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Should the US move to a one-unit approach?

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Two units working together intelligently are likely to be a good deal stronger than two units that are isolated from each other.


A lot of packs and troops go through strong and weak cycles of leadership. They can crash and burn on the downward leg. Often when a pack and troop are chartered by the same chartered organization an independent pack or troop can crash even though the other program is healthy and might be able to help if they knew about the problems and were welcome to help.


I don't know whether a single program would avoid that, and the current two programs can work together if the leaders are smart about it.


As a Unit Commissioner I work with packs and a troop to help deal with weaknesses and have avoided having the same pack crash twice in eight years.



Continuity of leadership and leadership skill is important to keeping programs going with quality programs.


In my experience units tend to be too isolated and can easily get on a road to failure and actually fail without effective support to turn things around.


That's a gigantic waste we really can't afford.


I don't know that a unified program is a good solution for that problem. Maybe, maybe not.


As a Unit Commissioner, I've been able to intervene to turn things around, but I know other Unit Commissioners who have seen that happening but were unable to or did not act, and pretty much were spectators as unit failed.

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I still stand by my comment on fundraising... even if you can overcome the volume of scouts and difference in leadership, HOW do you overcome infighting over funds?


I know some (if not most) LDS units already operate like this. However, do most of these have mandatory funding via the church members? If not - how does the funding work for the LDS units?


My hunch would be in a one-unit program... the program with the most adults on the committee would drive both the program and the funding. If committee members have mostly cubs... lots of $ spend on pinewood and entry level camping, older boys high adventure gets the shaft. Or, if the committee leadership is the other way, cubs never camp and everything the unit does is for 14 y/o on up.


Never seen it in action, so maybe a one-unit would work. But, I my expirience, its difficult to balance the program between 1st graders and 5th graders for cubbies... not sure how you do that effectively when you stretch the age from 6 y/o to 18 y/o all in the same unit.


Somebody's program needs are going to get short changed, IMHO.



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The true advantage may very well be in a common treasury with greater accountability. Funding structure would be simple. Apportion general contribution by numbers. More members are younger (usually), so they get a larger allocation of general funds.


There would be a standard policy for allocation to scout accounts. The youth in each den/patrol/crew decide how much from their SA's they will contribute to "community events" like PWD, B&G, CoH, Pizza Par-t, Trailor, HA and how much will be for ensuring individual scout preparation for any event (i.e. camp fees, gear, etc ...).


I once talked to some older Israeli scouts, part of their mission is to run summer programs for younger youth. Participation is not optional. They don't feel shortchanged.

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I read this once, had a knee jerk reaction. However, I've learned to never follow these reactions, so after a third read of the thread, I think there is merit to this idea. I'm not saying I'm sold on the concept, but many elements of this make a great deal of sense, and mirror the very closeness I've been trying to foster between, pack, troop, and crew at our charter org. This is very good food for thought.

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Yah, I think da concept is hard for U.S. Scouters to get, eh?


Talkin' about worries over a pack going into a "failing" troop are meaningless in such a system, eh? They're all one group, just with different program levels. There can be weaknesses or strengths, the way that one den leader can be stronger than another or a troop can be really strong but not have a well-developed high adventure program. Da thing is, when it's one group that strong group of middle-schoolers will eventually build a high adventure program. No need to go "shopping" for another unit.


Same with finances, eh? You're one group, and yeh work together on fundraisers and finances for da group. Maybe it will help wean us off da borderline-unethical scout account nonsense. ;) So yeh do fundraisers for the whole program, with perhaps dues differing by subunit because older youth programs tend to cost more. Yeh could also have subunit levels do special fundraisers da same way high adventure patrols within troops sometimes do.


Da important thing is not to fully separate the groups, eh? To have it natural that the older kids help with da younger ones at every level. Mini-scouts help with younger scouts, scouts help the minis, Ventures help scouts and minis, Rovers help everyone, older young adult leaders coach da youth leaders, older adults provide wisdom and take care of da bureaucratic and logistic support.


Easy peasy. ;)




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I agree that I think this idea has signficant merit. I see too many packs in trouble that would thrive with a bit more guidance. And my apologies to the UC corps, but I just don't see the unit commissioners cutting it. More is needed than just once or twice a year advice (if even that often). The key need is continuity. Everything else can be worked thru.


I really really believe that Webelos troop shopping is a counter-productive model. Of course scouts should be able to jump ship at any time from Tiger to Eagle. But troop shopping promotes cities having one or two strong troops and the other troops fighting for survival. Strong troops end up with excess parents, some of which might step forward if there was more of a need. Other troops starve for fresh energy and fresh volunteers.


