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Thread: Streamlining scouting

  1. #1
    Keith at 2M Keith at 2M's Avatar
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    Streamlining scouting

    There's an interesting thread on Facebook I thought I would expand upon.

    We all seem to suffer from diminishing amounts of spare time yet scouting seems to demand so much more of that time. So these are my ideas for possibly freeing up some of that resource, either to cover those additional scouting tasks, or shock horror, doing something non-scouting instead and feeling less resentful of all those mindless scouting occasions when watching the grass grow became a more attractive proposition.

    So what scouting traditions/obligations do we still have that to be honest could be scrapped and only the real die-hards would really miss them. I'll start with proposing the following which I calculate (if you include travelling time) potentially frees up 20 hours of my time already

    1) Group AGMs - usually poorly attended, even in successful groups - often just a few leaders and the DC, occasionally an enthusiastic parent but more than a 30% turnout is regarded as a success. A legal requirement to agree the accounts but these could easily be circulated and agreed electronically, whereas currently they're presented to and agreed by one man and his dog. (And how many Districts take action when accounts aren't presented and agreed?) The number of posts asking how to get people to attend AGMs show this is an area that very few like and could be phased out easily.

    2)Linked to this are AGM Reports - all those glossy booklets on the over optimistic number of seats that are still there at the end, even if the seat was actually occupied during the meeting. How many hours went into preparing them, proof reading etc? How much did all that colour printing cost - probably at least one kids' subs for two terms at least? With most groups/districts having websites or social media you don't need a summary of the year. Just hold the cursor on the scroll down button.

    3) District Leaders' Meetings. Posts suggest these are poorly attended. If just used to diseminate information, an email reaches all the leaders, not just those who attend. If leaders really wanted to discuss each other's programmes why are meetings so badly attended at the moment? Other District leaders are no longer the only source of good ideas - there's a whole web out there! Plus, with larger districts nowadays, leaders can face an hour's drive to attend which on the back of a 90 minute commute home from work doesn't make them an attractive way of spending the evening. By all means hold leaders' socials but I think the days of the District Meeting are numbered.

    Having read various posts it seems a weekend 'all sections' meeting followed by indivdual section meetings and then a meal/social still seems the most successful option, but then it means another weekend given to scouting and that in turn means another weekend not spent with your family and friends

    I wonder how many Districts own or would consider using a spider phone instead of a District Meeting. They are commonly used in the workplace, as is Skype, so why not incorporate modern methods into scouting?

    4) Appointments committees - once essential to weed out unsuitable candidates. Now that is done legally & more efficiently by DBS checks etc - even Google. So a GSL works hard to recruit a leader, the other leaders in the group like them, yet the decision whether to appoint rests with a group of people who have never met them before and in some Districts may not even know much about the group in question. If its just a case of rubber stamping the GSL's decision exactly what are the AAC actually adding other than using up an evening of everyone's time (also see above re 60 minute drives etc)

    In my opinion, none of the above nowadays add much to the scouting experience - they have had their day and the advances in technology have largely rendered them obsolete. They primarily still exist for historic reasons - 'we've always had a termly leaders' meeting, just they used to be better attended etc'...I could be really controversial and add St George's Day Parades and most Adult Leader Training to the list but I'll let others expand on those themes if they wish. Scouting is a Movement, it has always developed and largely become better for those changes, however unpopular they were at the time. Maybe, when it is so hard to recruit and retain adult volunteers we should be looking at what we are asking them to do which is no longer necessary.
    Last edited by Keith at 2M; 20-10-2018 at 07:35 AM.
    The Roman Empire did not become great by holding meetings. It did so by killing everyone that opposed their point of view.

  2. #2
    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    AGM's are a legal requirement and we need to have the officer posiions and elected trustees appointed. (BTW they don't approve the accounts the Exec do that, but the AGM does have to have an annual report and accounts presented to them). It is perfectly possible to have successful and well attended AGMs, I have seen Groups on Facebook posting pictures of their AGMs and its standign room only because they have made it part of a successul event such as an annual awards evening. We get decent if not brilliant attendance at ours and we don't even put much effort into it e just involve each of the Sections in a 10-15 min activity and then have the AGM and refreshments with a slideshow of some of what the Group have been up to in the last year.

