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Commissioner Service, how do we make it more effective?

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Hello Baden P,



Our council has an annual day long "Commissioner's Convention" used to keep Commissioner up to speed with what's going on in the council. The Scout Executive keynotes the convention and the DEs and Field Directors are all there.


We had about eighty or so Commissioners attend this March. That's still a fairly lively corpse.

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Of those 80 commissioners who attended how many are really still active or are in name only. Also Seattle is a very large council so 80 isn't really all that many considering the size of the area being served. At a recent U of Scouting in my council there were a number of grizzled old scouters with comissioner patches, but as one Dist Commish told me most of them were inactive and these old timers with their horror stories "tend to scare off most of the new recruits we get each year."

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I agree with BadenP that a turnout of 80 at our Commissioner's Convention isn't exactly a flood. A few years ago we used to do the Commissioner's University program ----perhaps that was discarded in favor of the convention due to declining numbers, although I recall better turnouts for that.


As I noted elsewhere, when I got around to signing on to the Commissioner Unit Visitation website, there were only two other reports from one Commissioner dating back to January.


How many people are signing in to the Unit Visitation site? That might give some idea of participation.




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I've only ever met one UC that was no longer visiting units, and that was because his health would not allow. He passed away not too long after he stopped making visits though. Our problem is the opposite. We don't have enough, so that some ADCs are having to make unit visits.

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Im an ADC, and can tell you this issue is common. Commissioner is the 2nd oldest adult scouting position, and we still serve a very important role. Grats on stepping up. As far as being effective, stick to one, or two, Charter Orgs, and make sure they are near your home or work. If there is an org with a full scouting family, meaning Park, Troop, Crew, thats perfect. The key is dont spread yourself thin, all units need service, but you can only do so much effectively. Complete your basic training, asap, and get to Commissioners College, it will help. Start slow, get to know your unit leaders, scouts, parents, and charter rep.


I would not only visit unit meetings. Heres how Id start. Call the SM, ask to come visit. One the introduce yourself, be in full uniform, and make sure you are not taking any notes. Sit back and observe, only getting involved when asked to. Dont be a distraction, or interfere in any way. Record your impressions, and sore the unit in uvats as soon as you get home. Next call the charter rep, ask to meet with him, if hes too busy, that fine, ask for a few moments on the phone. Explain to the rep who and what you are, and your function. Now ask for permission to attend a committee meeting, and do so. These are the best first steps, from here, you need to visit in the field. To be effective you must become a friend, and goto guy, but remain at arms length from the units operation friend, but outsider.


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I've been Commissioner for a pack since 2004. At that time, I helped rebuild a pack whicjh had collapsed due to the departure of a "Cubmaster Who Does Everything."



The CC who worked with me in rebuilding the pack wanted to relive his glory days building Monkey Bridges with his Boy Scout Troop, so a Monkey Bridge became a center piece of the Pack campout in June.


Because of that tradition, I asked the current CM if the pack could build an obstacle course with a Monkey Bridge for the district day camp. I got an e-mail back from the CM saying they no longer had the skills to build the Monkey Bridge, but they would like to reinstate that as a feature of their upcoming June camp if they can get some help with that.


So I e-mailed the original CC and asked if he'd be able to help with that once again. If he is willing to do it, the pack leaders will have a chance to relearn that skill and perhaps practice it setting up the obstacle course for the day camp as well.


If that works out, who's to say that the services of Commissioners are dead?


If the former CC isn't able to help with that, I'll have to check my schedule and see if I can help teach the skill of building a Monkey Bridge.


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For sometime now I have been posting that in the area where I live commissioner service is dead.

I dearly love our Council Commissioner, he is a really nice fellow. Still even for him the idea of Service has been replaced with doing what is needed to keep the people he reports to happy.

For a number of years I sat on the Area Committee. This Committee seemed to be more about meeting the goals set by National than having anything to do with helping Councils who were facing problems.

Councils who weren't living up to expectations rather than getting the help they needed were given or threatened with a Provisional Charter. Council Commissioners did whatever was needed to avoid this at all costs.

I became a District Commissioner back in the late 1990's. As with just about every new task I take on, I was full of enthusiasm and as ever thought I was going to save the world!

By 2000 I knew something wasn't working.

I just wasn't sure what?

