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Thread: Is there an intrinsic problem with Scouts?

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    Next question...

    Would it help with the 'distance' if there was less area and district - meaning less bureaucracy/levels of line management - between (UK/Scottish) HQ and Groups?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Next question...

    Would it help with the 'distance' if there was less area and district - meaning less bureaucracy/levels of line management - between (UK/Scottish) HQ and Groups?
    Not sure how you expect removing or reducing some of the closer levels of management and support will decrease "distance". I would expect that all that will result in is reduced local support from people that you acually have some idea who they are and they have some idea who you are to and increased remote management from people who have no idea who you are and your Group's curcumstances and you have no idea who they are.

    So long as Districts keep to their role and don't start micromanging and stepping on the toes of the Group's own management structures then I am more than happy for them to exist and help support me in my role as GSL and our Section Leaders in running Sections.
    Last edited by shiftypete; 22-09-2020 at 11:40 AM.

    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
    2002 - 2018 AESL

    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 pa_broon74 View Post
    Next question...

    Would it help with the 'distance' if there was less area and district - meaning less bureaucracy/levels of line management - between (UK/Scottish) HQ and Groups?
    I’m not sure what counties contribute apart from possible training, I can see districts as it could/should foster a slightly larger “local” feeling to the groups “localisation”.

    However I think the function of the various levels needs to be looked at. Groups are obvious, doing front line scouting.
    HQ has roles to set standards such as for the permit scheme, providing vetting access for potential leaders, other parts I’m not sure about.
    Counties, possibly training and maybe large events. County roles should be in addition to frontline scouting roles and not the persons sole interest in scouting.
    District, support for vetting new leaders. Key is support, possibly organising district get togethers, providing higher level knowledge e.g. for activities. Again any district role is secondary to a frontline scouting role (even if that role is a section assistant).

    Any concept of managing people needs to be greatly reduced, any management activity should be focused on reducing barriers and blockages.

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    What Counties should be contributuing is management and support of people in District roles, provision, management and financial oversight of any County campsites, organsing, managing and financially underwriting large county events (NB underwrting them not deliberatly running them at a loss and using the County levy to subsidise them) such as County camps. Provision and oversight of adult training.

    All mostly, I would suggest, things it would not be possible for Districts or Groups to do as they don't have the scale but it woud not be practical to manage nationally.

    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
    2002 - 2018 AESL

    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
    Not sure how you expect removing or reducing some of the closer levels of management and support will decrease "distance". I would expect that all that will result in is reduced local support from people hat you acually have some idea who they are and they have some idea who you are to and increased remote management from people who have no diea who you are ad your Group's curcumstances and you have no idea who they are.

    So long as Districts keep to their role and don't start micromanging and stepping on the toes of the Group's own management structures then I am more than happy for them to exist and help support me in my role as GSL and our Section Leaders in running Sections.
    18. The Scout Association is distant from its membership through its federated branches of 8000 charities and layers of hierarchy meaning that it cannot know how health and safety is executed at ground level.
    In the context of the point made, is knowing the people important? That those people are there is a level of hierarchy - that if removed - would bring HQ and groups into more direct contact, so less distant? Is what I meant.

    The next point made was around HQ having no way of knowing the competency of leaders in terms of safety training. Currently we're supposed to have all these people involved with training at all levels. As I understand it, we now have our GSL double jobbing as a Training Advisor, GSL's will also be able to validate training, (I think). You have people at District and Area (LTM's?) I asked about this and there doesn't seem to be a firm answer about who's where and what they do.

    If HQ were dealing with training directly (heavily aided by an automated and integrated online system), would that distance be lessened?

    If there was less district and area, coupled with a meaningful devolution of responsibility to groups, then there'd be less micromanagement from district too.

    Is what I thought (and meant to say).

    (Additional edit...)

    In terms of what county/district actually do? I'm conflicted. I understand some counties/districts run campsites and big events. Our district doesn't. Our area, (I think) does have a couple of sites and some property. I don't know of any events either organise.

    Our district have been flogging the dead horse of district-wide events for a while now - trying to get something established. I'm conflicted because there will be great events that district/areas do which are well attended - but - I also think district/areas that don't, maybe shouldn't bother? I say that because many groups struggle to get their members along to the thing they organise. Having competition from district/area often isn't helpful.