    AGM Reports again are a legal requirement and they really don;t take that much effort to put together (I have edited our for at least the last 10 years and I take a couple of hours to put it together and edit it and the reports in them probably take an hour for each Section Leader GSL and Chair to write). We print them ourselves on a colour laser printer so it costs only the actual toner and paper costs. We don't tend to print too many more than we need as we have a reasonable idea how many people will attend the AGM and we just print a few extra which if not needed for the AGM we leave out for other parents or members of our sponsoring church to look at.

    I think District Leaders meetings add real value, actually physically meeting other Leaders running the same Section as you gives you access to a different support network outside of your Group, you can pick up ideas of activities others have run successfully, plan joint activities which enable you to do activities which a single Section couldn't run alone or run with much less effort with several Sections running it together. You hopefully get to meet and know your Sectional ADC so have someone else to ask for support if you need it. I simply don't believe these things would work just by email and/or skype etc. We don't have large District teams laying on events ready made for Sections, we rely on Leaders within Sections helping to run District events with one person co-ordinating (and that is not always the ADC) for example at Beavers we run a District Christmas craft evening and each Colony attending brings along one Christmas crafts for Beavers to do which means we end up with loads of different crafts for the Beavers to do but no one has had to prepare more than one craft. Its easy to discuss this all together in person, come up with ideas for crafts and agree who is doing what doing that via email or skype or whatever just simply wouldn't work as well.

    The only thing I would agree with not adding value for the the amount of inconvieinece caused and effort to run are appointment meetings. I have attedned two appointment meetings in the last year one for an AGSL role and one for a GSL role and IMHO both were utterly pointless given we had discussed the appointments with the DC in advance and they have known me for well over 20 years inluding their son attending our ESU. I knew one of the people on both panels very well and there was never any danger of me not being approved. I would at least restrict appointment committee meeetings to people new to Scouting or new to the District, any change of appointments or additional appointments I really don't think there is any real value in having them attend an appointment committee meeting.

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

    Previous Scouting Roles
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    Wike, North Leeds District Campsite - www.wikecampsite.org.uk
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    Please note all views expressed are my own and not those of any organisation I'm associated with

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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    AGM's are a legal requirement and we need to have the officer posiions and elected trustees appointed. ...

    AGM Reports again are a legal requirement .
    I think AGM's are mandated by POR - not the Charities Acts - so that could be changed (not very quickly though) -- and at the same time do away with annually elected Trustees - it would be better if we had fewer trustees who were recruited for a specific role and served for a longer period. But AGM's which involve young people as a way of getting parents along is the way to go.

    Annual Reports can be divided into two parts
    - Reports of what has happened in the group over the year - not legally required - but much of which I would expect could be a summary of newsletter / facebook posts...

    - Financial reports & Notes - required - as Groups are required to send these to the District Treasurer regardless of whether a Group is a registered charity
    For England & Wales - for Groups who are a Registered Charity, Accounts must be sent to the Charity Commission when Income is over £25,000.

    Tend to agree that District Appointment Committees for people who have been in Scouting for a while are a waste of time
    “A week of camp life is worth six months of theoretical teaching in the meeting room.” Baden-Powell

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    I am not convinced that Appointments Advisory Committees achieve much really. I think that for new Leaders it is useful to get them to commit to doing their training. Having said that the committee then needs to do something if they don't....

    The way we run it the new Leader gets a chance to meet the DC and LTM before or after they see the committee. Established Leaders will hopefully know both of these two people.

    Seeing an experienced Leader turn up just because they are changing from ASL to SL or whatever has always seemed daft to me.

    I think if we could remove the need for an AGM it would be good. I went to one to represent the DC a few years ago and it was just Leaders. It was at a local social club and someone had gone to some trouble to lay a buffet on. We ended up inviting people having a drink there to join us to eat up the food. I have been to a few well attended ones but feel that the majority are like the former example.

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    While Groups with their own HQs need to be fully fledged charities, for the majority of them that don't I think we do need to look at a significant simplification, possibly involving them being able to operate via the District charity rather than on a standalone basis and thus not requiring an Exec. It's notable just how simple Parkrun operationally is, and with a decent IT system (ha!) this kind of concept could be replicated.

  6. #6
    The unpaid help ASLChris's Avatar
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    Annual reports can - and should - operate as recruitment material. I specifically designed ours this year to be used as that, and it only cost £200 for plenty - the other stuff for the AGM was distributed on paper and printed be me at work (so zero cost). Even the time to do it was minimal really, other than the redesign due to new brand! Indeed, as I don't have a YP-facing role, it definitely isn't taking away from YP at all anyway.