I was doing everything that the good books said that I ought to be doing, but still I wasn't seeing anyone knocking on my door begging to be accepted as a new Commissioner. Even with a staff of over 20 for 42 units, I wasn't able to get these commissioners to do the job.

I thought I was doing something wrong.

So I decided that I needed help.

I packed up the car with HWMBO and kid an spent a week at Philmont attending a course on Delivering Commissioner Service.

The two guys charged with presenting the course were both very nice, one was a DE the other had served as Council Commissioner. Both were from Erie PA. (It seemed a little silly that I drove from PA to New Mexico to talk with guys who were just a three hour drive down the road.)

I went thinking that I had problems.

Sitting and listening to what the other participants were going through made my problems look tiny.

I had a great time, really enjoyed my week, but at the end of it came away not knowing any more about delivering commissioner service that I had before I'd went.

While I do believe that everyone has some redeeming features, the truth is /was that I had to work really hard to find them in the group I was leading.

Most were way past their sell by date.

Some could only visit units during the daylight saving times, due to not being able to drive at night. With a good many units not meeting from when school ends for the summer and restarting in the fall, they didn't visit a lot of units.

Reports at the monthly Commish meeting often were about someone saying I bumped into so and so at Wal-Mart and he says that everything is fine.

A couple of the newer guys became so close to the unit that they might well have been leaders in the unit, some caused real problems within the unit and I had to deal with CO who wanted to know what the heck they were doing there?

It was a joke.

Still once a month I attended the Council Commissioners Meetings.

Four meetings (4 months) were spent dealing with charters. Getting ready for, tracking, and then finding out why the ones that weren't in, weren't in.

After a number of years I was given a plaque, a knot and the most hideous bolo tie ever telling the world I was a Distinguished Commissioner. The truth is that I didn't feel very distinguished.

I did feel that my input as a member of the Key 3 was and had been worthwhile, the sames goes from my attending the District Committee Meetings.

But deliver of Commissioner Service? -Forget it.

I don't have the answer of how to fix it.

I think in place of Commissioners we need a core of District Trainers, who can deliver the right training's to the people who need it.

All these new super duper toys that I'm reading about sound great.

If only we had the people to use them.


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Hello Eamonn,



I guess I'm lucky being a Unit Commissioner. I do my thing, and I do it pretty well. I don't have to worry about what the next guy is doing or not doing.


As District Membership chair, ideally I'd have a staff of volunteers working on various worthy projects. But I don't, and finding volunteers to work on membership is tough. I'm one of three district membership chairs in a council of fourteen districts.


Anyway, I am pretty free to work on any projects that seem worthwhile to me. Some work, others don't.


I do my best.


The most puzzeling experience I've had is dealing with my council chair and Council Commissioner. From time to time I've obser ved issues and problems in units I've visited as Membership Chair, and reported those to the head volunteers in the council. I've never gotten a reply to e-mails I've sent.


What's with that? Is that the recommended method for District Chairs and Commissioners?


Now the DE answers my e-mails all the time. He gets a lot of help from me and we work closely together as a team to make membership functions work.

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I have a close friend that said when his time in the troop is up that he wants to be a UC. Neat patch and no responsibility! That is the impression that most scouters (in the troop level, anyway) have of UC's.

One SM I know told my UC that "UC's were the biggest waste of time and effort in Scouting".

This is a common refrain from many I know.


In my area, the UC Corps is undergoing a revival. The first 3 years I was SM, I never saw or knew I had one. Didn't need him, as far as I know, either. I was assigned a good UC, one that had plugged into the community and had interests beyond scouting, that had a symbiotic relationship with scouting.

He went on a long weekend camping trip with us, and we had a good relationship. He did his observations from a distance, and I'm sure made his reports.


My current UC has other duties as well in the district, and from what I see is doing his job as UC well.

I've downloaded the UC unit check lists, and give these to my PLC, and ask them to grade our meetings based on this form. (Best, OK, Needs improvement) I use this as a launching point to get the PLC to take ownership of the meeting plan. But I digress.


The biggest problem that the UC corps has is the lack of relationship with their unit. How on earth does anyone think that a unit with problems is going to bare their soul to a stranger? From the District? NOT!!


That's why for UC's to be effective, they (IMHO) need to develop a personal relationship with the SM and Committee of the units they serve. Otherwise, they'll always be "The company spy".






(This message has been edited by Alabama Scouter)

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I does take time with some units.


