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Thread: District Leader Meetings

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushfella View Post
    Come on down... I'll lay odds nowt has changed.

    I patently feel (felt) strongly about the lack of networking and the cliques that restricted development.
    Well.

    I don't think the current structure and direction is helping any. Certainly where I am, there is less networking going on, district has collapsed, and I put that down to the influx of rules and the responsibilities put on people in who have been shoehorned or strong-armed into positions of oblique control but direct responsibility.

    I've said this before, it used to be that we got people who had a genuine interest in Scouting, all the outdoors stuff, working with kids blah blah blah, at district we got the kind of people who still valued things like civic duty and the public cachet that went with volunteering for something like Scouts. Now, we have a top down structure which attracts bureaucrats into the upper echelons - who in turn are empowered by HQ to impose distant impractical notions on front line volunteers.

    I wonder how much of the time, people at district/county level look at emails and edicts from HQ and quietly pretend they never saw them - or if they see a troop/pack/etc doing something, they just make that oh-god-I-hope-nothing-goes-wrong-face - and those are the people who actually make their district work well.

    I think it's telling (where I am anyway) that all the community - the social aspect of scouting - has been wrung out except, at group level. I think it's that which causes cliques and a lack of networking more than anything else.

  2. #17
    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Well.

    I don't think the current structure and direction is helping any. Certainly where I am, there is less networking going on, district has collapsed, and I put that down to the influx of rules and the responsibilities put on people in who have been shoehorned or strong-armed into positions of oblique control but direct responsibility.

    I've said this before, it used to be that we got people who had a genuine interest in Scouting, all the outdoors stuff, working with kids blah blah blah, at district we got the kind of people who still valued things like civic duty and the public cachet that went with volunteering for something like Scouts. Now, we have a top down structure which attracts bureaucrats into the upper echelons - who in turn are empowered by HQ to impose distant impractical notions on front line volunteers.
    I honestly just don't recognise your description of Scouting. I wouldn't describe any of the main role holders in our County or District as bureaucrats. Our County Commissioner is great and I can't imagine him imposing any bureaucracy on anyone given he bangs on about supporting and empowering us the front line Leaders all the time. In our District the DC is the former GSL of one of the most successful Groups in the District he knows what it takes to run Scouting and is never going to impose any extra bureaucracy, the DDC Activities is also the SL of one of the most successful Troops in the District, the ADC Beavers is a former BSL of one of the Colonies, the DESC runs the largest Unit in the District and so on, we just don't do bureaucrats.

    As to influx of rules and regulations, yes there have been some stupid additional rules/requirements just recently (all named adults on a camp on the NAN form and having to tell parents all adults on the camp before they give permission for example) however I reckon overall POR is actually less restrictive currently than it has been in the past. Just looks a Nights Away rules where all restrictions on Beavers and Cubs camping have been removed (no more providing alternative accommodation of restricted to 24 hours max and having to be indoors). Leaders used to have to submit camp programmes and menus etc.

    Yes HQ like their jargon and changing things for changes sake but fundamentally Scouting in our area is much the same as it ever was (and I should know given I went right through our Group as a youth member)

    Peter Andrews ESL 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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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    I honestly just don't recognise your description of Scouting. I wouldn't describe any of the main role holders in our County or District as bureaucrats. Our County Commissioner is great and I can't imagine him imposing any bureaucracy on anyone given he bangs on about supporting and empowering us the front line Leaders all the time. In our District the DC is the former GSL of one of the most successful Groups in the District he knows what it takes to run Scouting and is never going to impose any extra bureaucracy, the DDC Activities is also the SL of one of the most successful Troops in the District, the ADC Beavers is a former BSL of one of the Colonies, the DESC runs the largest Unit in the District and so on, we just don't do bureaucrats.

    As to influx of rules and regulations, yes there have been some stupid additional rules/requirements just recently (all named adults on a camp on the NAN form and having to tell parents all adults on the camp before they give permission for example) however I reckon overall POR is actually less restrictive currently than it has been in the past. Just looks a Nights Away rules where all restrictions on Beavers and Cubs camping have been removed (no more providing alternative accommodation of restricted to 24 hours max and having to be indoors). Leaders used to have to submit camp programmes and menus etc.

    Yes HQ like their jargon and changing things for changes sake but fundamentally Scouting in our area is much the same as it ever was (and I should know given I went right through our Group as a youth member)
    This is interesting.

    The reason you don't recognise my description of Scouting is because your district people all have, or had roles in groups. We've been the same in the past, off and on - and those district people were excellent too.

