Troop Program Death Spiral!

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spiralPerhaps “Troop Program Death Spiral” is a gratuitously dramatic title but it describes something that does happen. Got your attention, though, didn’t I?

How and why do troops get off track and lose Scouts? There’s a predictable sequence of events that spiral down into a crash.

Scouts are never the problem, it’s the way we work with them that causes problems.

When we sign on to volunteer and one of three things happen –

  • We attend training, work at understanding our role and evaluate current practice against what we learn.
  • We  don’t get trained, don’t really learn our role, and/or adopt bad practices that were in place when we signed on.
  • We assume that we know our role and carry on regardless or we are working with people who assert that they know what they are doing and we follow along. Either way we resist examining and improving on what we are doing.

Nearly every Scouting volunteer will hear something about the patrol method or the virtues of a ‘boy led troop’. They may even commit themselves to understanding and applying the patrol method.

When they apply the concepts and practices of the patrol method the first results are almost always disappointing from the adult perspective. Scouts seem to be incapable, incompetent, or lazy. Scout’s efforts are disjointed, chaotic and fall far short of creating the orderliness and efficiency adults imagined they would. Instead of looking at this state of affairs as a positive indication of growing and developing leaders this ‘disappointment’ is viewed as a failure of the patrol method as an idea.

Once adults become convinced that the patrol method won’t work they take over and run things in an efficient, orderly, way.  When adults run things they find there’s less trouble and uncertainty. The Scouts will be happy to have things taken care of, they won’t complain, they’ll have fun and won’t have to do a whole lot.

Boys like that sort of thing for a time. Eventually, though, they get bored.

Unless the adults are able to come up with more new and even more entertaining experiences the Scouts start to leave. Adults get upset when the Scouts don’t properly appreciate what is being done for them, this turns to frustration, hardens into resentment, and leads to rulemaking.

That attitude drives a lot of Scouts away, and when Scouts leave adults become even more resentful or upset. Adults are already fatigued from trying to hold things together and doing everything so things continue to spiral down.

Naturally one way to avoid this spiral is getting trained, but that’s not enough. Beyond just passively receiving ideas we have to test those ideas, pick them apart, and learn about them. We apply them, observe the results, assess our understanding, and then try again.

Stick with the process, strive to understand it, and you’ll avoid the spiral.

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