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Thread: Super District

  1. #1
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    Super District

    So our county is going through a reorganisation. I'm working on one rural district which will have over 2500 members and over 25 groups. 25 miles across. The question is how should it work and what structure should we have.

    So without addressing if this is a good idea, (as we can't address that without considering how/if should it work, and there are plenty of issues with the current districts)

    I have some ideas but would welcome other's experiences or ideas.

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    IMHO 25 Groups is too big to be workable. I think 20 Groups is about the maximum size a District should be (with 10 being the minimum). Just think about any District Section meetings with 25 to 30 people possibly attending nevermind the multiplication of problems any DC would be landed with.

    About the only way I can see to make it work would be to sub divide the District into two geographic halves and have a DDC resonsible for each, at which point you may as well just have two seperate Districts.
    Last edited by shiftypete; 09-09-2018 at 09:28 AM.

    Peter Andrews AESL of Headingley Pirates ESU, Group Scout Leader & Webmaster of Falkoner Scout Group
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  4. #3
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    We have had a few mergers around our county. We went from 3 districts just for Oxford to one and whilst geography wasn't a great issue the number of groups and members meant we were by far the biggest district in the county. This can affect how things are seen and run as if we improved or failed our numbers greatly affected the overall figure.

    To effectively manage a large district its essential to have a full management structure and you probably need a DDC and then also split it (as Pete said) into geographic areas with a DDC each. Then depending on number of sections do same for ADC's.

    We found that Group representation at District level was reduced when we merged, we used to have every group represented on the District exec but once you get larger thats not possible, so you need to work out how groups get to be involved in district decisions.

    Getting Groups involved in and keeping them involved in District events won't be easy especially if District Chess is always in one HQ on one side of the District remote from everyone else. Key here is to rotate meetings/events around Scout Huts where possible or where not to either centralise or locate at an easily accessible location.
    With 25+ groups District events will be large and a challenge to organise both in numbers and venue.

    One to watch out for. Depending on geography and where meetings/events start to be held and everyone starts to gravitate to. A group on the fringes of the District may see themselves being left out and not part of the District, so they will distance themselves even more and end up doing their own thing. Try to ensure everyone is fully involved. Effective communication can help here.

    We also found, through no fault of ours, that 1 district had a full management team, so the newly merged district team was mostly comprised of members from that one district. You have to be careful in this situation not to favour groups from your old district over the others or criticise them since it isn't how it used to be done in your old district. Difficult i know, it happens in companies and elsewhere, but can generate resentment and doesn't encourage everyone to work together.
    Dave Ralphs
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    Senior Member Airobat's Avatar
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    Part of our County (I know that's not District but bear with me) is very rural. Their biggest gripe is that it's at least an hour's travel to attend meetings so most of them don't. Comms is likely to be your biggest issue. Rotate meetings round the District. Publish dates well in advance. Consider Skype (there are other products) for meetings. Have a central site (Web,dropbox whatever) where information is available in an easily understood structure. Put together a good team at the top and have a succession development plan which is real.

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    In practical terms it may be useful to think in terms of travel times rather than distances but also consider natural geographical affiliations (for example there are a number of groups in the neighbouring county to us that might find being in a super district with us more natural because we are their nearest large town, than being pushed across the County). There was discussion of merging us with the neighbouring district which would have left us with a district with 19 miles between the furthest two groups but with a 45 minute travel time because of rural roads. Similarly our County training used to have very poor turnout because it was exclusively run at the main Activity Centre which was in one far corner of the county leaving most people with a long way to get there.

    In terms of your thinking, I would suggest you need to be very clear what the gains are and to whom. Being massively simplistic, a scheme which says, we want less hassle finding people to run the district so you spend much more time travelling won't win you much support - there has to be wins for both the section leaders and the management structure. Watch out too for the little things - "OK so we're all agreed, great, by the way each group needs to stump up 50p per head for a new district badge for each of its members" isn't a great way forward. Again if you're mostly making the gains at a higher level, minimise as far as absolutely possible the downsides you push out - so budget for new district badges for existing members, maybe new signage etc - don't just dump that in groups laps.