    I'm also conflicted because I get that inter-group activities are good for the young folk.

    TL/DR, I wouldn't want to get rid of districts or areas that run good events/campsites. But I would like to pare down districts/areas than don't.
    Last edited by pa_broon74; 22-09-2020 at 11:25 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    In the context of the point made, is knowing the people important? That those people are there is a level of hierarchy - that if removed - would bring HQ and groups into more direct contact, so less distant? Is what I meant.
    But it wouldn't actually increase HQs contact with Groups as they don;t have the numbers to do so, it would just overwhelm HQ as they don't possible have the capacity to support and manage everyone directly.

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    The next point made was around HQ having no way of knowing the competency of leaders in terms of safety training.
    Well that really around lack of enforcement of safety training and other madatory training requirements, which is currently being addressed. I would agree that once we have most people caught up then making the system more automatical in terms of chasing and then suspending roles if needed is going to have to be the way forward.

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    Currently we're supposed to have all these people involved with training at all levels. As I understand it, we now have our GSL double jobbing as a Training Advisor, GSL's will also be able to validate training, (I think). You have people at District and Area (LTM's?) I asked about this and there doesn't seem to be a firm answer about who's where and what they do.
    GSLs can now sign off the manadotry ongoing learning modules and have a responsibility to ensure their Leaders complete required training. Training Advisors (TAs) are the ones that work with Leaders to create personal learning Plans and actually validate their training, Local Training Managers (LTM) manage and support TAs in their area (Role Description https://members.scouts.org.uk/factsheets/FS330069.pdf). County or Area Training Managers have overall responsibility for Training in their area and wll usually be the one co-ordinating provision of training courses as well as managing and supporting LTMs.

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    If HQ were dealing with training directly (heavily aided by an automated and integrated online system), would that distance be lessened?
    No it just woudn't work at all its the local volunteers in training roles which make training work, update the records etc. Its simply not possible to fully automate, although it would be good if the mandatory ongoing learning modules and module 1 did now that they are all validated just be completing the e-learning. [/quote]

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    If there was less district and area, coupled with a meaningful devolution of responsibility to groups, then there'd be less micromanagement from district too.
    You seem to want to have less mocromanagment from District (not sure what you think District are micromanging in Groups apart from training which they have some responsibility for) and instead replace it with management from HQ instead

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    In terms of what county/district actually do? I'm conflicted. I understand some counties/districts run campsites and big events. Our district doesn't. Our area, (I think) does have a couple of sites and some property. I don't know of any events either organise.

    Our district have been flogging the dead horse of district-wide events for a while now - trying to get something established. I'm conflicted because there will be great events that district/areas do which are well attended - but - I also think district/areas that don't, maybe shouldn't bother? I say that because many groups struggle to get their members along to the thing they organise. Having competition from district/area often isn't helpful.
    I think the absolute key is that any event District and Counties/Area organise must be something that adds value so something that a Group couldn't organise by themselves and it need to not be organised to clash with prime camping dates (so not bank holidays or school holidays) so as to not conflict with long established Section camps.

    I'm also conflicted because I get that inter-group activities are good for the young folk.

    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    TL/DR, I wouldn't want to get rid of districts or areas that run good events/campsites. But I would like to pare down districts/areas than don't.
    But there in lies the condondrum, if you pare down Districts and counties/areas that don't run good event/campsites then you prevent them from ever running a good event/campsite again. Slowly over time you would end up paring most if not all of them down and then we would have lost the good District and Country/Area run campsites and events forever.

    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
    2002 - 2018 AESL

    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 pa_broon74 View Post
    Next question...

    Would it help with the 'distance' if there was less area and district - meaning less bureaucracy/levels of line management - between (UK/Scottish) HQ and Groups?
    Depends on how its structured. We went from 3 small districts covering Oxford where mostly every group had representation on the exec to one larger district that by numbers is the largest in the county. Over time the other smaller districts in the county merged into larger ones so we now have 5 large districts but each one covers quite an area with a real mix of town groups and small village groups.

