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Ask the Expert: Who approves the Eagle Scout Project Final Plan?

expertlogo1Trevor, a Life Scout, recently got his Eagle Scout Project Proposal OK’d by his unit leader, unit committee, the project beneficiary and his council or district.

With that complete, next up in the process is filling out a Eagle Scout Project Final Plan, which the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook says is a tool for the Scout’s use only. Nobody approves it, though it’s recommended Trevor share it with his project coach.

Here’s where a little bit of tension arises.

Trevor (not his real name) asks his Scout leader whether he can simply begin work on the project and complete the Eagle Scout Project Final Plan section of his Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook after the project is completed. In other words, he’d essentially be creating an after-action report rather than a plan.

Eagle Scout Service Project Final PlanHe wants to take a “wing-it-as-I go” approach to planning the project and write down what he does as he does it.

His Scout leader — we’ll call him Paul — isn’t sure how to respond. There are no Scout leader approvals required at this stage. So he coaches the Scout to encourage him to develop a plan before beginning the project.

It works, and Trevor agrees to complete the Eagle Scout Project Final Plan.

However, because Paul’s approval isn’t required, Paul wonders what would have happened if Trevor refused to complete his Eagle Scout Project Final Plan in advance of beginning work on the project. Trevor, Paul tells me, tends to challenge authority and might have said, “it says I don’t need your approval, so I’m going to do it my way.”

So Paul wrote me asking, “Is there any mechanism in place that requires a Scout to complete the Final Plan of the Eagle Project Workbook before beginning work on his project?”

Michael Lo Vecchio of the BSA’s Content Management Team helped me find the answer, which you can find after the jump.

Guide to Advancement

Section 9.0.2.9 in the Guide to Advancement states: “Remind the Scout to share his plan with the project beneficiary; the beneficiary should be fully aware of what will be done. Note that a final plan for an Eagle Scout service project is between the Scout and the beneficiary. Coaches do not approve final plans.” (I added the bold, by the way.)

Remember, Eagle Scout Service Project Coaches are optional. Working with one is the Scout’s decision.

That means Paul doesn’t have the authority to require a Eagle Scout Project Final Plan or approve/reject one once it’s filled out.

However …

Project beneficiaries

The Final Plan is not required or approved by the BSA or a Scout leader, but the beneficiary organization can require the Scout to complete that plan so they would both have the same understanding of what is expected.

The document “Navigating the Eagle Scout Service Project: Information for Project Beneficiaries” (PDF) explains this.

Look for the section on “Approving Final Plans” at the top of Page 2.

Remember this document is speaking to project beneficiaries, so when it says “you” it generally means the person in charge at the project site. It’s not speaking to Scouters.

Here’s the excerpt:

Approving Final Plans

Before work begins, you should ask to see the plan. It may come in any format you desire or are willing to accept. It could even be a detailed verbal description.

That said, the BSA includes a “Final Plan” form in your Scout’s Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, and we recommend that you ask your Scout to use it.

If in your plan review you have any concerns the project may run into trouble or not produce the results you want, do not hesitate to require improvements before work begins.

Still have questions?

I found the introductory pages on the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook (PDF) quite informative. Likewise for the relevant pages in the Guide to Advancement.

61 Comments on Ask the Expert: Who approves the Eagle Scout Project Final Plan?

  1. Experienced Scouter // May 20, 2014 at 9:11 am // Reply

    This system simply does not work. Project beneficiaries are oftentimes completely unfamiliar with Scouting and our processes. Placing the burden of requiring a final plan externally on the project beneficiary, and not internally on Scouting leaders, does not work. Project beneficiaries just want the work done; many of them could care less about how a Scout learns and grows from the experience. Far too often, under this new workbook and procedures, Scouts are no longer appropriately planning and developing an Eagle project. Rather, like this Scoutmaster suggests, current Eagle candidates are shooting from the hip and winging it as they go. This is not acceptable. This new workbook and accompanying procedures are an absolute disservice to Scouts.

    Please revert to the old system that ensured Scouts properly planned and executed their Eagle projects. This new, lower level of standard simply does not work.

    • Summit Scouter // May 20, 2014 at 10:39 am // Reply

      The new system works fine for us. Here are two considerations that may solve possible issues regarding the plan and beneficiaries.

      1. Provide the best leadership and coaching and mentoring you can so that the boy understands the benefit of the plan and will do it without question because he understands the benefit of it. Okay, I realize that is a lot easier said than done sometimes. However, number two is easy to do and directly addresses undesirable beneficiaries.

      2. Don’t approve projects unless the beneficiaries are on board and understand the purpose of the Eagle Scout project. As SM or CC, why would you approve a project where the beneficiary is just looking for free labor? In this respect, the unit has indirect control over the plan and its approval.

      • Spot on.

      • I heard: “his system simply does not work. Project beneficiaries are oftentimes completely unfamiliar with Scouting and our processes. Placing the burden of requiring a final plan externally on the project beneficiary, and not internally on Scouting leaders, does not work.”

        However, I do not believe that putting it in the hands of Scouting Leaders is a smart idea either. I have seen Scouting Volunteers argue over a project for nearly an hour over what kind of nails are used on a project.

        It’s not their call. It’s not the unit’s call. It’s not the district’s call. It has always been the chartered organizations call.

        I bump the Scouts to speak with the Beneficiary, and give suggestions to make it long lasting. As I said – it is not a “Scouting” call to make.

    • Experience Scouter nailed it. The process now does not work. The Scout wants his Eagle (usually as fast as he can get it) and the beneficiary has no clue about what to expect. Even if the SM advises the beneficiary to review a copy of the Final Plan with the Scout, there is no guarantee it will be sufficient to meet the objective of demonstrating leadership.

