6841-CR2-0212

Scouts gather to shape the BSA’s future (while adults sit back and watch)

Nobody complained about the Randy Travis song strumming out of the speakers.

Sure, the 24 Scouts, Venturers, and Sea Scouts in the room would have preferred listening to, well, anything else. But they didn’t speak up.

That was exactly Sara Parker-Lacobee’s point.

Parker-Lacobee, training designer for the BSA, played some of the aging country star’s music to test the young men and women.

“I purposely played Randy Travis,” she said. “You have to speak up and tell us we’re not being relevant.”

After that, Parker-Lacobee didn’t have to tell the Scouts to be vocal. They were ready to take over Scouting’s playlist.

It’s all happening right now as 25 hand-picked youths meet in Grapevine, Tex., to plan next summer’s BEYOND Conference.

That’s Building Experienced Youth – Outstanding New Youth Development Conference.

At that event, between 300 and 500 top Scouts will meet to shape the future of the BSA. Soon, you’ll be able to submit someone from your unit for consideration.

These Scouts (and Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca) jumped at the chance to discuss the BSA's future.

But first, these 24 intrepid young men and women must create the conference from scratch. Just like a troop or crew organizing a high-adventure trip, the youths will plan every detail while adults simply sit back and advise as needed.

I got to sit in on the first day of the planning event yesterday to give you an exclusive look at this group of 24 and their ideas for next year.

First, it’s probably helpful to know who we’re talking about here. The 24 young men and women range in age from 16 to 23 (some have aged out of the program but are still active as adults).

They represent every region of the United States and the four major program areas for older youths: Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, Venturers, and the Order of the Arrow. And they come from different religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

So they’re perfectly suited to plan next year’s conference, which will be similarly diverse.

The BEYOND Conference, specifically outlined in the BSA’s National Strategic Plan as Goal 6-3-6, will hit on the important issues facing the BSA today: retention and recruiting, health and wellness, families, education, environmental stewardship, service, the Journey to Excellence, and much more. No topic is taboo or off-limits.

When they weren't untangling the figurative problems facing Scouting today, the youths had other things to untangle. Like this rope, which had several knots that had to be untied. The catch? Scouts had to always keep one hand on the rope.

So to help guide next year’s discussion, this group is spending the week chewing on those same subjects. It’s all done with one underlying question in mind: How can youths best shape the future of the BSA for the next 100 years?

No pressure, right? Russ Hunsaker, chairman of the Youth Development Committee, said he knows the task is lofty. But so are the stakes.

“Can we make this a better program so that more youth have the potential to grow and learn from this experience? I say yes we can.

“Do we want to get more people involved with the Scouting experience? I say yes we do.

“I want you to draw upon all of those experiences that you’ve had in Scouting and tell us how we can do what we do better,” Hunsaker said.

Once the adults were done introducing the event, the Scouts took over. Appropriately, youth leaders moderated each discussion session. Adults only stepped in to ask thought-provoking questions or add insight when appropriate.

I’ll share more details about next year’s BEYOND Conference when I get it.

Past National Venturing President Jennifer Lowe helped plan the planning event.

But one thing is clear right now after spending a day with these young men and women: There are some outstanding Scouts out there who aren’t afraid to share their nuanced opinions about the Boy Scouts of America and its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

During one particularly lively chat about families and Scouting, I looked around the room. All of the adult leaders were silent, but several had a hint of a smile on their faces. Not because they agreed with all of the opinions being shared, necessarily. But more because they were happy that the Scouts had finally taken control. It was the Scouting method working perfectly, and they were witnesses.

Soon, we’ll all be witnesses as the voice of the Scout — from the national level to each individual unit —  grows louder and stronger.

-

(Photos by Roger Morgan/BSA)

27 thoughts on “Scouts gather to shape the BSA’s future (while adults sit back and watch)

  1. Just curious, but I guess I must have missed the call for volunteers for this event.
    How were these participants selected?

    I’m a bit jaded when it come to these “events” that say they are for shaping/planning the future of BSA. National rarely listens to the field. They do what they want in their “Ivory Tower”.
    Their focus groups are just for show. I hope this is not one of them. (another PR event)

    When will we hear of the changes agreed to and when they will be put into practice?

