scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: Ghost Units [Long] Part 2
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Wed May 24 2000 - 23:57:23 CDT
<Wayne Mery wrote>
1. Somehow, we the volunteers, through the national board and our
representatives to and at national drive this 'single minded' mentality
2. I suspect there is very little understanding at the grass roots level as
to how to effect change in areas such as this - ... At the very least,
understanding in this area is not fostered.
3. There are in some areas, frankly, significant disconnect between council
executive board members and needs/wishes at the unit level.
The problem, essencially, is the focus of the particular job. Professionals
at the council and district level have very specific jobs - to maintain the
health of the area's program, promote growth, and support the voluteers in
the field. Something has to be measured to determine whether these people
are effective in their jobs and deserve rewards for doing it. Unfortunately,
the thing that needs to be counted is extremely difficult to count. How do
you compile statistics on a Scout's understanding of the principles of
Scouting? How do you compile statistics on personal growth, understanding of
citizenship, or progressive physical fitness? How to you judge a
professional on the result of the program as it's run by volunteers in the
The answer is, you don't judge the professional of the effectiveness of the
Scouting program. You judge him or her on the effectiveness of the job they
do. That means counting members, units, advancement rates, retention rates,
training percentages, and fundraising success. That's why, to the volunteer
in the field, the professional appears to be mostly concerned with raising
funds and tweaking numbers. We could change the way professionals are
evaluated, but what good would that do? Ultimately, whatever we change the
evaluation element to, we'll encounter problems there as well.
Council volunteers, on the other hand, are concerned with the health of the
program, but their focus is on the effectiveness of the professionals and
district volunteers, NOT ON THE INDIVIDUAL UNIT. Since their focus isn't on
the unit, we expect some disconnect between the needs of unit volunteers and
council volunteers. The council executive board is concerned with the
overall numbers - the big picture. They focus on COUNCIL Webelos Transition
rates because their responsibility is in solving problems on a council
level. A cub pack in my district may have a transition rate of 60% but a
retention rate of 20%. That means retention is a significant concern of that
particular pack. At the council level, however, the transition rate may be
30% and the retention rate may be 50%. The result is that the council will
focus on solving the transition problem in the council - a problem not
shared by an individual unit.
District volunteers have a similar focus. They are concerned with the big
picture IN THEIR DISTRICT. District numbers can be considerably different
than council numbers (i.e. membership growth, unit growth, transition,
retention, training, etc.). The district may be concerned with a different
problem than the council, but it's just as possible that district concerns
may not match an individual unit. As a group, the district staff may be
concerned with their training rates - that sends district volunteers out to
the units to push training. In the unit, unit leaders may be concerned with
getting their program out of a rut, or retaining members through the summer.
They don't want to hear about adult leader training events, they want to get
answers to their questions. The district staff may get around to answering
the question, but only after they've given their training lecture.
In some cases, a shortage of volunteers at the district level forces the
district to concentrate on severe problems and virtually ignore units that
are mostly healthy. Add to that the fact that many unit leaders don't know
who to ask for help, or don't want to hear about Roundtables and other
things the district may be concentrating on and simply don't ask.
At the unit level, volunteers are focused on our unit. We aren't concerned
with what other units are doing, or even what the district or council is
doing. If we have a retention problem, we want to fix the retention problem,
not increase Roundtable attendance. Our concerns rarely match the district
or council concerns. This is to be expected.
4. What are the most significant factors that drive real, sustained
membership growth? ... new units in undeserved areas ... strong units ...
unit leader Training ... program ... COR/Chartered org training and
relationship building ... In a word, unit health. But, with the exception
of perhaps training, these are all items
which are, to be gracious, de-emphasized by council.
These aren't as much "de-emphasized" as they are less glamorous. Training
rates, program participation, advancement rates, are considered just as
important as retention rates, transition rates, membership growth, unit
growth. It's the overall numbers that are considered, and the most prominent
part of the overall numbers involve membership. Unit health is addressed in
the Quality Unit percentage which is considerably important to whether or
not the district meets the requirements for Quality District.
- I certainly agree as to eliminating *unit count* as a primary measurement.
But I do not agree with eliminating head count as a primary measure.
Head count is a significant measure of *overall* health of a region and
effectiveness of other areas such as training, program, etc. On the other
hand, I do not believe *growth* in unit count represents overall health.
There is logic in the focus on unit growth. It's a logic I didn't quite
understand until long after my first tour as a unit leader. I too believed
that professionals and other higher-ups should concentrate on increasing
membership in existing units before they went out creating new units. I came
to understand the logic after five years as a district staffer (on again,
off again). The logic goes like this:
Increasing membership in existing units is good. This increases the overall
number of youth served by the council. Increasing the number of units is
better. This not only increases the overall number of youth served, but it
increases the "coverage area" of Scouting in the council. In other words -
building units increases the opportunities to serve youth and therefore
increases the council's capacity (the council can accomodate MORE youth
because there are more units in more areas). The more units you have, the
more adult volunteers you have out there bringing in new youth. It's
essencially a case of "if you build it, they will come."
For a district professional, increasing the number of units translates to
increasing the reach of Scouting in the district. Since there are more units
in more neighborhoods, there is an increase in the youth serving potential
of the district. Want to get a gold star as a district professional? Build a
unit in an area full of underserved youth. Build a unit near a housing
project and you increase your service to underpriviledged youth - gold star.
Build a unit that specializes in Scouts with disabilities and you increase
your service to disabled youth - gold star. Build a troop in an area
saturated with cub packs and you increase your transition rate - gold star.
AJ Mako, Scoutmaster email@example.com
Great Trail Council