      Unless the SM or Eagle Coach can work with the Scout to make sure the Final Plan is well-planned, organized and meets the stated objectives in the Draft Proposal, then all you have are self-interested parties looking out for themselves. There’s no quality check. I might as well have my 4 year-old pick what they want for dinner: Cookies or broccoli. Which do you think they’ll pick?

      Please change the process. We need stronger Scouts, not weaker ones.

    • Experience Scouter nailed it. The process now does not work. The Scout wants his Eagle (usually as fast as he can get it) and the beneficiary has no clue about what to expect. Even if the SM advises the beneficiary to review a copy of the Final Plan with the Scout, there is no guarantee it will be sufficient to meet the objective of demonstrating leadership.

      Unless the SM or Eagle Coach can work with the Scout to make sure the Final Plan is well-planned, organized and meets the stated objectives in the Draft Proposal, then all you have are self-interested parties looking out for themselves. There’s no quality check. I might as well have my 4 year-old pick what they want for dinner: Cookies or broccoli. Which do you think they’ll pick?

      Please change the process. We need stronger Scouts, not weaker ones.

      • But that’s just it. SM’s and coaches CAN work with the Scout. We simply cannot require the Scout to use them if he doesn’t want to.

        “there is no guarantee it will be sufficient to meet the objective of demonstrating leadership” – How can this be when BOTH the SM and the beneficiary must sign off that the project was completed “according to requirement 5 and page 4 of this workbook” ?

        If the Scout demonstrated enough leadership to complete the requirement, as written, then by definition, that “will be sufficient”.

      • FormerScouter // July 1, 2014 at 10:13 am // Reply

        Disagree with you on this. As the the beneficiary I have more of a clue than you think. Just had a project that would have been a disaster if left to the Scout leaders and would have NEVER been signed off by me.

  2. Where was the document for the beneficiaries found? I can send the link, but it would be better if I can point people to the webpage containing the resource to download the document themselves.

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 10:23 am // Reply

      Chris, it is now included in the updated Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook. http://www.scouting.org/advancement

  3. I couldn’t not agree with Experienced Scouter more. Recently I had a project beneficiary tell me (this is a direct quote) “I don’t give a rats XXX whether this kid finishes his eagle project. I get free labor, so I’m going to use it while these kids are here.” He was a friend of mine (outside of scouts obviously), so he was candid with me. I have to believe other beneficiaries, and probably a lot of them, have the same mindset. Making the beneficiary the only person that can require a final plan is a self defeating prophecy because they don’t care about our scout and his goals. The also don’t know or don’t care about the ideals of scouting and what we are trying to accomplish in these boys. They just want the work done, an eagle project provide a free labor and fundraising source. If we want to ensure scouts get a positive learning experience and actually develop a plan from the eagle project experience we need to ensure the plan in-house within scouting. There needs to me a review of the final plan before the scout begins his work, so that those within scouting can ensure the project plan meets the goals of scouting. Otherwise the eagle project is just a regual service project and the scout will learn nothing.

    • No, you need to help Scouts find better beneficiaries. The proper response to the “beneficiary” you described should have been “See ya.” Your committee and unit leader should have withheld signature on the proposal solely based on that statement.

      Trying to partner with folks that openly state they don’t care about the Scout or the program is the “self defeating prophecy” you spoke of.

  4. Chris Wilt // May 20, 2014 at 9:54 am // Reply

    This part of the project is not good for either the scout or scouting. There are too many opportunities for failure. As an Eagle coach, Scoutmaster, and District Comm. Member, I can tell you it is not a good practice. The devil is on the details and most of is want to see the details before initial signatures are given. Our goal is to help the scout succeed and to not embarrass either him or scouting. This form needs redone.

  5. Annette Jenkins // May 20, 2014 at 10:01 am // Reply

    My son just earned his Eagle. Yay! When it came to the final plan, his coach and council asked to see it. We had no problem with that. All in all it went smoothly.

  6. While I agree with you, Experienced, the issue is the level of “control” which the Scoutmaster (and for that matter, the Troop Committee Chair for some reason) had with the Scout in completing the leadership/service project. This is the reason why that “do loop” was removed. The Scoutmaster needs to be involved in guiding the Scout toward an appropriate project; but once the Scout has received approvals from those he need to, he should be working with the “benefactor” toward getting done what the benefactor agreed to (or what the two of them agree should be modified to get the project done). The Scout should not have to “slingshot” back and forth between benefactor and Scoutmaster (or anyone else) to get the project complete. This was why the process was changed…

    Now, I agree that most benefactors could care less — they just want to see that whatever they agreed to is done — it is still their coordination with the Scout which should play the most part in the project’s completion. If anywhere where the Scoutmaster and/or the Troop Committee Chair (why?)’s interaction with anyone, that’s where it should be — and only to gives the benefactor a “heads up” as to the reasoning behind the project — other than “it needs to be done and the Scout chose that thing to do his project behind.”

  7. I explain to Scouts that the plan is part of their leadership, and will be evaluated to see whether they led the project. A good plan could be executed by someone else. If a Scout was getting their appendix removed and someone else ran a day of work from their plan, I might say they showed leadership for that day.

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 10:25 am // Reply

      Walter, this is not part of Requirement 5.

    • Aaron Small // May 20, 2014 at 7:58 pm // Reply

      Walter, you are spot on. I have spoken to our district eagle board members and they have asked to see the final plan. The most important part of the service project is to show leadership in providing a service to the community. They don’t have to do the final plan. However, If they don’t, it is much more difficult to show how they were prepared and led others who helped with the project.

