If the Patrol Leader’s Council (PLC) is supposed to be responsible for planning meetings and outings for their Troop how does this happen in practice? There is no universal model, agenda or method but there are some broad underlying principles:
Give them the tools
A little bit of training, a lot of questions and a lot of freedom to develop their own process.
Let them do it
Don’t hover, don’t badger, don’t manipulate. (If you have time for a rant about this I have included one below)
Let them own it
If there are problems with the plan that touch on propriety and safety ask questions until they see the problem and develop a solution. If you think the plan is kind of weak or half-baked but it is safe and appropriate let it go. They may or may not discover the flaws as the plan advances or you may have been mistaken that the flaws were there in the first place. Somebody is going to learn something either way.
Reflect on the results
Praise and congratulations or commiseration and empathy; whatever the result calls for. Ask more questions in a process of guided discovery. When more of the PLC is staring at the table, the floor, out the window and not at the speaker they have finished reflecting.
The Familiar Rant: Adults do a lot of things to avoid uncertainty. We need to feel both responsible for and in control of the planning process. We have standards of efficiency and excellence that are, sometimes, out of tune with the ability of Scouts. This results in imposing some subtle and not-so-subtle controls on our youth leadership.
Many of us want youth leaders to be fully qualified and trained before they are given any responsibility. Then we may get nervous and move the bar for being trained and qualified so that they never quite meet the standard. We impose coercive reviews and checks that restrict independent action and decision making.
All of these things seem perfectly reasonable and prudent but they drain the ardor and energy of youth leaders in our attempts to make things more controllable and predictable.
Scouting is designed to give a gang of boys from anywhere the tools of self determination and potential that will direct their efforts towards positive action and development.
Imagine a dozen boys who have never seen or experienced anything like Scouting. They discover a Scout Handbook and decide that it looks like great fun. They form a patrol, pick a name, elect a leader, begin making plans and taking positive steps forward in a matter of minutes because Scouting is designed to appeal to and capitalize on their natural desire for self determination and autonomy. There’s no paperwork, no adults to run training sessions – just them and Scouting.
Eventually they may run into problems or questions they can’t figure out for themselves and need basic, brief and targeted direction from someone with more experience. It’s surprising (even shocking) how much they can do without us.
How little can we talk, legislate, impose, coerce and control? Could we get through a meeting or an outing strictly as an observer? How few words can we use to coach, instruct and mentor?