    We have since used that report at recruitment events for YP and adults and given bunches to groups to use and give out to parents and to spread around local doctors surgeries etc, and we have given some to our local political representatives to raise our profile and make it clear how great scouting really is for young people.
    Chris Hawes, District Media Manager, Watford North Scout District and Watford Scouts; Group Secretary and Webmaster, 9th North Watford Scout Group.
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    The Appointments committee serves a very useful purpose keeping the creepy riff-raff out of Scouting. Just because they come back with a squeaky clean DBS it does not mean they are suitable for working with YP. A clean DBS just means they've not been caught yet, its not going to show up those with unhealthy interests or power mad individuals who are going to create a world of pain or financially destroy the group. You can learn a lot in a 30 minute face to face "interview" that a 2 hour google or social media search is not going to show up.

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  9. #8
    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nik Bartlett View Post
    The Appointments committee serves a very useful purpose keeping the creepy riff-raff out of Scouting. Just because they come back with a squeaky clean DBS it does not mean they are suitable for working with YP. A clean DBS just means they've not been caught yet, its not going to show up those with unhealthy interests or power mad individuals who are going to create a world of pain or financially destroy the group. You can learn a lot in a 30 minute face to face "interview" that a 2 hour google or social media search is not going to show up.
    Exactly how do you think they do that? What magic ways of identifying those who would like to get up to no good that us mere mortals who actually put people up for appointments don't have given we generally have some idea of who the person is (parent, student, former member or just a random volunteer) unlike the appointment committee? Having had two such interviews recently I can tell you that the quations they ask would in no way help them pick out the ne'er do wells. As I say I don't totally object to the idea for those new to Scouting or new to a District but other than that IMHO its a total waste of time.

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

    Previous Scouting Roles
    2003 - 2013 ABSL
    2017-2018 AGSL

    Wike, North Leeds District Campsite - www.wikecampsite.org.uk
    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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  11. #9
    Sea Scout Leader richardnhunt's Avatar
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    Agms is the one I would disagree with changing - we need to up our governance game, not downgrade it.

    District leaders meetings - I don’t think the golden age ever really existed.

    AAC - rarely see value added, although does provide the opportunity for a non personal “no”

    Best bet for streamlining Scouting is to get clear about the responsibilities of group, District & county - and then stop overlapping them.

    Rich

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    Senior Member Matt Donnelly's Avatar
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    1/ Disagree - each group is an independent educational charity. Whether they are registered or not with the Charity Commission they are still obligued to be properly governed. The fact groups struggle to hold AGMs isn't an excuse as it is and can be done effectively as already described byvothers.

    2/ Disagree - reports should be a way to promote yourself. If it's well put together send a copy to your local MP and councillors, and any other local bodies of interest. Put it on your website as a good indicator of being a well organised group that is open and outward looking. It doesn't have to be war and peace.

    3/ Just like AGMs, district leaders meetings need to be useful and positive, and not just done out of habit. If they aren't doing what you need them to, change their stated aim/format/frequency/duration. Skype is good for some things - briefings in particular and were the attendees are all sufficiently IT literate. Not so good for group discussions with a large number of people.

    4/ Disagree. AACs - like AGMs and leaders meetings - can be very useful if done in the right way. AACs can't peer into someone's sole, but they can be a valuable part of the vetting process - can someone sit and chat with 3 strangers about the values of Scouting and the role they are volunteering for? Some people can't. Sometimes line managers are so eager to recruit sometimes a proverbial hand grenade is brought into the fold. It's also a good opportunity to help set the tone for the cultue of the district. The AAC has discretion as to who it interviews - it can decide not to interview for any reason, for instance a change to a similar role. For instance, perhaps not for SSA to ASL or ASL to SL, but perhaps for SSA to SL. Perhaps not BSL to CSL, but perhaps for BSL to GSL. Time since last meeting with the AAC might also play a part. AACs should ideally be flexible in where and when they meet to minimise the hassle to volunteers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    Exactly how do you think they do that? What magic ways of identifying those who would like to get up to no good that us mere mortals who actually put people up for appointments don't have given we generally have some idea of who the person is (parent, student, former member or just a random volunteer) unlike the appointment committee? Having had two such interviews recently I can tell you that the quations they ask would in no way help them pick out the ne'er do wells. As I say I don't totally object to the idea for those new to Scouting or new to a District but other than that IMHO its a total waste of time.
    You've answered the question yourself - it should provide a nice 3rd party independent suitability assessment of the individual that has been put forward. If the committee are not asking the right questions or have not done their homework then clearly they are not doing their job right.

