Decision making by youth
David D. Miller +49 6221 404405 (DDM@DHDIBM1.BITNET)
Tue, 19 Nov 1991 16:21:20 CET
Interested to see this topic arise. While I was rising through
the ranks of Venture Scouting in Scotland, there was a big drive
to let the Venture Scouts themselves have a substantial say in the
decision making. A "Venture Scout Council" was created for each of
the Areas (US:Councils) in Scotland to run things at that level.
As well as planning Area wide events, the VSC also gave a
point of contact for inter-District activities. Also on the
Agenda were debates on major issues like Uniform, policy on
Alcohol/Smoking/mixed activities, whether to extend the programme
beyond the 20th birthday, etc. For some issues, e.g., age ranges,
they only reported back upwards, but on others, most notably local
policy on alcohol at Scout events, they set the policy for the Area.
Each VSC sent two representatives to the 'adult' Programme and
Training Committee for the Area. These two were consulted on
all aspects of the Area programme which concerned Venture Scouting -
including using Venture Scouts as Junior Leaders for other Area
events. The P&T Ctte is the main decision making body, comprised of
Area team, District Commissioners and the two Ventures. Although
an intimidating group to throw a 17 year old into, the youth
members were given a full say. In fact, with an Asst Area Commissioner
for VS also present, the section had a substantial voice.
In addition, each Area VSC sent 2 delegates to the Scottish VSC.
As at Area level, the Scottish VSC sent two deligates to the
Scottish P&T Committee - the self-same committee which reviews
(and rejects) the directives from the (English biased) National.
The Scottish VSC also organised and ran events, most notably a series
of camps called "The Thing", "The Oil Thing", "The Usual Thing", ...,
each with several hundred participants. The planning and execution
was done almost entirely by Venture Scouts.
What's above is the good part: young people being given a real say
in affairs that concern them. It doesn't quite work. The biggest
problem is that of communicating with the grass roots membership.
With the 35 Venture Scout Units in Fife are each asked to provide two
delegates to the Area VSC, average attendance was around
10 people. The people in that age group cannot travel 35 miles
to a meeting without adult support. And if the adults are there
it's not a youth meeting. Secondly, those who are there are destined
to become professional committee people-those who are really interested
are doing it for personal gain, rather than for any benefit for their
The Scottish level is slightly different, since these are the
people who are forwarded by their Area Councils. They get their
travel costs paid. But when it comes to the crunch, they need the
backing of adults to get anything done.
In Germany, things are somewhat different. Scouting in VCP doesn't
have the same mighty aims of promoting good citizenship as we find
in some other parts of the world. The principal aim of VCP is to
give the kids an opportunity to do the things they want to do, while
promoting a good Christian attitude to life.
So what part do the VCP Youth have in the way their movement is run?
Everything. Every member from age 14 upwards has the right to vote on
all decisions taken which affect them. The way the Troop is run is
determined by a Council of the voting members. Same for local decisions:
at District and Land. For anything which comes from National -
especially a change in the rules - every member of the association
from age 14 upward has a vote.
The down side of this is that there is no adult control of the
Association. Changes in the Oath and Law were put through by the
youth membership with only token resistance from the adults.
The Rank system was removed - probably by those who were fed up
struggling from one rank to the next. The Uniform was simplified
to a shirt and neckerchief with just one other badge. (Two
other badges allowed are the WOSM/WAGGS world emblem and a
German flag, but they're not common.) The wearing of uniform is
now optional, with decisions being made by individual Gruppen.
Sweatshirts are now more common, and it's some months since I
last saw any other member of my Stamm wearing a neckerchief.
The activity rules are nowhere to be found, and it is quite legal
for a boy or girl aged 16 to be running an entire Stamm with no
other adult assistance and no formal training as a leader.
In my case the Stamm has three Scout Gruppen
and one Cub Gruppe (with 17 Cubs) and from August the Stamm leader
will be 18 years old. A suggestion to bring parents in to help
run things went down like a lead balloon.
The main Catholic Association (DPSG) is similarly run, and has just
declared itself bankrupt. The members kept the annual subscription
down too low and pushed the costs up. (I heard a rumour that they just
lost their first significant legal action, so things may now be
Giving the youth of Scouting a say in what they do is a good thing, but
IMHO, letting them tear up the rule book is going too far. Better
to give them a token say while making it clear that the adults have the
control. Other opinions are welcome.
David D. Miller
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City