  8. Matt Culbertson // May 20, 2014 at 10:34 am // Reply

    There is a newly posted May 2014 version of the EWB:

    http://www.scouting.org/Home/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/EagleWorkbookProcedures-PC.asp

    New Eagle workbook now online @ http://scouting.org/advancement . Content mostly the same, but reorganized. Project beneficiary info sheet included. Scouts currently working in the Eagle workbook that has been online may continue with it. Those starting the process should use new workbook.

    A couple of items to note is that the scout must now show and the beneficiary acknowledges in a check box that he has given them the Project Beneficiary sheet. There is also verbiage in a number of different spots that refer to “Completing the Final Plan” starting on page 3.

    Final Plan Completion or Final Plan approval?

    The mechanism the SM might be looking for during his meeting(s) with the scout is to remind that the scout, by his signature, he certifies he has read the entire workbook and therefore he has read the boxed material on the cover page to the Final Plan section and how his EP will be evaluated on how his “planning and development” part of Requirement 5 happen. His Eagle Coach can also play a big role here. Ask the scout if he is “risk taker”. Also sounds like he’s got bigger issues with his attitude.

    It doesn’t say what the scout’s EP is that he doesn’t think he needs a plan upfront but I personally have not seen an Eagle Project where the project could be successfully completed without the Final Plan completed and onsite during the project day(s).

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 10:54 am // Reply

      Interesting, Matt. I know a lot of Scouts who did not complete the Final Plan section of the workbook and had successful projects only to fill in the Final Plan section after the fact.

      You and I would agree that they must of had a plan someplace even if that place was in their head.

      The point here I think is that the goal is the successful project that includes planning. The goal is not to fill in the Final Project Plan section of the workbook to a level that it would pass muster of an district or unit Scouter.

      We must keep our eyes on the goal here. And the goal is to successfully complete Requirement 5; not to have a perfect workbook.

      • Matt Culbertson // May 20, 2014 at 11:06 am // Reply

        Bill..what kinds of projects were these? Also what is the point of filling out the FP after the fact?

        Clearly the goal is a successful EP that meets the requirement by showing “Planning, Development and Leadership”. I’m not looking for a perfect anything…Proposal, Final Plan or Final report. However to me the most important section in the entire WB is in the Final Plan – “Work Processes” – “How everything comes together” This isn’t just the stuff but the leadership piece as well. Can the scout have this on a 3×5 card? I guess.

        • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 11:24 am //

          All kinds of projects Matt. And why did they do it before the EBOR? Because they were afraid of being called out on it.

        • Matt Culbertson // May 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm //

          Interesting…I was wondering if it was certain types of EP such as collection or community awareness ones. The 2nd part of doing the FP after the fact due to “fear” is much more disturbing and a whole new issue. If the scout had the ability to execute his EP without a FP, he should have been able to explain it at his EBOR.

  9. Experienced Scouter // May 20, 2014 at 10:36 am // Reply

    Mike, I think a middle ground needs to be reached. Your concerns are valid, but I firmly believe we’ve gone from one extreme to the other. We went from (arguably) too much oversight to a grossly insufficient amount of oversight. We need to find a middle ground that works. I would suggest two phases of review: the proposal AND the final plan. This would ensure the Scout selects a good project (the proposal approval) before putting significant time into the project, and it would also ensure the Scout develops the project appropriately (the final plan approval) once the proposal is approved.

    Yes, some people did abuse the old system. In my experience, these people were the exception rather than the rule. I’m sure some people abuse the new system too. But, under this new method, there is virtually no review at all — the proposal is a rubber stamp approval. Too little information is required at the proposal juncture, and approval is thus given prematurely. Just because a project has the potential to be developed into a worthy eagle project and is approved at the proposal phase does not mean that it was, in actuality, developed into that worthy project at the final plan stage — this is why a review of the final plan is needed.

    And, if we’re in agreement that project beneficiaries could care less about the goals of Scouting, then we need to fix that problem as well. There needs to be procedures in place to ensure the beneficiaries are helping the Scout achieve the goals of Scouting. Making a phone call to the beneficiary about the process is fine and dandy, but an approval of the project final plan by someone in Scouting — to ensure the goals of Scouting are met — should be part of the Eagle project process.

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 10:41 am // Reply

      Scouts have the option of utilizing project coaches and unit project advisers. You just can’t mandate that he write a project plan that you approve. You give guidance and you check with him to make sure things are going by his plan. Ask him what his plan is. Discuss planning. Get status. But don’t mandate anything.

  10. Great article and resource for those involved in oversight of the Eagle Scout Service Project (ESSP) process. And, although I agree with much of the previous posters comments, there is one thing you left out of this discussion — there is some form of “approval”, albeit weak and belated, through the Eagle Board of Review process. As stated on the last page of the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook (p.22), under “Evaluating the Project After Completion”: and I quote…”There must also be evidence of planning and development. This is not only part of the requirement, but relates to practicing our motto to “Be Prepared'”. Like many things in this new Workbook, its a little too vague for my taste, but it is stated, so the national committee who put this together must have wanted some review of this stage. This is supposed to be checked at the candidates Eagle Board of Review. Now I will be the first to admit most people who sit on these boards haven’t got a clue about the finer points of the ESSP process other than the general understanding that its a “challenge that requires leadership”. However, these boards are administered by district (or council) representatives, and They should be aware (and educate other board members) of this requirement to demonstrate “evidence of planning and development” beyond the project’s Proposal Approval. This can be a difficult decision under certain circumstances and, unfortunately, this venue (Eagle BOR) makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to refuse this rank advancement based on insufficient evidence of meeting this “Final Plan” requirement. Not even going into “time issues”, this, in itself, is not right or fair to either reviewer or candidate!