Luckily, our troop is on the stronger side right now. But I see several troops and packs in our city that are on the verge of failure. If they just partnered together more, they could thrive. It's very sad.(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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I'm 110% against it.


In general, I favor Federation over Consolidation. Please note, the following is something I believe applies to pretty much any human organization, be it a Scouting unit, a business, a government agency, charity, etc. In theory, if you combine two things into one, you can get the best of both outfits, realize economies of scale, provide mutual support, etc. Experience tells me though, that you are at least as likely to get the worst of both, overcomplication, misdirected resources, infighting, finger pointing, etc. The bigger an organization is, the more talent it takes to successfully lead it. That's one reason we want patrols to be 5-8 Scouts, because asking a 14 year old to run an outfit of 60+ Scouts is a bad idea. There are rare gifted kids who can do that, but for most of them it would be setting them up for failure. Instead, the PL runs his 8-Scout unit, and the SPL runs the 6-8 member PLC. That's achievable.*


Likewise, there are certainly adults with the ability to successfully run a good One-Unit program with, perhaps 200 scouts from ages 7 to 21, and maybe four dozen adults leaders, the group organizing and engaging in activities from PWDs to dump camps to backpacking to summitting the friendly local glaciated volcano. But most adults are going to struggly mightily with that job, and likely fail. The bigger the program, the higher the quality of volunteers needed. Not necessarily recruited, but needed. Like Cambridgeskip said, if you already have that person, it helps formalize how they work, but it doesn't produce the necessary talent.


Consolidated organizations are prone to decay and rot. The weaker elements draw support and help from the stronger ones, but absent the gifted leader who can combine that support with accountability so that the weaker elements improve and get stronger, then you just end up with the effective people subsidizing and bailing out the ineffective ones time and time again. Which burns out your effective folks. It gives the appearance of improvement, because the weaker elements of the organization have fewer visible fiascos, but the organization itself is getting steadily weaker.


On the other hand, a Federated approach looks more chaotic, but ultimately encourages greater growth and stability over the long run. Stronger elements can still support weaker ones, but there is a greater incentive on the weaker elements to use the support in order to improve, not just to get by. Support and membership will tend to flow towards the outfits that do the most to learn and get better.




I see too many packs in trouble that would thrive with a bit more guidance. And my apologies to the UC corps, but I just don't see the unit commissioners cutting it.


Where will that guidance come from? Organizations with the people who can provide it would certainly prosper, but organizations without it would stuggle even worse than they do now. The guidance necessary to run a Pack is less than the guidance necessary to run 2 Packs, a Troop, and a couple of Crews. One-Unit would mean a handful of exceptionally strong units got stronger, and the rest got weaker.


I really really believe that Webelos troop shopping is a counter-productive model.


Again, I disagree. "Troop shopping" is a healthy thing. Who do you generally get better service and value from, the grocery store or your local Cable monopoly? And what recourse do you have when either outfit fails to meet your expectations? The ability to "shop" is the difference.


* - note that this is the Patrol Method, vs the Troop Method that has the SPL running the entire troop. Troop Method usually requires the unit be a lot more adult-run for this reason - the average SPL can't effectively manage 60+ people.

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JMHawkins .... The one-unit approach is the federated model. It's not a consolidation at all as the youth ages have different needs. So you still have a pack, a webelos den, a troop and a crew. You'd still have a cubmaster, a scoutmaster, den leaders, patrol leaders, senior patrol leaders, crew advisor, crew captain(??), etc.


The difference is infrastructure and how units working together and support each other. You have a central committee chair and then maybe sub-chairs for the pack, the troop, the crew, etc. Or... a central committee chair and then a chair for cub camping, a chair for troop camping, a chair for cub advancement, a chair for troop advancement, etc. New volunteers benefit from working with existing volunteers who had previoiusly been cub parents. Or had gone to a specific camp years ago. You could actually have a unit trainer position that would have enough people to actually train.


And working together is key... From what I see right now, units rarely ever work together except when troops invite 2nd year Webelos to camp with them. Or run a small event for the 1st year Webelos.


IMHO, (and at the risk of pushing some of our poster's buttons), it's like taking the district committee down to the chartered org level. In one large area, you don't have one BSA council for packs and another for troops. Likewise, you don't have one district for packs and another for troops. Camps are happy to host cubs or boy scouts. So why within a charter org, are units treated so separately?




JMHawkins "And what recourse do you have when either outfit fails to meet your expectations? "


The same recourse that any scout has now. Scouts can switch units at any time. What the current model does is place the future of units at the whim of "parent" preferences. You can say scout, but it's really parents. The result is that troops often bend over backwards toward Webelos instead of just focusing on a solid program.


