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Who has the "last word?"

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Hi - This may sound like a silly issue, but please humor me :) I know that in the ideal world, decisions about troop activities are made by the boys and not the adults. However, in the real world, sometimes things aren't so simple. We're a former adult-led troop trying very hard to become boy-led, but the adults are a necessary evil for some things. Since we don't have much experience with boy-led yet, maybe we can learn from your experiences?


Our troop has had a number of smallish decisions recently that involved the boys and/or the SM and/or the Committee, and sometimes we need to know who gets the "last word" on our plans. (For example, the boys were debating whether to make a float or march in the Christmas parade. Since none of the boys drive or own a trailer, the adults obviously had to be part of that one, and there were several disagreements.)


Our current issue is about who decides about when and where we go to summer camp. We've picked a place and are deciding between two different weeks. The boys are undecided, and the SM and ASM's are split. Do we push the boys to a binding vote? Does the SM break a tie? What if the decision will affect which boys and which adults are able to attend? It's becoming a big, messy thing and I would love to just settle it and move on to the rest of our business. Any ideas? How do your troop decide about these sorts of issues? Help!

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Yah, da boys should solicit calendar conflicts from the kids in their patrols, and then the PLC, lookin' at the calendar conflicts for their guys and the overall PLC calendar plan should decide on the best week for camp.


The SM can offer insight that the kids might miss, like "sometimes the last week of camp the staff are tired, and it isn't as good," or the SM might need to pass along "it will be hard to get enough adults for the 4th of July week, so we might have to have a backup."


After that, the kids get final say. How they do that, by consensus or vote, is up to them, but yeh can help by coachin' them on the plusses and minuses of each way of decidin'.


As far as your first one about da Christmas parade goes, the boys should have been left alone on that, eh? Yah, sure, the SM can point out that he doesn't know who has a trailer and that might be a problem, but then it's up to the boys, SM and committee to go out and find a trailer to help the boys put on the program they chose, eh? Only if that fails do the boys (not the adults) have to consider changin' their plans.


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What's your role in the troop? This will help us give an answer specific to what you can do.


I'll give you some "real world" advice. All of these decisions can be put in the hands of the boys. This is the way it's done in many (hopefully most) troops around the world. What you are struggling with is adults not willing to trust boys to make decisions.


First, let's make sure we understand the roles:

- PLC - Responsible for planning and carrying out the troop and patrol's annual program.

- SM and ASMs - Responsible for overseeing the program and guiding the scouts through the process. This includes advising them on planning and running activities.

- Committee - Provides the "ways and means" to carry out the program.



So, the PLC gets together and makes a plan. The SM (who is advising them) helps lead them toward a plan that is reasonable and matches well with the goals and objectives of scouting. The plan is submitted to the committee and the committee figures out how to enable them to do it. Let's say the scouts say "we want to do x". If for some reason the committee doesn't think they should do "x", they should provide feedback to the SM and PLC and let them look for an alternative plan that meets their approval.



Now let's talk about your specific examples. The boys decide they want to make a float in the parade. They figure out that they can use a couple of troop meetings to do some work on it, and then dedicate a Saturday to finishing the float. They determine that they will need $200 in materials, a place to build the float and a vehicle to pull it. They submit the plan to the committee. The committee needs to assist them in gathering the resources (money, facility and vehicle). The committee can't just veto the activity because they don't "like it". However, if there are concerns (no place to build it, the troop can't afford it, etc.), then they can have a valid reason to discuss it.



On your Summer Camp example, I think the boys have done fine. The biggest deal with summer camp is not conflicting with too many schedules and making sure you have adult coverage. So, if the boys have chosen what camp they want to go to and have narrowed it down to a couple of weeks, then I think they've done their job. Let the adults figure out which one works best with their collective schedules. Ultimately, I believe this is in the hands of the adults that will be going - which is typically your SM and ASMs.


What we do for Summer Camp is use the same week every year. It's easy to remember and makes it easier to plan. Everyone knows what week we'll be going. (Assuming we don't get into a situation where a camp we want to go to doesn't have room).

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Do not let the boys shirk their responsibility and remain undecided on this issue. This kind of decision should have been made by the PLC during their Annual Program Planning Conference, typically held over the summer. It's important for a Troop to set it's plans before the families start making theirs for the folowing summer.


If your troop does not plan an annual program, then you need to consider holding a conference now, with the summer camp decision being one item on the agenda. If there are issues, like which adults can attend certain a week, you need to advise the PLC of this so they can make an informed decision. Follow the five steps outlined in Troop Program Features and be sure to inform everyone of the PLC's decision.


I do not recommend that you, your ASM's or the committe make this decision. First of all, its not your decsion to make as the PLC is responsible for planning and carrying out the troop and patrol's annual program. Secondly, it might cause hard feelings among the adults who can't attend.

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I'm 100% for using the Patrol method.

I'm all for youth led units.


There are times when I have the last word.

If the Scouts expect me to be some place, I have to be available.

I do have other obligations. (Family, work and things I might have committed to do.)

There are times when we are invited to join in activities with other units. Our Scouts are free to accept or decline the invite, but they don't have any say in when the event will be. Strange thing is that some parents don't seem to understand that.

We do have an annual plan, but as of right now we can't book our summer trip as we are waiting for some of the Scouts who plan on attending to find out what dates they will be needed on staff at different camps and the dates for the SEAL courses.

While I'm not really into the "Who out ranks who" I see the job of an ASM as assisting. As long as the unit can meet the two deep and all that other good stuff, the Scouts should go when the SM is able to go.

As for the float thing. The PLC should be able to work that one out, finding someone with a vehicle shouldn't be an insurmountable problem.


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  • 1 month later...

Hi all -- thanks for your advice! I'm going to bring your suggestions with me to a mid-year planning meeting we are having shortly. I have learned so much in these forums, I wish more leaders would check in here for ideas before making up their own rules! I'll post and let you know how it all works out.


By the way, should I know what these initials are in the message from mc99218?






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