    • I agree with you Ron, I see a youth in this group who is misrepresenting us, I have to admit he is a persistence young man, who has set his mind on the Regional & National commitee. Except he hasn’t grown in a real crew nor has he full filled the requirements to attain these awards through the program, instead he went and purchased the awards & started wearing them around since last year while he was attending this conference, Imagine the disappointment for our youth especially for those who have been working for months to attain their Gold or Silver Award, then to have him represent us or share his opinion in something he hasn’t even done for himself??
      He has become a punch line… I guess, not everything that shines is gold.

  2. Ron,

    The youth at this event range from National and Regional Officers for the Sea Scouting and Venturing Program to Section Chiefs from the Order of the Arrow. All of the youth are from different part of the country with different backgrounds that have been hand picked to represent the youth that they work with on a daily basis

    • These National Leaders are not a true example of BSA at large.
      They represent those of privilege, and by your own statement “handpicked”.
      Handpicked by whom? National? Some other unknown committee?
      National youth leaders have very little or no control over how BSA National runs program. If you think differently you are fooling yourself.
      These kids at this event may be great kids; however all they are is BSA National Cheerleaders at a NYLT style event.

      All this appears to be is a great PR event for National.

      I still would like to hear of the changes agreed to and when they will be put into practice.

      National needs to come down from the “Ivory Tower” and get into the field to see and hear from those who deal with delivering the program to the youth, local Volunteer leadership.
      Not paid professionals who spout the party line.

      • Ron,

        National officers are selected by their peers. The Order of the Arrow is Section Chiefs electing their next National Officers. Section Chiefs were elected by their lodges and so forth. Venturing National officers are the same elected at a district to a council to an area to a region and than to a national level. Each of these youth have worked down in the fields. The purpose of this BEYOND Conference is to get the input from youth across America about Scoutings programs. It is not a NYLT training event. At the conference next year their will be 300 to 500 youth from across America chosen by each council. I would like to challenge you to talk with your National officer in the program you are involved with and they will be able to tell you what kind of an impact they have left on the program. The youth have more of a say than you might think. I would challenge you to really find out the whole picture before you start bringing things up you obviously don’t have the full understanding for. Thanks.

        • National Officers may be selected by their peers?
          That may be true to a certain degree in the OA were boys select their chapter and lodge officers and to a degree Section officers, but beyond that level it gets kind of sketchy to me, as the individual boy has no say as to who is voted in after that.
          As for Venturing, that’s another matter as there are VERY few operating Council VOAs (District VOA are even rarer) that would be in the position to hold an election of any meaning, much less towards an Area, Regional, or National level.
          Sea Scouting is an area that is out of my area of knowledge, so you get a pass there, however it can’t be too far from the others.
          Taking what I know of these leaders’ positions, they are mainly figureheads, leaders in title, but not in power. (It’s my guess that these kids are very removed from the scout at the unit level.)
          Our friends in Irving have the power.
          As for getting input from the youth in the programs, the efforts should be directed towards the youth directly affected, the youth in the units.
          Not this BEYOND Show.
          I would challenge you to promote DIRECT contact with the units. Get input from the Scouts (and their leaders) who are at the weekly meetings (I wonder when was the last time one of these National Leaders went to their unit’s(Troop/Crew) weekly meeting?)
          Get out of your conference rooms in Irving and go visit the reason you have a job, the boys.

        • While Sectional, Regional, and National OA officers are selected by their peers, this is NOT the case on the venting side.

          Area, Regional and National Venturing youth leaders are selected by adult committees. The Venturing SOP sets down that district & council VOA officers should also be selected by adults instead of elected by their peer (which is how it is in most places).

      • Im sorry, as a participant I saw that these youths in attendance realy did represent the BSA. We had most races reprsented along with 15-24 year olds. We even had some youth who had no leadership positions and council positions and many Section OA Officers. You my friend do not know ehat you are talking about.