    IMHO it can make it worse as groups from opposite ends of the district might not feel part of the district at all especially if activities end up concentrated in one of the towns or oxford itself. Repesentation is also reduced since each district now has more groups and further to travel.
    Obviously even worse in more rural counties.
    Dave Ralphs
    Yarnton Scout Group (Treasurer)
    DofE Advisor & District Exec Member - Oxford Spires District
    http://yarntonscouts.org.uk/

    I work for O2, any posts are my own personal views & do not represent O2

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    Quote Originally Posted by shiftypete View Post
    But it wouldn't actually increase HQs contact with Groups as they don;t have the numbers to do so, it would just overwhelm HQ as they don't possible have the capacity to support and manage everyone directly.


    Well that really around lack of enforcement of safety training and other madatory training requirements, which is currently being addressed. I would agree that once we have most people caught up then making the system more automatical in terms of chasing and then suspending roles if needed is going to have to be the way forward.


    GSLs can now sign off the manadotry ongoing learning modules and have a responsibility to ensure their Leaders complete required training. Training Advisors (TAs) are the ones that work with Leaders to create personal learning Plans and actually validate their training, Local Training Managers (LTM) manage and support TAs in their area (Role Description https://members.scouts.org.uk/factsheets/FS330069.pdf). County or Area Training Managers have overall responsibility for Training in their area and wll usually be the one co-ordinating provision of training courses as well as managing and supporting LTMs.

    No it just woudn't work at all its the local volunteers in training roles which make training work, update the records etc. Its simply not possible to fully automate, although it would be good if the mandatory ongoing learning modules and module 1 did now that they are all validated just be completing the e-learning.

    You seem to want to have less mocromanagment from District (not sure what you think District are micromanging in Groups apart from training which they have some responsibility for) and instead replace it with management from HQ instead

    I think the absolute key is that any event District and Counties/Area organise must be something that adds value so something that a Group couldn't organise by themselves and it need to not be organised to clash with prime camping dates (so not bank holidays or school holidays) so as to not conflict with long established Section camps.

    I'm also conflicted because I get that inter-group activities are good for the young folk.

    But there in lies the condondrum, if you pare down Districts and counties/areas that don't run good event/campsites then you prevent them from ever running a good event/campsite again. Slowly over time you would end up paring most if not all of them down and then we would have lost the good District and Country/Area run campsites and events forever.
    All valid and interesting, and also worthy of thought.

    I suppose, in terms of training and the distance alluded to by the coroner - I think this is a bit of a catch 22 scenario. I just don't believe it's possible to have an organisation which is as diverse as Scouts - and it be voluntary - and not have that distance. More-over, I think that distance is partly due to the number of people in the hierarchy. But, as you say, and I'd agree (up to a point), I don't know that we can do without all those people.

    But does that not leave us back where we started? With a root and branch look needed for the entire structure?

    I don't believe groups are micromanaged when it comes to training. I think we're micromanaged after it though. I think the other thing I'd point out is, it's been my experience, that having all these people and that meaning we all know each other better - is a bit of an illusion. A new DC comes in (say), or the usual churn , ummm, churns on. New people come in, they can either look at Compass - which is mince where we are. Or they can try and catch up on a face-to-face way with each leader. Or they could try and speak to GSL's. But they've still got to familiarise themselves with how experienced leaders are, or where they are with training.

    The same structure that is supposed to make sure all this is done and the distance is reduced - I think - also goes a long way toward making sure it can't be done and the distance remains in place.

    In terms of automating training, we have this conversation often at work. We're bringing in a new bit of software, it's supposed to replace three current data sources - two excel spreadsheets and a bit of very old bespoke project management software. There are people who say we need those three sources of data so that we can compare and make sure no errors creep in. I say, the errors are creeping in because we have to keep three separate data sources up to date.

    Could the same not be said about training? If a leader completes a module online, it's recorded online (they'd have a log in as in for Compass). That's it. No one really needs to look at it. Reports can be ran about who hasn't completed training and emails sent out. An actual person would only need to get involved if someone isn't doing their training, and even then, long before that - emails could be sent to the person's GSL say.

    Where I work, that's how all the safety training works. Be it GDPR, equality and diversity, lone working, ummm, there are others... Information management? Data security? Caldecott Rules? All of that is automated for about ~5000 NSS (where I work) staff. We get emails every couple of years as and when they fall out of date, which are mostly automated. If I still don't do it, my manager gets an email.