I used to ask our scoutmaster how many scouts he thought we'd get at cross over. His response was always "I don't know" based on that he never knew what parents were thinking or what happened that he didn't know about. And he was right. You get scouts you didn't think were going to join you and you lose scouts you were sure were going to join you. You just never know.


But it's a huge distraction to the troop. So much focus on "recruiting". And it's a huge distraction to the Webelos. It's almost like they stop working on advancement, skills and cool stuff and get obsessed with which troop they are going to join and who offers what.




I know change is scary, but this is a change that I hope will happen some day. And until then, I'll help it happen in the units in which I'm the COR.




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The one-unit approach is the federated model...


No, it's not. It's the consolidated model. "Federated" means separate units with their own leadership having a loose affiliation with other units. "One Unit" is combining and centralizing the leadership of serveral units, which is what you have described.


The difference is infrastructure and how units working together and support each other. You have a central committee chair and then maybe sub-chairs...


Right Fred, but you skipped over my main point- the Central Committee Chair position is a much harder one to perform effectively. Being a "manager of managers" is not just a little bit harder than being an manager, it's significantly more of a challenge. And the people with the ability to do that are in significantly more demand throughout society.


Let's say you have a troop, two packs, and a crew in your town. Let's say the Troop has a good CC and SM. One of the packs has a functional CC and okay CM, but the CC for the other pack is really struggling and the long-time CM is stepping down with no replacement. The crew has a great Advisor, and between him and the older, more capapble youths, they don't need very much from their committee. Not an unreasonable hypothesis for a small town or suburb, right? Perhaps even better than a lot of places have.


So you combine all of them into one unit, and the former Troop CC becomes the Central Committee Chair (must resist temptation to make joke involving "Da, Comrade"...). Now you have to find a new subChair for the Troop, and the old Chair has to manage four subChairs running three different programs (or four, if the two packs don't run identical programs which, maybe, parents might like). Suddenly the woman who was a good Troop CC is struggling as the uber-Chair because it's a much harder job. The MC (let's say he was the Advancement Chair before) who stepped up to replace her as subCC of the Troop isn't as good as she was, and his replacement as AC takes some time to get up to speed, and the SM of the troop suddenly finds he has much less support than he used to, all while he is expected to contribute to three other units (which have programs he has zero experience with, since he was never a Cubmaster or Crew Advisor). Meanwhile, the CM of the good Pack is redirected to help train someone from the struggling pack, and his pack suffers during his absence. The Crew Advisor drinks more coffee and tries to explain to his youth why all this is going on...


Yes, I know, there is also a scenario where combining the units saves the struggling Pack and makes all the other units stronger in the process. Either can happen.


My contention however, is that because of the higher level of leadership skill required to run a larger organization, the odds are that the combined unit will be overall weaker, that the scenario I laid out where the strong units struggle and collapse is more likely.


Many people have lost faith in the UC system, and probalby for good reason. But it is still the right method. It needs better execution perhaps, but replacing UCs with Central Committee Chairs and Group Scoutmasters would create more failed units than it salvages.


What the current model does is place the future of units at the whim of "parent" preferences. You can say scout, but it's really parents. The result is that troops often bend over backwards toward Webelos instead of just focusing on a solid program...it's a huge distraction to the troop


It's only a huge distraction because the leadership is going about it all wrong. You recruit by focusing on a solid program. You also retain by focusing on a solid program. And as I've said before, Troops should not limit themselves to recruiting Webelos. They should focus on recruiting Scout-aged boys. Webelos are part of that, but they're not the only part.


I know change is scary...


As a helplful and friendly observation, that statement could be taken as a condescending one. If someone disagrees with your proposed change, you may want to give them the courtesy of assuming they disagree with you on substandtive grounds instead of irrational fears. I'm sure you didnt' mean it that way, which is why I wanted to point out the unintentional connotations of it.

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Yah, hmmmm...


I get what you're sayin', JMHawkins. Though wouldn't that mean that all troops should just be patrol-sized? ;)


Yah, I think you're stuck thinkin' da American way if yeh think yeh need sub-committee chairs and all da rest. You're tryin' to preserve da current BSA system within a Group. You're entirely right, eh? That would never work. Which is why that's not da way to do it. :)


Some of da advantages in consolidatin' on the committee level is that it gets da committee out of the hair of the youth and youth-contact leaders, eh? Most of da messes that yeh describe happen not because of da youth leaders or youth-contact leaders, but because of too many poorly chosen committee folk who are too close to da action.


Consolidate da staff (committee) positions to only what yeh really need to run the whole group, eh? Keep 'em at that level. Leavin' the youth more responsibility and more room to operate and most importantly more sense of connection and responsibility.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Fellow Scouters,



Years ago, I would have been against this concept. Today, I support it.