    There are many short comings with the new ESSP which is a discussion for another time. There should be however, more awareness (and dare I say education) on the part of Project Coaches and district representatives of this requirement so the boys could be better advised during their projects. There is also one simple solution that could go a long way towards rectifying this, and other, problems with the new ESSP process…MAKE PROJECT COACHES REQUIRED as part of the process, and require them to sign off on Final Plans and perhaps even the Fundraising Applications. This would go a long way in bringing more oversight and guidance into the process…for the sake of the boy’s success.

    For the record, there are a lot of positives about the new ESSP process, but I think the national committee went way to far in the opposite direction in trying to correct problems & abuses that had crept into this process over the years. They should have put more faith and oversight responsibility into the hands of Project Coaches. Just my opinion as a longtime Eagle advisor and district review committee member.

    Thanks again Bryan for a great article and resource…as usual!
    “Scoutingislife”

  11. The real conflict, I think, is between Scouts who simply want to complete the requirement and Scouters who want to impose their own version of the requirements on the Scouts.

    I have noticed the new workbook is much more popular with Scouts than long time Scouters, probably because it eliminates the “analysis paralysis” that bogged down Scouts in the past and yet, provided plenty of evidence the service “was acceptable”.

    A significant burden should be placed on the beneficiary! After all, that is who the project is ultimately supposed to service! We need to engage them MORE thoughtfully and ensure they actually have a vested interest in the service. I actively discourage Scouts from choosing disinterested beneficiaries precisely because it short circuits the whole process.

    Side note – I walked a uniformed Scout over to a potential beneficiary recently and when we hit the door, the guy was shaking his head no saying “We don’t need anything done at all.” Evidently, they had plenty of Life Scout traffic in that place over the years! However, the Scout explained his proposal and the beneficiary immediately changed his tune and said “Yes, we would absolutely be interested in this! Oh wait, I know what we could do to really make this great……..” and we were off to the races. It was fantastic.

    We need to do everything we can to get the beneficiaries fully engaged in the project and the process. We MUST change! We also need to get the unit committees more involved in reviewing and discussing these proposals. Remember, if it requires a signature, then the person who signed it MUST APPROVE.

    • I think Scouts like the new workbook more because it is easier to get your eagle using it. The level of acceptable planning and leadership has been significantly reduced with this new workbook, which makes the process easier for the Scout. Of course he’s going to like it better.

  12. Let’s be realistic. Do we want to review the final project AFTER it has been done to see if it appropriately meets the requirement? Or should be do it BEFORE the project starts by requiring a detailed Final Plan approval?

    With the time these boys put in to Scouting, wouldn’t it be better (and more positive) to teach these boys proper planning through a formal review and sign off on a Final Plan? Rather than having the extremely negative experience of having one’s completed project rejected as insufficient?

    Makes no sense.

  13. So, the proposal section needs approvals…unit leader, committee, beneficiary, and Council or District…but then the final plan can be informal, and using the workbook is recommended, but no approval is needed, other than giving the beneficiary the chance to look it over. But then the unit leader and beneficiary have to sign the final project report?? So does that mean the workbook is mandatory for the proposal and final report sections (and the fundraising section is used)?

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 11:39 am // Reply

      The workbook must be used. That is part of Requirement 5 “You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.”

      The final signatures by the unit leader and beneficiary have to do with the project being completed, they don’t signify that all sections of the workbook were completed to their satisfaction.

      Here is what their final signatures state: “In my opinion, this Eagle Scout service project meets Eagle Scout requirement 5, as stated on page 4 of this workbook”

      • Thanks…I am relatively new to being a Scoutmaster to a bunch of Life Scouts, one of which is my son. I have a lot to learn about the new processes. :)

        • I would not put the final signature on an Eagle workbook unless the plan was finished. Using the workbook means using the workbook to record your plan and your report.

  14. I say this simply for the sake of discussion. At what point have we gone too far in doing things to ensure a scout’s success? I mean…at some point, we have made it so easy that…well, what’s the point. No one helped me on my project. No one discussed it with me in detail or checked my plan. It was hard. It was challenging. I almost didn’t finish because I got frustrated. But I didn’t give up. I worked through it and accomplished the goal. I learned a lot about myself and how to get things done. Isn’t that the point? We provide tools that lay it all out for them, and here we are discussing how involved adult leaders should be, and who should sign what and when. If I had to deal with all that, I may not have finished “my” project.

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm // Reply

      The project requirement isn’t simple. It is a lot harder to complete than it was in the 1960s.

      • Hey, I’m no that old. it was 1989!! :) I am not against the new system…just saying that for conversation.

    • Spencer Morasch // May 20, 2014 at 12:19 pm // Reply

      I completed my Eagle project in 1972. There was no workbook or format to follow. The final report was a blank piece of paper. I still have my final report – it’s just one page. But my project was involved and required a lot of planning and preparation. It was both MY project and MY responsibility to carry it through to completion. The new format puts more of the burden of good planning and preparation on the Scout. He assumes a lot more responsibility, which is how it should be. Mistakes will happen, but he will learn from them and overcome them. Just like real life!

      • In real life there is a support structure and review processes. Teachers supervise work of students and approve work as assignments progress. Teachers ask for drafts, review them with suggestions and note areas for improvement, set minimum requirements, and coach the student to develop the best possible outcome.

        Employers supervise their employee’s projects and approve phases as the projects progress. Status updates are required, and employers provide feedback, set requirements, and provide project direction and coaching.