    What I was trying to say was, roles that are bureaucratic (meaning administrative) in nature will attract that type of person (if they attract anyone at all), if they're coming from outside the organisation - which is where we're getting our people these days. In my experience, that often clashes with the aims of scouting at group level. Witness the cub leader (perfectly competent) who wants to take his pack camping, but can't because the NAA is a total stickler, or is great but doesn't really have time to do the role properly etc and on and on.

    We just don't get existing group-level volunteers filling district roles these days, and why should they? And, it makes zero difference to scouting on the ground.

    Our district people never imposed any bureaucracy on us either - because it never worked that way here - they mostly left us to it. But some of the stories on here seem to describe the opposite happening. I think, the further north you come, the more laid back it all gets. Again, scouting may not have changed in your district, but it has on ours. In some regards it's stayed the same, but in others, it's changed and not for the better.

    That's just been my experience.

  5. #19
    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    In my 30+ years of Scouting in this District and one of its predecessors I can't think of a single person who has ever held a District role in our District who didn't either previously or currently have a Group or Unit role.

    Peter Andrews ESL 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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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    In my 30+ years of Scouting in this District and one of its predecessors I can't think of a single person who has ever held a District role in our District who didn't either previously or currently have a Group or Unit role.
    Not just your district, having some knowledge of 5 districts who work closely together I'd say that was true for every single one. However county did hold up a DC who'd never had a scouting role as an example a few years ago, never seen him again though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    In my 30+ years of Scouting in this District and one of its predecessors I can't think of a single person who has ever held a District role in our District who didn't either previously or currently have a Group or Unit role.
    Up till about 15 years ago, when things began to get patchy and people who already had group roles started to back fill district roles - our DC's were always from outside Scouting. It used to be a position that held a fair bit of cachet among the great and the good. I think that is also why our DC's (and district in general) was always so hands off.

    Be that as it may, it's still been my experience, that those ex-group role holders who took district roles, took them because they preferred a more administrative role. When you couple that with the new nature of Scouts (it's no longer a hobby, it's a pseudo-occupation), reading comments here and elsewhere, (and some of the abortive attempts we've had at people taking on district roles and actually trying to be assertive about what they saw as their responsibilities). I get you've had a different experience, but I think we're probably coming from different baselines.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RisingStar View Post
    Not just your district, having some knowledge of 5 districts who work closely together I'd say that was true for every single one. However county did hold up a DC who'd never had a scouting role as an example a few years ago, never seen him again though.
    You need to have a district in the first place, for it to work closely with other districts.

    I'd posit the notion that Edinburgh (three districts) probably most closely aligns with what you folks have experienced. We used to do the odd thing with Midlothian district, and we've camped in borders... But, as I said, you need to have people in district roles in order for anything to happen.

    Be that as it may, it doesn't affect the quality of Scouting that goes on here. It's just a different way of doing things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    I get you've had a different experience, but I think we're probably coming from different baselines.
    Ain't that the truth!

    We're generally coloured by our own experience. You see all the corporate stuff from HQ, and as a district bod myself, I see some of it filter down via county, we had a bit of a do last year to talk about pillars of scouting or something, Perception? Other Things? Buzzwords with capital letters. I mean, it was alright, hearts are in the right places, the higher ups believe it's how to get more bums by fires. Fair enough. Looking down from the inverted pyramid, our District bods are very hands on, myself included, they've come from section leadership, or group leadership. Our DC runs family camp every year, all the usual DC things, and has helped with several building projects, as that's close to his day job. For example. At least two ACCs I know were once section leaders from our district. They run county events, triennial camps, county expeditions etc. Generally we seem to be mercifully free of pettifogging bureaucrats. Is it coincidence that Surrey is one of the biggest scout counties? Pass. But it can't hurt.
    Ian Wilkins
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    I would say, we're not affected here by any pettifogging (good word by the way) bureaucrats either - we had the odd one back in the day, but everyone just ended up ignoring them and they moved on. But some of the experiences that are related here...

    Groups here have always been a lot more independent of mind than perhaps they are elsewhere.

  12. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushfella View Post
    Okay, I'm on the outside now, but I was on the inside for a couple of years... following on from the DC discussion.

    I believe that District Leader meetings are critical to the development of a District, just as Group meetings are for the wellbeing of a Group.

    These meetings create a forum for an exchange of views, experiences and sharing of concerns. Without them, Leaders become inward looking and isolated.

    It is important that any such meeting is enjoyable and that people leave the meeting feeling that they have gained something positive.

    The best were those where the meeting was run like a Troop meeting, with Leaders in mixed groups so that there was a cross section of scouting in each group, where the BSL got to understand the SL and vice versa. Where ideas across groups were shared. Sectional meetings could be included as part of the evening, but they should not be the main part of the meeting.

