couple months then realized there was absolutely nothing productive for them to do. The both moved on to other positions within the pack or troop.


Coming to troop or pack meetings is a waste of time. No one has time to talk to a UC. And if they did, the level of conversation never gets past "how's business?" "Oh, great. You?" You want a snapshot of the health of a unit, attend a committee meeting. How many folks are there? Did the treasurer give a report? What outings are planned? Do they have an annual calendar? Did the training chairman promote upcoming trainings? Were there problems discussed? Do the folks get along?


Or better yet, ask the unit leader out for a cup of coffee once in awhile. Develop a relationship with him or her. Maybe ask them to grab a bite before Roundtable or offer to carpool.


The big problem is with "healthy" units, UCs have noting to do so it's a waste of a volunteer. Up until the time there is a problem with the unit, then there's no on-going relationship with a UC and it's too late.


I think a better model for the Comm Corps is RT commissioners. They have a specific focus and recruit and develop volunteers to that focus. I'd organize commissioners around various tasks -- Recharter Commissioners, New Unit Commissioners, Unit Recovery Commissioners -- that sort of thing.


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Our district doesn't have many effective Unit Commissioners, but I know the model will work, because I'm one of 'em!



I've been UC for a pack since 2004. When I was first asked to assist, the Cubmaster Who Didi Everything had left and no one even has a roster of families.


We developed a roster of new families and leaders over a period of three years or so, and we've had effectice Committee Chairs, SM and other leaders ever since.


My most important role has been to organize spring and fall recruiting each year. Other than that, the pack leadership keeps things going very well.


But I've contributed ideas as UC that leaders have picked up on. I've been promoting the idea of forming Bobcat Dens of new boys and families recruited in the spring. The SM gave that a try this spring and tolod me last night all ten new boys recruited in late March have earned their Bobcat Badge and have been sorted into their regular dens.


I've also been promoting the idea of appointing Scout Parent Coordinators and making it their task to recruit new families to help as pack leaders. Usually it's an overburdened CM or CC who recruits new people to help as a last resort. A couple of packs are now using this person as their regular person to fill tasks large and small that need to be done.


When I run across ideas or e-mails that are interesting, I forward them on to pack leaders who might find them useful.


When a new CC or Cubmaster comes on board, I keep an eye on how they are doing and will be a sounding board and aid if they are having trouble figuring out what to do.


Unfortunately, there aren't racks of experienced Scouters willing to help out like that. When I took over as CM of a troubled pack, I signed up the departing SM as the UC. He has helped from time to time, but he doesn't want the crabs to pull him back into that pot!

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laughing here........


Commissioners must not be registered simultaneously as unit leaders.


Taken from




Our UC is a SM for a neighboring Troop, who guess what, meets on the same night as we do......result he has never been to our meeting.


Our previous one thought he was some sort of a dictator, whom was promptly asked to leave our CO and never return. Uniform inspection?????? and who are you again. too many of my boys don't have shirts.



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The current Commissioner Service model is "awarded," under JTE, at the Council level if the ratio of Unit Commissioners-to-Units is 3:1 or less (Gold level). Even at 3:1, it is too much for most folks to handle.


To fit with today's busy people, having a unit commissioner servicing more than 2 units is a real risk - we are recruiting commissioners to handle only 1 unit.


And when you have 70 traditional units & 5 Explorer Posts, that's a lot of people! And recruiting is a continuous activity. It is unusual when a unit commissioner lasts more than a couple of years, so you need to look at "upcoming losses" when you are recruiting to try and stay ahead of the curve.


However, it is working.


And honestly, it is part of the responsibility of the District Commissioner, District Chairman, and District Executive to ensure that folks who are serving units don't feel like they are working a "thankless" job.


BTW - a good, and well trained, unit commissioner can tell you how well a unit is running without taking up any unit leaders time! The power of observation will tell you a lot. But you also need to be prepared to "listen" to your units leaders, and possibly take action (many times, listening is really all that is needed). An effective commissioner knows the unit Chartered Organization Representative, and even the charter partner's executive officer. (And an effective Administrative Commissioner will find out if that is the case when they do the annual commissioner reviews.)


Commissioner Service can work - we just need to make the program "fit" better with the reality of a busy person's schedule.


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This is one time I have to go along with Twocub the position of Commissioner is almost an extinct entity. Most districts have few if any functioning commish's, and those few that do they are so overworked they burn out within a year. The whole purpose and function of a Commissioner needs to be totally re-evaluated and changed or National should just let it die its inevitable death.


A special forum for Commisioners, as requested in another thread, will not change the situation, you can only beat a dead horse for so long.

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