        Why is an Eagle project plan development different?

    • Perhaps, if there was more structure to the system back when you completed your Eagle, you would have had a more positive experience. Maybe you would have not become discouraged, because a support structure was firmly in place, and maybe you would not have become so frustrated and nearly given up.

      Just something to ponder.

  15. Spencer Morasch // May 20, 2014 at 12:08 pm // Reply

    I’ve been an Eagle Project Coach for over 10 years now, with over 30 successful projects, so I’m well familiar with both the old format and new. Since the new format took effect, even though I stress to the Scout that I’m here to help him work on the Project Final Plan right after I become one of the 4 required approval signatures for his Project Proposal, it is rare that I see the Project Final Plan before the physical work begins on the project. So the evidence is pretty strong that most likely, the Project Final Plan is being written after the fact. There is even a place on the Project Final Plan for the Coach to provide his comments & suggestions, but it is certainly not an official approval.

    To date, even though I rarely see the Project Final Plan till after the project has been completed, the Scouts are indeed successfully leading and completing their projects. So the new format is indeed “working”.

    Now here is the bottom line – if the Scout does indeed “wing it” and decide to start on his project without a Project Final Plan, it is indeed his call, AND his RESPONSIBILITY. It will truly be a learning experience, if for example, he’s got a whole crew out to help him, then finds out he’s got no place to plug in power tools because he failed to plan to have a generator there on site. Trust me, he will learn from the experience, and as a result become a stronger, more prepared leader. It’s similar to patrol leaders who fail to plan their meals, then find out the hard way on a campout that a key ingredient is missing for their meal.

    So instead of the Eagle Project “process” being a cookie cutter detailed plan / process,
    it is more open, and puts responsibility on the Scout, which is indeed the right thing to do, as out in real life, as we all know, our adult processes don’t have all the checks and approvals there all the time. We learn from our mistakes. It’s no different for Eagle LEADERSHIP Projects!

  16. Teachers supervise work of students and approve work as assignments progress. Teachers ask for drafts, review them with suggestions and note areas for improvement, set minimum requirements, and coach the student to develop the best possible outcome.

    Employers supervise their employee’s projects and approve phases as the projects progress. Status updates are required, and employers provide feedback and provide project direction and coaching.

    Why is an Eagle project plan development different? Why, in Scouting, is there no oversight or review process for Eagle project development beyond the initial proposal? The current Eagle project process has no comparable association with reality. The former version was more realistic and practical — it was better preparation for life. At no other time in a Scouts life will he be told, “the idea is approved; now you can do whatever you want, and no one has the authority to require you to do anything”

    The project beneficiary and Scouting have two completely different objectives when it comes to Eagle projects. The Beneficiaries want to get the work done, and the Scouts experience is secondary. Scouting wants the Scout to have a meaningful learning experience, and the project completion is secondary. Each entity should have procedures in place to ensure its goal is accomplished. Scouting should not reply on beneficiaries to ensure Scouting’s goals are met. Scouting, not the project beneficiary, has the primary responsibility of ensuring a project plan is developed in a way that will be beneficial to the Scout.

    • Bill Nelson // May 20, 2014 at 5:59 pm // Reply

      I tend to look at it this way:

      Eagle Scout Candidates really are not students nor employees. They are project leads. Their ‘customer’ is the beneficiary, not the BSA, not the troop, not the district. That is why it is up to the beneficiary how much planning needs to be done up front before they allow the Scout to work for them. That is why there is a beneficiary guideline. http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/510-025.pdf

      Their reward to doing the project of the type and scope the BSA wants and to the satisfaction of the beneficiary is the passing of the Eagle Scout Requirement #5.

      • I think you missed the whole last paragraph that Frank wrote:

        “The project beneficiary and Scouting have two completely different objectives when it comes to Eagle projects. The Beneficiaries want to get the work done, and the Scouts experience is secondary. Scouting wants the Scout to have a meaningful learning experience, and the project completion is secondary. Each entity should have procedures in place to ensure its goal is accomplished. Scouting should not reply on beneficiaries to ensure Scouting’s goals are met. Scouting, not the project beneficiary, has the primary responsibility of ensuring a project plan is developed in a way that will be beneficial to the Scout.”

        I couldn’t agree with Frank more. Beneficiaries have a different objective than Scouting. We all know it.

  17. Brian Davidson // May 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm // Reply

    Coming in from the perspective of a new Scoutmaster but a long-time technical writer, I’ve got to wonder if part of the problem the Scoutmaster Bryan mentions is the apparent redundancy between the “proposal” and the “final plan.” Both cover essentially the same ground (planning and development, leadership on the part of the candidate, supplies and tools needed, fundrasing, feasibility of the project, etc.).

    What might be more beneficial for the Scout and the beneficiary — leaving Scoutmasters out of the loop for the moment — would be a section of the workbook for the Scout to track how the project evolves from the time the proposal was approved to when it is completed. Hopefully, the Scout has thought about the project enough that there isn’t a big difference between the proposal and the final outcome, but things are going to change, no matter how well-planned a project might be. As a Scoutmaster, I’d be much more interested in seeing how Scouts dealt with challenges and the unexpected as they progressed through their project than knowing that they can jump through the same formalities twice.

    I’m on the cusp of dealing with two very young Life scouts — neither of them are fourteen yet — and in the proposal we’ll spend some time looking over the logistical challenges they’ll face. Yes, they need to learn from their mistakes, but they also need to learn that team members watch out for each other.

