A Report from the 2015 National Annual Meeting:
3 Key Take Aways For Every Unit Leader and Adult Volunteer
By Danny Van Horn, Council Commissioner
I recently had the privilege of attending the 2015 National Annual Meeting (“NAM”) of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America which took place May 20-22 in Atlanta. The NAM is part annual business meeting, part continuing training and part tent revival. I for one left that meeting completely energized and reassured that we have the best program for youth development the world has ever seen. There could be a dozen or more things that I could write about from this meeting not the least of which was the roll out of the new membership campaign “Build an Adventure” or the roll out of the new Cub Scout program. Putting those two very important developments aside, there were three things from this meeting that I think every unit leader will or should want to know about.
1. Scout Book, www.scoutbook.com, is coming. Your unit will want this tool. Scout Book was originally developed by a third party software developer who happens to be a scout parent. It’s a tool designed to help scouts, their parents, unit leaders and ultimately all district and council level support personnel promote, track and communicate about advancement. It just so happens that the National Support Center had been in development of their own tool to do just the same thing. When they looked at Scout Book, they realized the privately developed tool was much better, scrapped their own efforts and bough Scout Book from the developer. Over the course of the next year, Scout Book will be fully integrated with a variety of advancement and membership databases. It works with Troop Master and other similar software. It has tools that will make text and e-mail communication much easier within units and eventually on a district and higher level. This is a tool that is optional but it is expected that most units will want to subscribe to Scout Book. There is no cost right now for Scout Book. There will be and we don’t yet know what that price will be but the promise is that the cost will be minimal. A number of units are already on Scout Book and the response has been overwhelming positive. Your unit should go to www.scoutbook.com and check out this promising new application that should make tracking and promoting advancement much easier.
2. Digital Media. The consistent message at NAM across a variety of sessions stressed the need to build a new culture within scouting that promotes social media and digital media sharing including channels such as Instagram. Many units still have official or unwritten rules the prohibit today’s scouts from bringing electronic devices with them on scout trips. The research shows that today’s generation and their 20 and 30 something parents resoundingly reject such an approach. This generation experiences everything through social media and through picture sharing. The old belief that they need to unplug and experience nature sounds great but for a fast growing segment of our market, they will never experience nature unless you let them experience in the same manner they experience everything else – through their smartphone cameras. Of course, the use of such devices should be monitored and should be consistent with the Scout Law and the Scout Oath. If we want to recruit the next generation and perpetuate scouting, we’ve got to change and accept and understand that smart phones and picture sharing are an essential part of scouting today. We need to move from a culture that bans electronic devices to one that promotes them and their positive use to reinforce the timeless values of scouting. We need to encourage our scouts to take pictures of fun scouting events and share them. Such a peer sharing, grass roots campaign is simply essential to any successful membership campaign today. By the way, the research also shows that the 20 something and 30 something moms will first check out scouting on social media. If we have no presence, as is often the case today, then their likelihood to enroll their sons in scouting significantly lessens. The need to promote social media, digital picture sharing and an online presence is as critical to recruiting the next generation of scouts as it to recruiting their parents.
So what should your unit do?
- Have a discussion on your own social media policies and whether you ban or encourage the use of smart phones;
- Understand the risks and rewards of whatever your position is;
- If you follow the national recommendation and not only permit but encourage the use of smart phones and social media, conduct training of the scouts and their parents as to the appropriate use of those devices;
- Identify a scout within your unit (if age appropriate) to serve as the social media chair (this could be your webmaster) and task them with collecting and posting photographs from your unit events;
- Encourage parents to get involved by sharing their photos from events; and
- Create appropriate unit level hash tags, Instagram pages and Facebook pages to help promote scouting and your unit;
- Go to www.scoutingwire.org and check out the many resources there to help your unit craft its social media presence; and
- Actively monitor the accounts and channels your scouts are using to promote your unit.