I understand there may be seamless "One unit" family of units chartered under an institution, (Church, Community center, etc). And other times, there are multiple stand-alone packs, troops and crews, without associated units.


In my opinion/view, the current system does work. It is not broken. As Packs, Troops and Crews, sometimes chartered by the same organization and sometimes an independent unit.


But when evaluating a One-Unit approach. Are there benefits? Will "One Unit" work even better? I'm fairly sold there are tremendous benefits in committee productivity and youth retention.


It seems like many units are doing "more with less" as families juggle work and leisure time. That being said, I have seen parents question why a Pack/Troop/Crew is participating in a specific program, which is counterproductive to another Pack/Troop/Crew many of the same scouts/families are in. Sometimes it is just scheduling and families need to decide which takes priority, but sometimes it is enormously separated agendas. Sometimes the exact work is duplicated by two or three committees, which financially may cost some families.


Within the BSA. It appears to be such an enormous crevice/facture during Webelos cross over. This has been a huge loss for many years. I expect there will still be some loss. But if a Webelos den just became a patrol the next school year, the loss would decrease and more Scouts would probably remain with the program. Rather than ending their trail at Arrow of Light.


I certainly don't expect a 14 y/o boy to participate in identical activities as an 8 y/o. But the unit management, record keeping, advancement, transportation, training, health physicals, finances etc may be seamless with a One Unit approach. The program administration may be more closely aligned and Scouting families (Scouts and Scouters) may be able to do more with less. Where ever a Scout may end his personal journey, hopefully he(she) has made achievements in becoming a better citizen and character, and possible those completing their trail to Eagle or Trail to Venturing Silver may increase more than 4 out of 100.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv

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Adults dont get in the scouts way because of the multi-unit system, they get in the way because they dont do scouting correctly. And large committees are a result of committees wanting to be large, not because the unit demands it. The one unit program won't change that mindset. You are basically saying that one-unit programs would change or attract a different nature of adult to run it. Zebras dont change their stripes.


Yah, there's a lot there, and I don't disagree with it.


Da questions I think yeh have to ask are deeper, eh? Why don't they do scoutin' correctly? Some of it especially at the cub level is high turnover and lack of experience. Structurally, this addresses some of that.


Then I think yeh have to admit that structure does matter, eh? You have been an advocate of mixed-age patrols for quite a while, claimin' that the structure achieves better outcomes, despite da fact that kids are kids and Zebras are Zebras. ;) Kudu's 300ft. rule is another example of structure changin' behaviors. People of all ages adapt to da environment that they're in. It's one of da things that we're best at. Yeh can't change people, so if yeh want different outcomes yeh have to change da structure.


How is adding more ages and maturities going to be better for a single committee?

Committees shouldn't be involved in that at all, of course. But as yeh say, we have da same problem in all da units in terms of ages and stages. Same problem in families too! :) I don't reckon the answer is necessarily to create separate families with only elementary school kids, who then have to find and move to a new family in 5th grade.


most folks dont have that vision or big picture, so the program has to be presented where the average person (Zebra) can manage the program successfully.

Yep. Which is what I think we're talkin' about. Change da program.


I really dont see how the same committee of the unsuccessful pack program could run a successful troop program.

Yah, I think you're still stuck thinkin' in da terms of da current system. There wouldn't be a "same committee of the unsuccessful pack program". That'd be like a same-age-patrol person tellin' yeh "I don't see how the same New Scout Patrol Leaders who struggled leadin' their peers could run a successful whole-troop PLC". There wouldn't be any NSPs or PLs. Just older boy PLs who do fine runnin' things and guidin' new folks.


It's not just da Canadians, eh? Most of da rest of the Scouting World runs on the Group model, and has done so ... forever. It's a more tested and proven design in a much wider variety of circumstances and cultures. It's da BSA approach which is the odd man out.




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Saving packs from collapsing will save troops from collapsing.


A pack that has effective leadership might have the strength to keep recruiting and fund raising going when a troop is weak and might recognize a weak troop and make an effort to recruit new leaders for the troop.


Still, JM Hawkins makes some good points about the difficulties of managing larger units. I think that does take significantly higher skill levels that are a lot harder to find.


But weak units tend to be small units. The limitations JM Hawkins identifies probably aren't as relevant to weak and failing units as they are to large and successful units.



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>>It's not just da Canadians, eh? Most of da rest of the Scouting World runs on the Group model, and has done so ... forever. It's a more tested and proven design in a much wider variety of circumstances and cultures. It's da BSA approach which is the odd man out.

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