    Not going to repeat good points made above.
    Does anyone know what's going on?

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    Assistant Beaver Leader Keith's Avatar
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    Our district currently has ten groups within it (we lost a few when a nearby District was renamed and enlarged, and a couple folded around five years ago).

    They chose a name based on where it was in in the area, but if you look at geographical area itself the name does not make sense. The name doesn't fit in geographically with the local Scouting structure and the district itself covers more than one local authority. All that they got right in it was that it was "North" geographically in the county.

    I think you need to have two districts, but I don't see why they can't share some functions to avoid duplication - for example, having one badge secretary and scout shop covering both districts.
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    I don't have an answer as to what is the upper size for a District; but I know there are London Counties with very large Districts based on London Borough boundaries; and due to traffic congestion just getting across a single Borough can be over 10 miles, and easily take 40 minutes -- so I suspect attendance at meetings will be equally problematic.
    It is not necessary for everyone to attend a meeting in person to get input into decisions provided there is some notice in advance by circulating papers before meetings rather than at the meeting... I know this does not solve the problem of getting Group involvement in District events though.
    A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room. Baden-Powell

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    I think there will be geographic constraints, along with membership numbers. But, I feel the biggest constraint is the usual one - general apathy and poor engagement.

    If you can't get people to engage with the district structure, then it doesn't really matter how big it is.

    We used to have ADC's North and South. But, we've not had any ADC's for a while. I think we're currently back advertising for ADC's on a geographical basis, as opposed to a section basis - but I don't know if those positions have been filled as yet.

    Ironically enough, because I rarely go to district meetings.

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    Thanks for good points and ideas above and a couple of PM's. I should add that the current 4 districts do not have a single one which is really effective. The least effective is little more than an administrative zone with no groups support or district activities. The most effective still has no ADC's, but district section leaders, and not all of them either. Those districts which do some great activities tend not be able to support groups and vice versa, so the current structure neesd work.

    I think creating sub districts in any sense just ends up resorting to where we're at with great difficulty staffing. Current thoughts are to create a district team with ADC specialisms (District Camp, Cross District Events, Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, Explorers, Network, Group Support, Training New Sectional Support, AAC/Suspensions etc). Stop "all leaders" meetings and replace with meetings of Chairmen/GSL's and ask them to report back to groups. Needs a DC and perhaps DDC's per current district, but the new DDC's without their own teams being the first point of call for groups in their area.

    I can see many advantages, and many issues. But I doubt it will be worse than for the currently ineffective district.

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    Hmm the trouble is that all the jobs you have just described are now much larger and more time consuming than the roles the 4 Districts have already failed to fill as they have to cover over 25 Groups, yes you have more possible people to recruit from but the roles will be more difficult to do and so just as difficult to fill IMHO

    For example organising a District camp for 300 kids is a lot easier than for 1250 kids (working on about a 50% attendance rate)

    Peter Andrews AESL of Headingley Pirates ESU, Group Scout Leader & Webmaster of Falkoner Scout Group
    www.falkonerscouts.org.uk

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    www.leeds-solar.co.uk
    Please note all views expressed are my own and not those of any organisation I'm associated with

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    Also...

    We (groups in the district) have minimal district provision but are no less active and when it comes to it, successful.

    We find, it's enough of a challenge to get kids to go to the things the groups organise. District activities (unless well established) usually flop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Also...

    We (groups in the district) have minimal district provision but are no less active and when it comes to it, successful.