    The best Leader meetings had SHORT notices, an introduction to interactive games, a presentation on an activity, something that everyone took away something that benefited them and their section.

    The worst, were when the DC stood and read out from the District newsletter, in full and verbatim. Then we discussed the content, and then we went home. Crap. And I said so at the time.

    The former were great, busy events that drew people in. Sadly, when the DC changed, we ended up with an instant transition to the second format. It absolutely killed the Leaders' meetings stone dead.

    It is also critical that these leader meetings must sidestep the power politics and the bullying tactics used by some. People have to come together because they want to be there and they want to grow and learn. Otherwise, they become pointless exercises in a waste of everyone's time and the sap morale out of people.

    So, my ideal Leader Meeting for District.

    Arrival, coffee/ tea.
    Flag break ( Yes - and for the same reasons as we do this at section level)
    Short notices
    A new game introduced by a Leader
    A short presentation on any issue/subject of interest
    Break for sectional Meetings
    Brief Report back from sectional meetings
    Notices reminder
    Flag down

    Initially, this may have to be stage managed by a single individua, but if it works it could take a life of its own.

    This was a key element of where I wanted to take District, but I was over-ruled at every turn.
    In an ideal World Ewan.....

    We've not held a District CSLs meeting for 2 years - only one group is really agitating for ameeting and a couple of the '1980's' leaders say they miss meeting up with old friends - to which my reply is that they shouldn't need someone to organise an agenda for them to meet up with their friends.

    Our last meeting ended with one leader standing, pointing and shouting aggressively at the ADC. The controversial subject that gave rise to this behaviour being 'Date of next meeting'. Other leaders have since stated they gave up attending DCSL meetings because they felt bored/intimidated/waste of time. A recent DSLs meeting was attended by 6 people, including one married couple.

    I suspect we're one end of extreme but I'd offer a few points that maybe could be solved by Ewan's format but even getting the horse to water is going to be difficult

    1) People's time appears far more precious than previously - a meeting has to be worthwhile for them to even consider attending - meetings for the sake of meetings are largely dead now except for the real hardcore leaders who will turnout to any event with a scouting letterhead

    2) Dissemination of information is much easier electronically nowadays. On any given weekday there will be some Packs that can't attend. Is a meeting with less than 50% of Groups represented worthwhile? Information still has to be disseminated to those that weren't there

    3) We still level too much criticism at leaders who don't attend events that they didn't ask for in the first place. As ADC I arrange a meeting therefore its your fault for not attending....discuss

    4) The Internet and social media has provided a much wider wealth of ideas than available at a local CSLs meeting. If I want ideas for example a game I can now use Google, FB or Escouts

    5) Where cliques do exist (and our District is very clearly divided into 1980s and post 1980s) or, as it happens the remnants of the two districts that were merged 14 years ago - how do you break down these cliques where some people are still harbouring grudges that the Districts were even merged a generation ago? How do you explain hatred of a particular colour scarf to a leader new to Scouting?

    6) Working practices seem to mean longer working days so whereas leaders can maybe swing one early finish for their Pack meeting, two early finishes a week is straining your work:life balance relationship, especially if you also have a family to consider - with me it was either attend District meeting or read the kids a bedtime story.

    7) Weekends have become family time - there are a decreasing number of leaders with young families prepared to give up extra weekends for scouting. Its great if your family are all involved but where they are not, scouting is just your hobby to be balanced against those of the other family members. Why is my attendence at a District event suddenly more important than driving my daughter to a swimming gala on Saturday?

    8) Many people who spend their working days in meetings volunteer with scouting for different reasons - why would they want to attend yet more (often poorly chaired) meetings in their spare time - the scouting they signed up to is after all just one night a week working with young people!

    I hope the concept of the District meeting isn't going to fade into history, but we need to consider the nature of our current and future volunteers and actually consider what they want from their volunteering. Trying to make them fit into an outdated format is maybe not the way forward. They will just vote with their feet. Giving up a second evening a week to listen to how great scouting was before Compass/OSM/H&S/Merger/X was ADC/(substitute your own area of complaint) is not necessarily everyone's idea of fun.

    Ewan's opening quote refers to the development of a District - I'd agree, except that most volunteers in scouting do not care about 'District' - they want to ensure the small group of young people that they have committed to work with have a good time for the duration of their membership period. Whilst a well run District can enhance that experience, most people's involvement is not dependent on District
    Last edited by Keith at 2M; 03-04-2019 at 01:44 PM.
    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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    People's mileage varies.