  3. I would be interested in knowing how many come from an inner-city environment and from poor families. The biggest problem with the BSA is that is has become an elitist organization, especially when it comes to the National Office. The people there are so out of touch with reality that they should all be GOP politicians.

  4. The Patriots’ Path Council has two of it’s most outstanding youth members participating in the conference who have been reporting to me what they are doing. The are very excited and motivatied that they are being listen to and will make an impact next year to many more youth members in our movement.

    Congratulations Russ and Bob for making a difference in the life of these young people.

    Dennis Kohl
    Scout Executive

  5. Ron – you do realize (or if you don’t, now you should) that “National” is really a bunch of committees who are staffed overwhelmingly with volunteers? All of whom have real experience ‘in the field’ (of course, our professional counterparts would say that they’re in the field, too – try telling a DE working 7 14-hour days that he / she isn’t in the field). Each committee or task force has a professional “staff adviser,” but it’s largely volunteer effort.

    You may have people in your own council – unit leaders, district committee members, commissioners – who also serve on a national committee or task force. And if there aren’t any in your council, then I’ll be there are some in a neighboring council. They’re not that hard to find.

    And at the very least, your council has National Council Representatives who are elected every year. Many of these representatives, in my experience, don’t take advantage of every opportunity they get to provide input and feedback to “National.” They get to go to the national meeting, participate in surveys and webinars, etc.There are all kinds of opportunities for input.

    There’s not often a call for volunteers for these sorts of things because 1) In order to be statistically relevant, there needs to be a specific set of criteria that’s met, across location, age, ethnicity, and other demographics; 2) The effort needed to recruit, evaluate, and process a general call for volunteers would be enormous. Where we already have existing organizational structures to foster and develop appropriate representation, we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.

    Having been a participant in some of these sorts of things myself, I can tell you that they’re not just for show.

  6. Well, I can understand where Ron is coming from in his comments. And while he can be criticized for some of his views, you have to understand there is some truth in what he says. One thing I have found is its really useful to be involved with other organizations, because then you can see how they operate as compared to how the BSA does.

    Yes, National is made up of many committees and task forces, made up of volunteers from around the country. Can we get a complete list of these committees? what they do, who is on them (or at least in charge)? How else can one get on one of these committees? In other organizations, this information is NOT secret. Heck, in a couple of national orgs I’m part of, all members get a membership booklet regularly that lists ALL the national committees and the chairs and their contact info. Makes it really easy to contact one of them and get involved.

    Heck, I sometimes have to wonder how people are selected for these committees. I find it funny that I can be very active in other organizations, people see what I do, and I get asked to help out on this committee or that event or the like. But in the BSA, I get ignored. Or worse, when I try to actively get involved I get the cold shoulder or the door slammed in my face. And I’ve seen this happen to many others I know. It seems in the BSA we have too many people (employees and members) who have taken it upon themselves to be ‘gate keepers’ on who gets to ‘play’ at the levels above the unit, and turn away people (both good and bad) who want to help. In other organizations this sort of behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, because they know they can’t afford to loose good people. But I guess in the BSA that’s not important.

    So instead of getting the best and brightest, people who are knowledgable and skilled and dedicated and want to help, we only get people who have money or are ‘in’ with the right people. You may get some good people, but you are also probably driving away another dozen or so good people for each one you get.

    But, as we say, ‘your mileage may very’. For those already on the ‘inside’, its not something you may notice or even care about. But for those of us on the ‘outside’, who want to help, and are frustrated when we see people on the inside do little or do things poorly, it is something we notice.

    • To Ron who said “These National Leaders are not a true example of BSA at large.
      They represent those of privilege, and by your own statement “handpicked”.” and the “Guest” who said, “National Officers may be selected by their peers? That may be true to a certain degree in the OA were boys select their chapter and lodge officers and to a degree Section officers, but beyond that level it gets kind of sketchy to me, as the individual boy has no say as to who is voted in after that.” :

      In the Order of the Arrow, elections are conducted by peers. Adults 21 and older don’t get to vote. It’s not “to a certain degree,” it’s a youth-only election. (At the National Planning Meeting, where the ~50 Section Chiefs elect their National Chief, National Vice-Chief, and four Region Chiefs, adults 21 and older aren’t even allowed in the room where the elections take place).