    And yes, there is a spot on the project report where challenges are to be discussed — but having a workbook section focusing on the challenges and changes and how they demonstrated leadership to overcome them as the project went on would help the Scouts be better prepared for the project closeout and be better prepared for their Eagle board of review.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad for the guidance from Bryan — I’m heading tonight to review the first proposal being brought to me by one of my Scouts. Hopefully, our meeting comes to a good conclusion.

  18. Sometimes, as has been said, the “final plan” is in the fellow’s head. My dad was a one armed carpenter(!). Try starting and driving a nail accurately one handed. He built things (sheds, stairs, back porches, knotty pine paneling) with only his folding rule, square, handsaw and hammer. I grew up watching him and helping him lay things out, describe them to his (rare) helpers and build them sans blueprint. He was one of the last carps who could cut rafters to measure by me calling out the measure from the roofline to him on the ground.
    If the PROJECT has been accepted and approved by the beneficiary, the Scout hierarchy , and any other “rule” judges (building codes?), I see no real reason for a “final plan ” page to be a necessary requirement; but hey, if the SM and EC haven’t convinced the Scout of the need to plan and list and ask “what if” to make sure he has the tools, supplies, sufficient help and skill to get the l PROJECT finished, then who is the “approver” of the finished product? If the SM and Beneficiary “sign off ” that the project is , indeed , “finished” , that boy is DONE.
    It starts, as had been said, with finding a beneficiary who wants MORE than merely “labor”. That is up to the Scout leaders.

  19. Eagle Ray CA // May 20, 2014 at 6:19 pm // Reply

    I received my Eagle many years ago. It certainly was not the project that my son completed in 2003. The development for him, (planning, leadership, communication), execution and review of his project was facilitated by the PROJECT REVIEW. The boy, if successful with the review, sometimes was able to start the project the following weekend. The review was performed at the District level, in our Council, by experienced and dedicated volunteers, who made sure that the boy would not be unprepared for the execution phase.

    The Eagle Rank (and accompanying project) in the 90s – 2000s, was a significant accomplishment that an employer or school could count on, and that distinguished the EAGLE Scout from others. They understood the development, planning and leadership skills that were needed for an Eagle Project. I am told that military academies had a question; Eagle? I am afraid that this New Eagle Scheme is diluting and denigrating the EAGLE and all that it stood for.

    NOW we are only able to review and approve a PROPOSAL. The completion of the project plan is left up to the Troop. Some troops are stronger than others. Some are larger than others. IF the troop is not strong, or large enough, will the boy be properly served? If a boy is time constrained (ie: most likely not properly prepared, and now being pushed by parents, what means do we have to be sure that he is preparing a QUALITY project and not just a “knock-off”?) The new board guidelines make it difficult to turn a candidate down, since there is no minimum number of hours and little guidance about the numbers of people needed(adult /youth) to show leadership. The judgment is in levels of grey. WHAT IS SUFFICIENT??

    From page 66 GTA; “The requirement that Scouts use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook means they must use the official document as produced by the Boy Scouts of America. Although…… informational elements of the workbook” WHY IS THERE THIS DRACONIAN WORDING if the workbook does not have to be completed prior to execution of the project??

    We have moved from “rules” to “guidelines”. Regretfully, in my belief, we are moving away from what the true meaning of the Eagle project and Leadership was, towards the “My child was Student of the month at @#$ school”. ONCE STANDARDS ARE REMOVED, THE EAGLE RANK is in danger of losing its respectability.

  20. Chris Hunt // May 21, 2014 at 8:20 am // Reply

    Did you know the Eagle project was not instituted until 1965? Were the Eagles presented before then, not what they are today? Most say Eagles of the past were worth more; not less. For the 20 years after that, only unit leaders approved them. Were those Eagles, too, not worth as much. Around 1985 the workbook came out, right?, and a signature line suggested the council or district approved the plan. BUT, the Boy Scout Requirements book–the official word on requirements–continued to say that only the project idea was required. It wasn’t until 2004 that the official requirement called council and district plan approval. That turned out to be a colossal mistake. Just 7 years later, in 2011, the abuse delivered on Scouts by over-zealous project plan reviewers became such that the requirement had to be revised. It’s interesting, though, that if you compare the requirement 5 of the past to that of today, you’ll see that today’s wording is more restrictive than any used up until 2004; a proposal–not just a plan or concept–must be approved. I may have some of the dates and wording a little off, but those of you who are the historians can set me straight.

    • Matt Culbertson // May 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm // Reply

      Chris..”Mr. History here” :-)

      The 1st mention of District/Council approval I can find appears in the 1982 BSRB. The 1st mention of requiring use of the Eagle Workbook appears in the 1991 BSRB. SM only approval was required until 1972 when the Committee’s approval was added.

      Also the new Venture Summit award req 5 has the same wording as Eagle Scout req 5 so will they use the EWB as well?

      • Matt Culbertson // May 21, 2014 at 2:12 pm // Reply

        More history…The wording in the 1982 BSRB says:

        5. While a Life Scout,plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to your religious institution, school, or community. The project idea must be approved by your Scoutmaster and troop committee and reviewed by the council or district before you start.

        There is some other verbage that talks to approval and review to “make sure it meets expected standards” and that approval doesn’t mean the EBOR will accept the way the project is planned and carried out.

        The wording “reviewed” by the District/Council was changed to “Approved” in the 1987 BSRB.

        • Chris Hunt // May 21, 2014 at 2:44 pm //

          Thanks for the additional info, Matt. So in 1965, SMs only, approved the project. In ’72 the unit committee is involved. 1987 the official requirement called for the council or district to approve an idea. Now it calls for the council or district to approve a proposal–more than an idea, right?, but not as much as a plan. Then in 2004 the official requirement mandates councils or districts approving plans. Then in 2011, complaints about over-zealous council and district reviewers got to the point where we had to dial back the approval to a proposal.