    We have explosions of enthusiasm for District stuff from time to time - its almost always coming from people (often in new appointments) with very little in the way of family commitments (single, empty nesters etc) who quite understandably have plenty of time to do what they enjoy doing, and are happy to put that time into Scouting. Which is unconditionally a good thing as long as its well directed.

    Using that time to create events which require others who are not so time rich to attend, or potentially feel guilty for not attending isn't so good. Instead of building things up, in the worst case scenario it can lead to people feeling that what they are generously giving, isn't enough so they might as well leave. On the other hand people like me that have bitten off more than they can chew on a number of fronts and are now struggling to keep it all going and spend enough time with family, shouldn't be stopping people enjoying their scouting where that means coming up with events.

    What it requires is some sensible thought. If I put this event on (be it a meeting or an activity), who am I going to need to be there, and can they all afford that time? And then, are they all going to feel its worthwhile? So a meeting which is largely about information that could/should be sent by email, and putting on events that people aren't asking for needs to be careful about dragging in people that are time poor.
    Does anyone know what's going on?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith at 2M View Post

    Ewan's opening quote refers to the development of a District - I'd agree, except that most volunteers in scouting do not care about 'District' - they want to ensure the small group of young people that they have committed to work with have a good time for the duration of their membership time. Whilst a well run District can enhance that experience, their involvement is not dependent on District
    Snipped all good points for discussion.

    This, above, is the biggest problem that I see/ saw in Scouting. People don't care about "district" they want to ensure the small group of young people that they have committed to work with have a good time for the duration of their membership time.

    They are only interested in what is directly in front of them, often the section they work with. How often do we hear of groups where the BSL does not talk to the CSL or even less so the SL? That is not a "group", that is something short of a Group.

    Continually there are cries about the shortage of Leaders, the lack of resources, and yet, often the answer lies on the doorstep. I had the great pleasure of working with a group of adults across four sections who each would step in and help the other. It was not unusual to find the BSL running Scouts, or the ACSL running Explorers, whilst the SL stepped in at Beavers or Cubs. I only had one member of the Group who never stepped in for anyone else who only considered the one section that they worked with.

    By meeting with others, resources can be accessed, if they wish to access them - by networking and getting to know people and what was available they could access those resources they did not have. And no, if they did not meet and talk, they would not have that same accessibility.

    Incredibly, and I mean that in its truest sense, during 20 years in Scouts we received virtually no support from any other local Scout Groups. Yet, since departing, we have had support from a number of Scouters, some relatively local, some distant. Support, without which, we may never have got Navigators of the ground. I find a huge irony in that.

    Now, from the independent position, I and my current team can see the benefits of that District networking opportunity all the more clearly.
    Ewan Scott

    It seems that there are a lot of Nawyecka Comanch around....





    Nawyecka Comanch'": "Means roundabout--man says he's going one way, means to go t'other" Ethan Edwards - The Searchers



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    I think that's a handy snip to be honest.

    We have regular meetings to which all section leaders and helpers go, we've been doing it for yonks. Only recently the cub leaders covered Beavers for an evening. In terms of groups helping each other out, there's a world of difference between group A contacting group B because they need assistance (we've loaned out equipment, our van etc), versus group C organising meetings for groups A, B, E and F and on - that goes back to people not having the time and us recruiting people that often aren't that keen.

    I don't see - given all the tools we now have at our disposal - how having a district set up helps with getting leaders. I did it on my own (for Scouts) with Facebook.

    I suppose that's one of the big changes (which we've talked about before) and for which I don't think we have accurate numbers. The type of new volunteers we're getting aren't the same as they used to be. And, I think that's because while involvement in Scouts is still kind of sold as a hobby (sort of), when you get into it - it really isn't. Plus, we rely too much, not on people who's interests match those of scouting, but on parents because they're something of a captive audience.

    It's great when we get parents on board and they're dead keen, (our cub leaders and both parents, we've had to up our game at Scouts considerably). But this is where we don't have figures, how many of these new leaders are just filling in and don't intend on staying or being interested in scouty stuff - never mind things like district provision.

    The whole volunteering ethos has changed. It's no longer supposed to be a laugh, it's now a journey. They're right, but not in the way they intended.

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    ESL and DESC ianw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    The type of new volunteers we're getting aren't the same as they used to be.
    Is this the same as "kids these days" argument?

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    The whole volunteering ethos has changed. It's no longer supposed to be a laugh, it's now a journey. They're right, but not in the way they intended.
    You mean, it's a pop down to the shops, not an epic round the world adventure?
    Ian Wilkins
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    Quote Originally Posted by ianw View Post
    You mean, it's a pop down to the shops, not an epic round the world adventure?
    Going to work mair like...

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