      They’re also not particularly privileged. (I was a section chief many, many years ago, and if money or privilege was required, I certainly wouldn’t have had the job.) The young men who serve as section or national OA officers are usually Eagle Scouts; they’ve gone to summer camp, and many are staffers; most are either older Scouts (16-17) or Assistant Scoutmasters. It’s true that for the ones in college, they may not be attending weekly unit meetings, but they’re still active in the councils, lodges, and units, and help out when they’re home.

      Many if not most of the major OA programs since the early 90s (when I was in that role) were directly or indirectly proposed by youth; and all of them were planned and executed by youth.

      The national OA officers are not removed from the local unit, and they’re not just figureheads. And the national OA committee members who advise them aren’t removed, either. They’re from all over the country (all ~50 or so of them don’t live and work in Irving, TX), and among their ranks are past and current unit leaders, district committee members, council officers, etc.

      And to MB:

      I think a lot of this is YMMV, and if your experience has been negative, I’m sorry about that. I know my council doesn’t turn away willing hands who can contribute to the program. When I’ve had the opportunity as an adult to do things beyond the local unit level, it’s not been precisely because of who I know; it’s been because I’ve done something that worked well enough to attract the attention of someone who’s in a position to offer me the chance to participate in something new or different (note I didn’t say “higher” or “better” or “more important”). In my experience, opportunities are offered based on previous performance, not due to nepotism or because I can make major financial contributions (I can’t).

      I think you do a great disservice to lots of thoughtful, passionate volunteers when you suggest that money, not knowledge and skill are the requirement for regional or national service. At least with the groups I’ve worked with, it has been the best and brightest – not the richest or most powerful.

      I agree about transparency, to a degree – I think we’re getting better about that. (The OA website lists all of the committee members, for example, and there are mechanisms for direct feedback to them). But as I said earlier, we already have channels in place to provide feedback on National initiatives through our councils, and many if not most people don’t take advantage of those. Lots of people want the phone number of someone in Irving, when in my experience working it out locally is not only faster, but more effective. A member of a national committee or task force certainly wants input and feedback, but may not have the time to personally answer X number of phone calls at all hours of the day (after all, they’re volunteers who have a finite number of hours they can devote to their Scouting).

      In general, I’m somewhat disappointed that what should be viewed by all as a positive thing – getting youth directly involved in Scouting’s future – became another opportunity to lob stones at hard-working professionals and dedicated volunteers. Why does there have to be an “us” vs. “them” in Scouting? In my 30+ years, I’ve met several Scouters who I disagreed with on various interpretations of policy or implementations of program, but can think of only one or two whom I could truly say were acting for anything other than the genuine best interest of the movement.

      • A few comments-

        Yeah, a lot is YMMV. I can say that working in 2 councils I see a very night and day difference between the 2 in how members are treated by both employees and other members. And I know some other members have comments to me they have noticed the same thing. Some councils are very good about getting members involved, and others are not. And trying to get involved above that council level (area, region, national) can be harder in some places then in others.

        “I think you do a great disservice to lots of thoughtful, passionate volunteers when you suggest that money, not knowledge and skill are the requirement for regional or national service.” No I don’t. I happen to know there ARE some great people involved at those levels. BUT I also know there are several people involved who have little skill or knowledge and only got their because of money or who they knew, and often do nothing. They make the other dedicated people look bad, IMO.

        “But as I said earlier, we already have channels in place to provide feedback on National initiatives through our councils, and many if not most people don’t take advantage of those.” Those channels may exist, but many rank & file members are not told of them, or they are discouraged from using them or worse, they know that any input, feedback or the rest WON’T go any further then their council. Again, in other organizations is why they DON’T put up such roadblocks, and make things more transparent in terms of KNOWING who the people are in the organization about the local level and that these people INTERACT with the members of the organization. Makes it much easier to get this vital feedback.

        “In general, I’m somewhat disappointed that what should be viewed by all as a positive thing – getting youth directly involved in Scouting’s future – became another opportunity to lob stones at hard-working professionals and dedicated volunteers. Why does there have to be an “us” vs. “them” in Scouting?”