    If TSA are so keen to ape the work place in other ways, why not in this way? I think it's problematic to assume the current training system is any good.
    Last edited by pa_broon74; 22-09-2020 at 05:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pa_broon74 View Post
    I think the other thing I'd point out is, it's been my experience, that having all these people and that meaning we all know each other better - is a bit of an illusion. A new DC comes in (say), or the usual churn , ummm, churns on. New people come in, they can either look at Compass - which is mince where we are. Or they can try and catch up on a face-to-face way with each leader. Or they could try and speak to GSL's. But they've still got to familiarise themselves with how experienced leaders are, or where they are with training
    Ok I have been around our District all my life (apart from the fact we merged with half another one around 20 years ago now) but with I have yet to have a DC appointed whom I didn't know and who didn't know me and we have just appointed the joint 5th and 6th DCs in my time as a Leader in a District of around 17 to 20 Group and 7 ESUs. Why? Because we do a fair few District events, I have always attended all the relevant District meetings for my roles, we have all Leaders District meetings with a bar open afterwards so you end up chatting with random people from other Groups etc etc. You might say that is all very well in an urban group but our District is still around 45 mins travel from one side to the other and longer in traffic.

    Now thats not to say that those DCs have know all the Leaders as well as that, as that would be impossible in a District with a good couple of hundred Leaders in it, however they have all had a good sense of how each Group runs and who the key players in each Group and Unit are (not always the GSLs) and if they don't know then they know someone who will know such as a DDC or ADC or a GSL etc etc. We have never had a DC appointed that hadn't previously held a role in a Group or Unit in the District and they have all been fairly long serving people (none less than 10 years in the District (or its predessesors) before becoming DC. Oh and if you think they are all old fogeys one of the new DCs is about the same age as me so 38 or 39 so not quite over the hill yet

    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
    2002 - 2018 AESL

    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
    Ok I have been around our District all my life (apart from the fact we merged with half another one around 20 years ago now) but with I have yet to have a DC appointed whom I didn't know and who didn't know me and we have just appointed the joint 5th and 6th DCs in my time as a Leader in a District of around 17 to 20 Group and 7 ESUs. Why? Because we do a fair few District events, I have always attended all the relevant District meetings for my roles, we have all Leaders District meetings with a bar open afterwards so you end up chatting with random people from other Groups etc etc. You might say that is all very well in an urban group but our District is still around 45 mins travel from one side to the other and longer in traffic.

    Now thats not to say that those DCs have know all the Leaders as well as that, as that would be impossible in a District with a good couple of hundred Leaders in it, however they have all had a good sense of how each Group runs and who the key players in each Group and Unit are (not always the GSLs) and if they don't know then they know someone who will know such as a DDC or ADC or a GSL etc etc. We have never had a DC appointed that hadn't previously held a role in a Group or Unit in the District and they have all been fairly long serving people (none less than 10 years in the District (or its predessesors) before becoming DC. Oh and if you think they are all old fogeys one of the new DCs is about the same age as me so 38 or 39 so not quite over the hill yet
    I've also been around my district all of my life - although, I don't have much recollection of it as a Scout. I suppose districts can have personalities of their own - constituted of and by those people who are in it. Our district has ebbed and flowed. Our group used to do district events, (I don't remember other groups ever doing it.) For the longest time, district roles were filled from the biggest group in the district (not ours), no one else really got a look in. Then it ebbed a bit and for a while we had no DC, then a skeleton staff. We then had DC's who supported when asked but basically kept to themselves otherwise and let us get on with it.

    I think once a district has atrophied, it's really difficult for it to start up again fully. (That said, atrophied is a bit negative - I prefer laissez faire.)

    District events don't happen here. They don't really take off. (I think over and above all that, here they're also busy just getting the basics in place - even more so now with everything going down.)

    I've known most of the DC's - one or two well, but most not so well. I tend not to go to any meetings. They didn't really have any, at least not for section leaders. I think most DC's held some sort of role in one group or another. That I know of - they've been CSL's, SL's, I think beaver leaders. Early on, they were recruited from outside, they were civic type people with posh voices and land. (But that was a long time ago).

    It just depends on so many things. And it goes back to the voluntary nature of Scouts. People have to want to attend district meetings, if they're boring or long winded, folk won't go to them. I think with how TSA is moving generally, I'm not sure leaders will be inclined to engage with district going forward. District meetings over and above leader's existing role responsibilities? Hmmm, I'm not so sure.

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