          So, it seems like the real question is, what was the effect of those different approaches on the Eagle “brand?” Men who earned the Eagle before ’65 say their’s is as good or better–without a project–than those who followed. And I’m sure those who earned it with a project approved only by the SM and troop committee are proud of theirs, too; and that those in the days of intensive plan approval by councils or districts, figure their Eagle is top knotch as well. But I’m pretty sure that in the eyes of the public, all the changes in project approval haven’t made much difference at all. In fact, we could probably go back to the pre-1965 approach, doing away with the project, and the Eagle brand wouldn’t miss a beat. That’s not going to happen, but thinking about that possibility might help bring the project into perspective. The magic of the Eagle Scout rank is not in the project. It’s one requirement out of more than 80 on the trail to Eagle, and most Scouts who earn it have been learning the lessons of Scouting for at least 5 or even 6 years. The magic lies in those years of experiences.

  21. Max Wells // May 28, 2014 at 5:17 pm // Reply

    So what do you do when an Eagle Candidate shows up for his EBOR with no Final Plan at all? …and the project shows it.

    • You hit the nail square on its head. Under the new guidelines, the only review of the project plan takes place at the Board of Review. This is far, far too late in the process to review a project for acceptability, and it could have disastrous consequences if the Scout does not have enough time to reattempt. Thus, a review at an earlier level is clearly appropriate.

      • As far as I know there never was a BSA requirement for the District / Council to review the project plan. Since day one, we reviewed project ‘ideas’ or ‘proposals’ then the Scout and the beneficiary, and possibly an Eagle Adviser, worked the plan for completing the project. There was no official sign off. Today the Beneficiary and unit leader sign off on successful completion of the project. So the district gets involved at the beginning with the project proposal stage and then at the end with the Eagle Board of Review. That is the way it has been since the districts have been involved with the process.

        • Sorry, just checked and from 2004 to 2010 the plan was approved by the District / Council

  22. Matt Culbertson // May 29, 2014 at 7:33 pm // Reply

    Max..”by showing it” I assume you mean the project wasn’t executed well. Not knowing all the details, if the scout’s EP doesn’t show planning and development as required and covered in the GTA and the Eagle Workbook, then it might be a good case not to advance him and let the process go from there. Or if he’s not 18, have him do another project. I might ask him to read the cover page of the Final Plan where it gives the scout guidance on doing the FP and going over it with his Coach and showing it to his sponsor and ask him what his interpretation is and ask him how he got it done with what he’s showing the EBOR.

  23. Kevin McLemore // June 13, 2014 at 1:51 am // Reply

    I have two important issues with the new process.

    First, as alluded to earlier, there is a potential for an Eagle Scout Leadership Project’s beneficiary to take advantage of the Eagle candidate by virtue of ‘scope creep’ or, as said earlier, ‘taking advantage of free labor’. The scout is at the mercy of the beneficiary and with no mandatory oversight by an adult BSA representative (scouter) he is left with no real protection from usury practices.

    More importantly, I see a very serious issue of legal and moral liability, both in terms of property as well as health and safety, with significantly enhanced risks for those working on the project. BSA insures those participating in Eagle Scout projects, but since there is no approval of the final plan by any BSA agent or representative (i.e. the Scoutmaster, District Eagle Coach or anyone versed in BSA’s “Guide to Safe Scouting”, “Guide to Advancement” or other official BSA polices and publications), BSA has no control over the potential health, safety or property damage risks, and indeed may not even be aware of seriously dangerous chemicals, working conditions or tool use. The legal and insurance exposures are far to numerous to list, and I fear we may see some serious injuries or property damage as a result of this new policy. BSA has a duty to protect its scouts, scouters, volunteer workers and the beneficiary. By not approving the final plan, BSA is exposing itself and these participants to unnecessary, imprudent and dangerous risks.

    I think BSA urgently needs to review this new process. In my opinion they should immediately reinstate a final review of all Eagle Leadership Project plans by a BSA-authorized person.

  24. Bob thomas // June 25, 2014 at 12:11 am // Reply

    There is a lot to be considered. First off, we are happy that the candidate sought out a worthy project. Recent changes have required only a proposal for approval – very little detail. The project is explored by the candidate and the beneficiary and engaged. In my opinion there needs to be a troop leader review because project coaches are not always as familiar with the strenghts and weaknesses of the candidate. After approval of the project, an adult leader can be completely cut from the process, yet they must assert that “I will see that the project is monitored, and that adults or others present will not overshadow him”.
    Unless I am there for every step, I cannot know. Without a project plan – there is no measure of his planning and leadership.

    I insist on seeing the work processes and logistics to ensure this is not a plan as you go scenario. It is clear I have NO AUTHORITY to do so and have come to blows over this. It will result in fewer projects being approved until BSA completely removes all authority and integrity from the process, ensuring that every candidate is granted eagle without the benefit of actually earning it!!!

    Why is BSA so invested in making everything easier, when it was never too difficult for those that came before. Is there so little faith in our youth and our program that we need to lighten the burden and therefore diminish the accomplishment.

    Let us return to the era of true self-esteem, where and Eagle poroject was a lesson in planning, project management, group dynamics and adaptation where failure was a possibility and success was measure by the lessons learned, not the simple completion of the task.

  25. Well stated Mr. Thomas, Mr. McLemore,

    The majority I’ve spoken with all lament the valuable lessons being lost by this change.

    Potential legal issues are another BIG concern. Could mitigating their risk be a factor in the BSA’s decision?