        Good question, which your posts didn’t answer. For some of us, we have mixed feelings about this. On one hand we think this can be a great thing: as you said having youth directly involved in Scouting’s future. But on the other hand we’ve seen things mucked up too much because those in power are not willing to allow others to come on board and help and contribute and change and improve. It is THESE people, the ones who hide behind unknown positions and committees who help create and maintain the “us vs them” attitude that frustrates many members. Again, I go back to other organizations I’m part of. We don’t keep secret who is part of the organization above the local level. We don’t turn away good people who want to help, or show them how they can get involved. I find it funny that in the many years in the BSA, I’ve NEVER had any one involved above the council level explain how one could do the same, whereas in other organizations those who express an interest ARE helped out in getting involved.

        If someone where to go to their council office and say they’d like to be involved at the area, regional, or national level, even if just on a committee, would they be helped to make that happen, or be shooed away??? think about that.

        • Branden: “Why does there have to be an “us” vs. “them” in Scouting?”

          MB: “Good question, which your posts didn’t answer.”

          In a way, it did – because I certainly don’t think there should be.

      • Brandon,
        Your experience is obviously with the OA, so with the information at hand we have the OA electing their officers by youth (OA standards under 21) and having a number of their officers 18-21, many absent from their parent unit on a regular basis (collage). How many average arrowmen know who their Section or National Chief is (outside their home Lodges)?
        Then you have Venturing, the newer program of the bunch, where all of the Area, Regional and National Officers are selected by adults.
        Venturing at any level above the District is still in early stages of growth. 99% of all Venturers could not tell you who their Area or National Reps are.
        Sea Scouts I guess would be somewher in between the two.

        Just by these facts, these kids are not a realistic example of our BSA youth. And from what is noted above nor are they selected by their peers. They are 24 youth from all the programs, Handpicked by Irving.

        My issues are that National is doing everything BUT contact the units themselves. This BEYOUND show is a great example.
        Why was this a big secret? Why did they not announce this in advance so that valuable input could be given?
        So, just because we here it on this page that 300-500 youth will be a part of this in the future? Something of this nature should be front page news in every council! Where’s the input on that?
        Irving is famous at doing things in secret with just the privileged few in on the details.

        I agree that this BEYOND show is just that, a show.

        And please don’t try to make it seem like Irving is full of Volunteers with a few overworked Professionals. And calling them is bad? When your Council won’t answer your questions who do you call?
        They (and you) seem to forget why we are here. To serve our youth.

        All Scouting is local. The sooner Irving remembers that, then the solutions to our future will be found.

        • “How many average arrowmen know who their Section or National Chief is (outside their home Lodges)?”

          Not all of them, certainly. But if your average youth Arrowman is active in social media, attends a section conclave, goes to the regionally-delivered National Leadership Seminar, attends a NOAC or SummitCorps or other national event, then they’ve got the opportunity to meet and interact with their national officers.

          And if they don’t – is that horrible? To the average youth Arrowman, who has no interest in conclave or NOAC or whatnot, then they should know their local lodge officers – if that’s where their program interest lies.

          “Just by these facts, these kids are not a realistic example of our BSA youth. And from what is noted above nor are they selected by their peers.”

          I don’t know how you can state that they’re not a realistic example of our BSA youth. They advance. They camp. They serve as leaders. How is any of that not a realistic example of our youth?

          “And please don’t try to make it seem like Irving is full of Volunteers with a few overworked Professionals.”

          I actually said the opposite – the vast majority of people who are responsible for the BSA’s policies and programs are volunteers who neither live nor work in Texas. And yes, from what I know from friends who are professionals employed at the national office, there are fewer of them than there should be (just like most of our councils run on pretty lean staffs) – so yep, most of them probably do put in more than 40 hours per week.

          “They (and you) seem to forget why we are here. To serve our youth.”

          Hardly. I’m a unit leader myself, in addition to some other roles. That’s a pretty bold claim to make without really knowing me, and frankly a fairly insulting one.