But the UC who shows up every month to a troop meeting, and attends the occasional Committee Meeting, will start to build the relationships they need to have in order to be successful.


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In another thread, I also reflected on my disappointment with the commisioner service. My sons joined a pack that had real problems. I tried to get a commisioner to visit, but nothing happened. Eventually, I got a few council people to come and their presence helped straighten things out.


Though some units may benefit from effective commisioners, I think the vast majority have never seen one, never benefitted or had a bad experience.


In another thread, I suggested replacing commisioners with a unit-to-unit mentoring program. Each year, unit leaders visit a different unit and are visited by leaders of another unit. Rotate the visits so that the same unit-to-unit visits don't occur uear after year. It builds relationships, educates new scouters, provides examples of good practices and make bad situations visible. Have the visit be a committee meeting and/or a troop meeting. Make the commissioners be the team that helps people schedule the visits. Make leader knots include a requirement to visit other units.


I also like what was suggested earlier, district unit trainers. I'm not sure how this would work, but I think it would be very helpful to have someone contact units each year and ask "what training can we provide you?" Defined class agenda (BALOO, OWLS, ...) or general topic (how to run committee meetings, how to run a PLC). Then, ask when they can present that training. Maybe right before or after a committee meeting.


It's a pet peave of mine when people ask "Are you trained?" or infer "They probably aren't trained". My experience with BSA training is hit and miss and it only communicates the rudimentary ideas. I could easily see a unit scouter be fully trained and not really understand that much about scouting. As the commisioner service needs re-engineering, the BSA training program needs improvement too. Here's a good example. I've been fully trained for eight years and I still did not understand scouting until I started reading multiple forums and the Ask Andy column. My knowledge took another leap forward by being in multiple units and seeing how those units did things. It really made me contemplate the best practices for the units that I was a leader in.


As far as I'm concerned, the unit commisioner services is permanently broken and needs to be replaced with a new concept. Personally, I think a good unit-to-unit mentoring program is the answer as it addresses both the commisioner goals and provides practical on-the-job training and feedback


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What you propose, on the training level, is related to what I'm working towards as a Commissioner. As we bring on trainers or commissioners, our goal is to cross-train them. So, while a Unit Commissioner is visiting for a training "check-up", they can observe the unit as well. And if they're there on a unit visit, they can discuss trainings in the future and roundtables (which most councils don't use as the training opportunity they are),


From the thread, it sounds like the quality of the Commissioner service is hugely varied around the country. In our council, there's a fair amount of resentment for the new J2E commissioner requirements, because they focus only on unit visits. So a commissioner who visits his units 6 times a year is doing what J2E wants, but is not focused on the charge of the commissioner service to help units. So the commissioner who steps in for unit lifesaving and helps keep a pack afloat gets credit for only one unit, even though he visited 24 times. This hopefully will be addressed next year when the requirements are released.


If National is truly focused on the new "Volunteer led, professionally advised" idea that came out of the National Meeting, there will have to be a heavy duty return to the original focus of the Commissioner Service. Those who want to be commissioners to drink coffee and hang around aren't going to help with this focus, and will have to be guided to the correct path, or to the door.



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'77 --


So the commissioner who steps in for unit lifesaving and helps keep a pack afloat gets credit for only one unit, even though he visited 24 times.


Then they are not entering the data into UVTS correctly! EVERY contact with a unit should be recorded in UVTS, whether in person, on the phone, email, etc. You talk to a unit leader at Roundtable, you enter it in UVTS. You get a panicked phone call at 11pm, you enter it in UVTS (as an Other). You visit a unit at a camporee - it goes in UVTS (Unit Activity). You go to a CoH, it gets enter in UVTS. Committee Meetings, one-on-one meetings with unit leaders, unit meetings, they should ALL be entered in UVTS.


If you contacted a unit 24 times in a lifesaving mode, there should be no reason why these are not recorded. A commissioner can enter unit visitation data for any unit in his district (this was a change in version 2.0 released last summer, prior to that, you could only enter contacts for the units you were assigned to).


Fred --


In the 1933 BSA publication "Adventures of a District Commissioner" - the "unit-to-unit mentor" is exactly what is talked about ... and where the original "Neighborhood Commissioner" idea came from. (Of course, I also like the fact that in this book, the District Commissioner has 7 (yes, seven) Troops to be concerned about -- I wish!)(This message has been edited by UCEagle72)

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