    We find, it's enough of a challenge to get kids to go to the things the groups organise. District activities (unless well established) usually flop.
    Just in the camp point. We have over 70% attendance of all YP in the district at ours. We only have 400 there but we are on a site which hosts a big camp for 5000 YP and dad across their ideas. There certainly is a view that the organisers thereif could do a bigger event and even for outside the district. I have the malvern challenge in mind, and an ADC doing nothing but that with a team would accomplish it I'm sure.

    The other points raised are valid, I don't think it will be easy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RisingStar View Post
    Just in the camp point. We have over 70% attendance of all YP in the district at ours. We only have 400 there but we are on a site which hosts a big camp for 5000 YP and dad across their ideas. There certainly is a view that the organisers thereif could do a bigger event and even for outside the district. I have the malvern challenge in mind, and an ADC doing nothing but that with a team would accomplish it I'm sure.

    The other points raised are valid, I don't think it will be easy.
    I think it depends on a lot of things. Back in the early noughties, leaders in our group used to organise an annual incident hike which was well attended. That couldn't work now. For whatever reason, kids seem to be a lot more busy these days - so it's a lot harder to break into that market - so to speak.

    I suppose the other thing is, and I'm occasionally going on about this to our group - is scale and sizing. If you start to downsize, as in cancel activities because you don't have leader support (for example), it's really difficult to restart those activities. We got that at a group level, we sold our minibus - so it became normal not to have one. Then we stopped doing marquee hires - and that became standard too. But with each thing we lost, we also lost an income stream and a resource - and that meant numbers also took a hit. five or six years ago, we were in something of a death spiral. We had loads of equipment (still do), a hall... But because we kept having to slough off resources and activities, (and sometimes sections) - we were steadily going down the tubes.

    I suppose it's the same with district stuff too. Currently, our district is a bit like a misfiring engine. They're trying so hard to get it all going again, but other things are now just more important to the kids (if not their parents...) So it's tough.

  16. #14
    The unpaid help ASLChris's Avatar
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    I think the big question is: why are these groups all going to be in one District - what unites them geographically/politically (council-wise)/type of scouting provided/other commonality? Rather than simply turning four Districts into one, should some groups be hived off to other Districts during the change?

    I think they key thing is identifying the commonalities between the groups (exclusive of their previous Districts) of using that the help formulate the best approach. And, indeed, considering what support the groups want/need from any District provision to structure appropriately.
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    Senior Member big chris's Avatar
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    my experiences were overwhelmingly negative

    we went from 15 to 45

    at events, there are leaders from 45 groups... you lose all continuity. I enjoyed going to a camp and carrying on the banter from previous years. The old leader who probably knew baden powell, the one who fell out of a tree hiding on a manhunt wide game, the one who burned the breakfast... silliness that makes vounteering fun. With that many adults, you end up having to make friends every time and frankly, that is exhausting.

    when a district is that size, you only ever hear from yor dc etc when you are in trouble. you grow to resent them... there is no time to make contact with groups doing well so you just have to wait for a telling off. It fosters a very poor relationship.

    The size is an issue... getting to meetings takes much longer

    Once the district is huge, you have very little in common with many of the other leaders. Kids are at different schools, resources locally are different - it's no good sharing details of good wide game locations etc... we use different high streets, different pubs etc.

    I found the change horrendous. I missed the small district and the sense of support and camaraderie.

    The initial model put us together based on size. So i was in a district cluster with with other large groups - it was worse than useless. I was supported when i was a smaller group by larger groups. Then i became a larger group and i supported others.

    The later model put us back geographically for GSLs but not for sections. So section leaders still never developed friendships locally and still... that event issue persisted where you don't know the other adults each time and the continuity of friendships each event never happens. (There were leaders that i only saw 4 times a year but i always saw them and that was enough to be friends and have shared humour and experiences)... frankly, i don't have to be a scout leader... what i want is fun with other adults - i get that via scouting but i could get it at the cycle club, tennsi club, amdram etc. It just ahppens that scouting is where i do my volunteering and kids benefit. Remove the fun and there is little point staying. The large district sucked alot of that fun

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