3. The Membership Standards Debate. By now many of you will have heard something about Dr. Gates address at the 2015 NAM. Our Council leadership will have more to say about this shortly. In the meantime, I’d really encourage you to go watch the entire speech for yourself. You can find it at: http://scoutingnewsroom.org/blog/watch-and-read-bsa-president-dr-robert-m-gates-addresses-boy-scouts-of-america-national-annual-meeting/ I’d also encourage you to exercise leadership and live the Scout Law. A scout is among other things cheerful. Undoubtedly there will be some who immediately proclaim the end is near. It’s just not. We can and should have a discussion about this issue. We can and should be respectful to others who may not agree with us. We can and should be positive about the future of scouting. Nothing as good as scouting exists and prospers as long as we have without God’s hand at the wheel. No matter what happens, we’ll get through this and we’ll prosper. Let’s focus on the people who really matter – the kids we serve. Let’s focus on building better units, better districts and a better council. There are so many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the kids we serve and in our communities. Let’s keep our focus where it should be and serve more deeply. Everything else will ultimately take care of itself. Scouting will be here for years to come and many of us will be right there all along the way. Be positive. Be educated and stop those who you hear spreading doom and gloom. There’s just too much to be positive about.
It is great to be a Scouter and a privilege to serve the kids and adult volunteers of our council.
A Message from the
2015 President-Elect and Commissioner-Elect
Re-Introducing a Very Important Scouter: the Commissioner
As Scouters, we are all here to make a difference in the lives of the kids we serve. We all have a pretty good idea what roles a Scoutmaster and a Cubmaster play in our movement. Allow us to re-introduce to you a very important Scouter who makes a difference in the lives of Scouts in multiple units: the Commissioner.
The role of a Commissioner dates back to the founding of our movement. Lord Baden Powell understood that in order for Scouting to grow and yet remain consistent, a corps of committed Scouters had to be charged with going out and supporting units. They were there to serve as a resource to help the unit leaders deliver a quality program to the kids they served. They were also there to make sure that the program was consistent from one unit to another. W.F. deBois MacLaren (who donated Gilwell Park to Lord Baden Powell) and Rudyard Kipling were some notable early Commissioners.
When Scouting came to America, the Commissioner position came with it and played much the same role as it had in England. Daniel Carter Beard (one of the men who founded Scouting in America) served as one of its very first Commissioners and was the first National Commissioner. In that role as a National Commissioner, Beard designed our uniform and helped shape the program we know today.
Over the years, there have been changes to the Commissioner Corps but their purpose has remained the same: service to units to help units serve kids even better. A Commissioner is a committed Scouter who agrees to work with and coach several units (usually three or less) to help them grow, develop and get even better. They do that with a monthly visit to the unit or meaningful contact with the unit leadership between in person visits. Commissioners make a difference in the lives of our kids every day.
As a Council, we need your help in two very important ways. First, if you think you might be interested in serving as a commissioner (or want more information about it) please contact your District Commissioner or our Council Commissioner, Danny Van Horn email@example.com. If you are not interested in serving in this important role but you know of another adult (in your unit or otherwise) who you think would be great in this role, please let us know who they are. The role of a Commissioner is essential to insuring a quality program, retention and recruitment. With your help, we will select, recruit and train women and men who are committed to service.
Second, whether you have a Commissioner assigned to your unit or get one assigned sometime soon, please welcome and work with them. The Unit Commissioner is there to act as a resource and a coach for your unit. Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers all have coaches. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson both worked with shot coaches. The best golfers in the world work with swing coaches. Many executives in Fortune 500 companies work with professional coaches. No matter how good we are, we can all be better. No matter how well we are serving our kids, we can do better. Please accept the Commissioner assigned to your unit and allow them to help you. They aren’t there to act as a “spy” or to come in and mandate how you run your unit (unless there are violations of national policy). They are there to help, to serve as a resource and to make suggestions. If you aren’t willing to be coached, it will be difficult to help you grow and get even better.
Thank you for all you do for our kids. Please help us recruit more Commissioners and allow the Commissioner staff to work with your unit to help you get even better than you already are. Yours in Scouting,
Richard L. Fisher
Danny Van Horn
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
The Chickasaw Council serves youth in the Mid-South, covering 17 counties, including, Shelby County in Tennesseee, Crittenden County in Arkansas and these Mississippi counties; Bolivar, Carroll, Coahoma, DeSoto, Grenada, Humphries, LeFlore, Montgomery, Panola, Quitman, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tate, Tunica, and Washington.
For over 100 years, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.
As we celebrate over 100 years of Scouting, we're gearing up for the next 100 years with strategic plans in motion to improve upon all that we do here locally. Please review our 2013 Annual Report as well as our 2013-2015 Scouting's Journey to Excellence.
To be involved and/or support Scouting in the Mid-South, contact The Chickasaw Council.