Sunday, 9 December 2012

Whats the Point: A Follow-up to An Open Letter to the Great Alaska Council

Recently a Scouter posted a comment on "An Open Letter to the Great Alaska Council" post making me realize that I was extremely vague and that I didn't directly identify the issue. Due to my failure to identify the issue, I probably caused more questions to be raised than questions I answered. Before I clarify the issue I think it is important to state which comment I am referring to, which is as follows:

"While I do not understand the issues that you may be going through up there in Alaska (you have not really told your readers what the big issue is other than lack of attention) I would submit to you that you and your readers remember that YOU are the council"s

"Yes the service and support that is owed you be the Professional Scouters should be addressed. But before you shoot at the council......remember that by and large you are just shooting at yourself."

"Just my thoughts."

"Wish I knew more about the specific issues to make a more helpful response. Where is your District Committee in this issue? Geographically, the district should be your first line of answers. Thanks for allowing comments."

"Jerry Schleining

My position in Scouting that is directly connected to this issue is me being a member of the  Council Training Committee. Additionally the issue is not just prevalent on this particular committee, it is prevalent in every council committee. While this partially correct, it is much more complicated than that because depending on the purpose of the various council committees each committee faces unique challenges that must be worked on to continue developing and expanding the reach of Scouting in most of the State of Alaska.

Geographically speaking beyond the Transatlantic Council and the Direct Service Council my Council is the largest Council in area covered at least for when you are referring to a council that is directly located on land that is property of the United States. The council that I am involved with is that of the Great Alaska Council (GAC). The GAC covers three-fourths of Alaska with the remaining fourth belonging to the Midnight Sun Council. Simply put most of the districts for the GAC are larger than over 90% of councils in the lower-48 (Continental United States). To say that the service area of the council is a challenge would be the understatement of the century. Beyond just the service area covered transportation to the various units can require multiple days and even multiple flights. Of course the issue with the land covered by the GAC's service area is to be expected. I completely understand this fact and know that serving all the units in the council equally is impossible. Well, okay not impossible but way too costly to execute.

My issue has to do with the standard mantra of "I'm not living there or affected by those concerns so why should I care or do anything about those concerns." This mantra happens to be an issue that councils all over the United States are facing. Ultimately the question councils around the country are struggling with is "How do I provide adequate support and quality program with such limited resources available?" Based upon my previous experience in Scouting in the Western Colorado Council, the Denver Area Council, and the Pikes Peak Council I feel that completely ignoring and not working with Scout Units outside of the core of the council is unacceptable and needs to stop in order to slow-down and possibly eliminate the overall trend of losting youth and volunteers on an annual basis. The core of the GAC is that of the Anchorage/Palmer/Wasilla areas which in reality makes sense because that is where over 80% of the Total Youth Served are living.

Obviously in these times of financial insecurity sacrifices must be made for the better of the majority of the volunteers and youth within the council but implementing these types of cut-backs is at least in my opinion destroying opportunities for growth. While these areas outside of the core of the council may not have as high of a number for the Total Available Youth (TAY) to Total Youth Served (TYS) ratio there are still plenty of opportunities to increase and retain membership outside of the core. Speaking of the TAY to TYS ratio the core area of the council while below the national average is doing reasonably okay. Yes there is room for growth but growth happens slowly. So, what's your point here, most of us Scouters that have been in Scouting for a while understand these stats and ratios, and that around the country we are all desperately in need of numerous new volunteers my point is that while we want overall growth, lets stop putting practices and guidelines into place that are hindering the youth members all around the country.

These practices and guidelines while seem to work for the core area just don't work outside of this area for many different reasons. A hopefully obvious idea of "All Scouting is local, as such to succeed decisions made must reflect the capabilities of that local community" but for some reason we aren't thinking about this idea anymore. The reality though is that we are not just not thinking, we seem to be developing an attitude of ignorance. This attitude of ignorance, on our current path isn't just going to resolve itself but instead resolving it is going to require us council-level volunteers to actually look at the facts and start listening to the Scouters within the outlying communities.

Seriously speaking now, the reason I'm ranting and bringing up this ignorance and failure to involve volunteers in outlying communities, is that I have been there myself and know what it feels like to be told what and how to do things without listening or trying to acknowledge that there may be local difficulties that may not be seen without having lived there. Instead what we do is inform these adults and youth of changes in practices/guidelines or ask for money for popcorn or for Friends of Scouting. These three situations are pretty much exclusively the times we reach out to these units. Doing this is pushing people out of Scouting and not giving everyone the chance to really have a fulfilling and complete Scouting experience.

Finally, I would like to say that this is only part of my response to this comment. As such I will be posting the second part late this week or hopefully early next week. I'm not sure if I am just repeating myself but hopefully not and hopefully this helps to provide some answers and not just more questions. I am purposely not being specific because being specific would make this post way too long but later I will be using specific examples, as such as a reader you will just have to be a bit patient!

Yours in Scouting
Mark West
Eagle Scout;
Unit Commissioner/ASM
Council Training Committee
Council Camping Committee
NSJ2005 Youth; NSJ2010 Staff; NSJ2013 Staff;
WSJ2007 Youth; WSJ2011 IST; 2010 NYLT Staff;

If you are paid to do Scouting, you are called a professional. If you are not paid to do Scouting, you are called a Volunteer. If you pay to do Scouting, then you are called a Scouter.

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