          -Branden

    • I’m sorry, but with the way this Comment Page sorts replies, this comment by Alan is hilarious! (No disrespect intended Alan.) and I’m proud to be a scout too!!:o)

  7. “No topic is taboo or off-limits.” I hope that extends to the big three – Girls, God, and Gays. I love Scouting, but we really need to end our organization’s official discriminatory policies. Scouting should not be in the role of telling us what to believe, with whom to associate, and what gender can benefit from our programs.

    • Here Here For Gene,
      It’s about time Scouting in American catches up with Scouting in the WORLD. Where Girls and Gays are more than Welcome. Scout for girls starts at Cubs in the UK and many other countries and there are co-ed scout troops even in Muslim countries, so why not in America. Gays are welcome in all and it’s not a Don’t Tell policy. The other grip I have is ending Scouting at 18 and Venturing at 21. Again Scouting events in other parts of the world go to 25. There should be active Scouting programs at the College level.
      As to OA THAT I think is a elite organization within an organization and I encourage my boys NOT to join.
      Now 2 of the people who did attend this meeting I do know, and they are your average Joe’s from a troop or crew and not hand picked and they do not come from privilidge or wealth. And they are also not your typical Nerdy Scout either, and their insight into the program will open a few eyes I’m sure.

      • >> It’s about time Scouting in American catches up with Scouting in the WORLD.

        I never understood this statement. I guess you want co-ed public bathrooms, too. Bidets to replace toilet papers. Look, American scouting does NOT need to “catch up with the rest of the world.” Why should BSA change its sex segregation? Give me one good reasons … and no, the co-ed reason isn’t good enough. This is how BSA and GSA works. If you don’t like it then create your own organization of called USFE = Utopian Scouting for Everyone.

    • Girls = Girls Scouts of America
      God = I remember that’s in the Scout Oath and in the Cub Scout Promise. You might as well send a letter to the POTUS on changing the slogans on our money, too.
      Gays = I don’t remember a Scout being thrown out of his troop if he came out. As for hiring, I believe it’s a DADT. If you do tell, then the gatekeeper has every right to not hire you. Why? Because, it’s for the children.

      >> but we really need to end our organization’s official discriminatory policies

      Hogwash.

  8. Scouting is a unique place in today’s world. You are free to express your feelings, but it is wrong to encourage youth or leaders to wish for a more lenient stand on gays or on the necessity of a belief in God to become a part of what Boy Scouting is and hopefully will remain. A belief in God and an understanding of His plan for families leaves no place for condoning homosexual behavior. If such behavior were to become prevalent the entire human race could be wiped out in a single generation. I know this will never happen, but to make space for the possibility is unwise and cowardly. Each person who escapes a homosexual lifestyle has a much more difficult road to travel than if they had never thought it was OK or natural to begin that road in the first place, if there had been someone at the crossroads. Speak out for right and truth – things as they are, as they were and as they will be. Stand straight and tall and don’t be afraid to stand against intruding movements. Face it ike a man. The debate is sure to go on, but Scouters must support the youth in righteousness. You do them no favors by keeping the peace at all costs. Remember the emperors new clothes?

  9. As one of those lowly volunteers that just does her pack, troop, crew things and works on our council NYLT staff I actually am excited about this meeting. My two older boys knew about half of the youth that were there. My sons that are 19 and 18 are highly involved youth. With NYLT spl, OA section offices, troop positions, crew positions, council committee positions, and Nayle staff positions they have seen and met tons of youth. They thought that the youth that were chosen to go to this were excellent people. They are excited that at a National level they are putting the program back in the youth’s hands. With kids that preach and teach youth run, youth run, youth run… I think it’s about time that National did something like this. When my son returned from being SCL for Nayle session 2 he told me all about this meeting because 2 of the staffers under him were headed straight there. They talked his ear off about it and how excited they were to be going. If these youth that were there are anything like what my sons tell me I think National did a fine job getting a group together to represent scouting. Let’s not count this as a bad thing until we see where they go to over the next year and whether what comes out of this year and next will be implemented through out scouting. That’s the critical part of youth run, will the adults do what the kids want?

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