    Without a completed project plan reviewed/approved by some BSA authority (BSA coach/advisor, or Troop Committee, or other BSA entity), there is a potentially greater risk to safety issues that could result in unfortunate, possibly devastating outcomes for Scout, his family and others.

    The guidelines do NOT require a BSA coach/advisor, or anyone to review/approve a final project plan. Or as stated, to even have a project plan before they start working. The young project leader/scout could easily, innocently go outside of BSA guidelines in so many scenarios. Most of which were caught previously when it was required to have a final, completed, reviewed/approved project plan.

    Will the BSA cover liability issues if the scout unknowingly, innocently performs work outside the BSA safety guidelines?

    The only “recommendation” is to hand the page of BSA information to the beneficiary. And then if the beneficiary wants to know about the final plans, it is supposed to be sufficient to give them the plans verbally. In many if not most cases, the beneficiary is assuming the BSA has everything covered.
    Could the beneficiary potentially be liable if the scout performs work actions outside of BSA guidelines and something goes wrong? No, the sponsor did not sign anything other than the high-level proposal.

    It appears we must strongly, bluntly communicate to the individual Scout, his parents, the Unit Committee, unit adults, maybe even the unit sponsor that every one could be at a greater risk for liability, in various scenarios associated with Eagle Projects. In addition, none of them can officially require a scout to have a final, completed, reviewed/approved project plan before the scout starts performing work actions on his project.

    Not all Eagle Project work activities are done with the troop. But for those where volunteers are solicited from the troop, could the unit committees consider not submitting required tour plan and not approve of the activity as an official troop/patrol function if the scout does not provided a completed, detailed “plan” for the activity? It does not cover everything but it could help mitigate some potential safety issues.

  26. Tim Falendysz // September 7, 2014 at 9:02 am // Reply

    Wow, this is a touchy subject for me. I have mentored A LOT of Eagle Scout and not once been a volunteer of a project (stopped by a few) so I have a pretty good understanding of the “let them lead concept”. I TOTALLY disagree with the hands off approval on a final plan for safety reasons. Here is an interesting section.

    9.0.2.14 Risk Management and Eagle Scout
    Service Projects
    All Eagle Scout service projects constitute official Scouting
    activity and thus are subject to Boy Scouts of America
    policies and procedures. Projects are considered part
    of a unit’s program and are treated as such with regard
    to policies, procedures, and requirements regarding
    Youth Protection, two-deep leadership, etc.

    So this being said, it is the unit’s program but at the unit level we do get a final blessing on the day to day activity of a project ?? Insane and very troubling. A scout comes to us with a concept but no detail and the last sign off is on a concept? I don’t let that happen for troop meetings, why should we for a project? Until National is ready to accept FULL liability for what happens on a project I don’t think it is fair to the unit, the chartered partners or the benefactors to accept such liability. The idea of it being between the scout and the benefactor is also insane. Benefactors are not trained in the risks involve in a youth program in most regards, let’s start with YPP, Guide to Safe Scouting, and the tool usage guidelines just to name a few. I have pleaded directly to the national advancement committe with no avail. I have confidence this will change some day but only after risk management gets a hold of it and they address claims made on behalf of projects. Let’s hope they are small claims and not severe or death claims.

    At the troop level, after a summer full of projects, I have requested that our troop establish policies for ALL unit activities, I am not going to accept responsibily nor liability for any plan that I have not had an opportunity to review and approve. I am aware you can’t require “additional” requirements to an eagle project, but as a unit we are free to set our troop policy and procedures for unit activities as outlined in section 9.0.2.14 till National gets thier head out of the sand regarding the risks involved with this current plan.

    Tim Falendysz

  27. We recently had a pretty bad experience with my son’s Eagle and are still working through it now. After asking for changes and additions through the process, the SM (brand new to troop) and EC finally signed off on proposal for project. Began and completed successful project and beneficiary was very happy with result. SM does SMC and seems very happy with the way project turns out as well. SM signs off on all but the project because report wasn’t done to his satisfaction but doesn’t inform son for a few weeks (until after his 18th bday) so there’s no changes that can be made to satisfy this SM. Now he has to apply through Council for a chance for an EBOR. We all thought that the SM was supposed to review that the project was completed – and he gave us no indication that he was unsatisfied all through the process – and a BOR was supposed to go into detail about the project, and allow him to explain how, what, where, etc. He had emails, more photos, and project details, etc set to share at the EBOR and thought that the “final report” was submitted with the “proposal” so he didn’t have to reiterate all the details again. Where did he go wrong? He’s devastated and we’re trying our best to file through council now.

  28. This is an example of BSA not knowing how the real world works.

    In the real world, “beneficiaries” (companies) document what they are looking for (usually in a request for proposal) which details what they want done. Those wishing to get that work will respond outlining how they will complete the project. The beneficiary then reviews the response and the two entities work together to agree to the scope of the project. BOTH parties sign off on that agreement and the work begins.

    What BSA has done is to create a process where there is only a proposal — without sufficient detail — which both parties sign off on. The detailed plan, if it ever gets done, may or may not meet the necessary detail needed to carry out the project. There is no mechanism for leaders to compel the Scout to complete this plan and, let’s be real, few beneficiaries are going to ask for it either.

    This disjointed process leads to mis-aligned expectations between the beneficiary and the Scout most of the time. We have had several Scout rework projects because the beneficiary wanted more done. By having the Unit Leader review the project plan PRIOR to execution, they can make sure the project’s scope is appropriately documented so that Scout and beneficiary are on the same page.

    Right now it is a jumbled mess. It works sometimes, but mostly does not. BSA needs to change this fast.

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