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    Senior Member Kastor's Avatar
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    We used to do the big "event" type AGM with presentations and BBQ but it just became too much effort. A large number of the parents just turned up late to go to the BBQ and skipped the AGM.

    We've now dropped to a quick 1/2 hour(ish) in an evening to get the legal part covered. Even District don't bother to turn up these days. We still do reports but these are very lightweight and will probably be dropped next year as no one reads them.

    District Leaders meetings have died a death. They still get scheduled but usually are cancelled before the day which doesn't help with attendence. The main problem with them is they are boring and don't have much useful content. It would be useful to have some form of event/meeting where everyone can get together for a chat but but we haven't managed to find a format that works yet.

    The AAC is pointless these days and just puts people off when you mention it. It's hard enough getting someone to volunteer with the Mod 1, Mod 3, PLP, GDPR stuff they need to do without telling them they need to have an interview. The sooner it is got rid of the better.
    To get more kids we need more adults - are we getting the message yet?

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    If we were ging to streamline anything I would streamline the training. I am sure it puts some people off from volunteering currently. I have suggested this before on here and elsewhere bur I would reduce the training requirements for Assistant Section Leaders and rework the training to be far more practical rather than the overly theorectical training we currently have now where very few relevant practical skills are needed in order to gain a woodbadge,

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

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    2017-2018 AGSL

    Wike, North Leeds District Campsite - www.wikecampsite.org.uk
    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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  20. #14
    Keith at 2M Keith at 2M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by richardnhunt View Post
    Agms is the one I would disagree with changing - we need to up our governance game, not downgrade it.
    Rich, I'm in complete agreement with the need to up governance - IMHO Scouting is an accident waiting to happen on so many fronts. I'm just not sure the current poorly attended AGM is fit for purpose any more as the means of achieving that aim. Most people posting here have relatively well attended AGMs that are well thought out and tick all of the governance boxes. Using the annual report for publicity is also an innovative idea, but then North Watford's excellent report is the sort of report that lends itself to publicity. Many annual reports do not.

    Sadly I don't consider that these are typical and just telling the less well run/resourced groups they need to improve isn't really tackling the issue. Its not a question of downgrading requirements to the lowest level - we need to be thinking about what we could replace it with that makes it easier for all groups to comply? I don't have answers - Electronic filing of all group accounts being the first perhaps.
    The Roman Empire did not become great by holding meetings. It did so by killing everyone that opposed their point of view.

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    The unpaid help ASLChris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    Exactly how do you think they do that? What magic ways of identifying those who would like to get up to no good that us mere mortals who actually put people up for appointments don't have given we generally have some idea of who the person is (parent, student, former member or just a random volunteer) unlike the appointment committee? Having had two such interviews recently I can tell you that the quations they ask would in no way help them pick out the ne'er do wells. As I say I don't totally object to the idea for those new to Scouting or new to a District but other than that IMHO its a total waste of time.
    TBH, I see AACs as a CMA-type activity more than anything else.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith at 2M View Post
    Rich, I'm in complete agreement with the need to up governance - IMHO Scouting is an accident waiting to happen on so many fronts. I'm just not sure the current poorly attended AGM is fit for purpose any more as the means of achieving that aim. Most people posting here have relatively well attended AGMs that are well thought out and tick all of the governance boxes. Using the annual report for publicity is also an innovative idea, but then North Watford's excellent report is the sort of report that lends itself to publicity. Many annual reports do not.

    Sadly I don't consider that these are typical and just telling the less well run/resourced groups they need to improve isn't really tackling the issue. Its not a question of downgrading requirements to the lowest level - we need to be thinking about what we could replace it with that makes it easier for all groups to comply? I don't have answers - Electronic filing of all group accounts being the first perhaps.
    Then rather than getting rid of such things, we should share best practice. For example, I am happy to provide anyone who wants it a copy of my annual report template (Publisher file)...
    Chris Hawes, District Media Manager, Watford North Scout District and Watford Scouts; Group Secretary and Webmaster, 9th North Watford Scout Group.
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