Wood Badge methods inspire executive training program in Rwanda

We think of Wood Badge as a way to deepen our impact within our immediate circles: at home, in Scouting, at work.

But Kevin Etter, whose Wood Badge critter is a Bear, has unlocked a way to bring Wood Badge principles beyond Scouting and, indeed, beyond American borders.

Etter works for UPS as something called a humanitarian logistician. Two years ago, UPS loaned his services to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance based in Geneva that aims to provide routine childhood vaccinations in the world’s 73 poorest countries.

Gavi asked Etter to create an executive training program to enhance the leadership skills of its top officials.

“I was asked to develop a program that would enhance the executives’ competencies around managing people, communication, project management, problem solving, and personal and professional development,” he says.

The old way and the new way

Etter says the old-fashioned way to conduct this type of training would involve a man standing “in front of the class imparting his wisdom through a standard PowerPoint presentation and then administering a comprehension test.”

But Etter knew he could do better. Etter had taken Wood Badge.

“I have had the privilege to serve on several Wood Badge staffs, and one of the common comments I hear is that Wood Badge is like no other training that anyone has attended and that more businesses or companies should train by this experiential method,” he says.

So Etter knew right away he would incorporate the engaging, learn-by-doing methods perfected in Wood Badge.

“I set out to build a program where adults — through experiencing a blend of presentations, team-building exercises, problem-solving exercises and individual instruction — learned. Not from a wise old sage, but from one another,” Etter says.

The Wood Badge formula

Etter used hands-on methods and empowered participants to teach skills to one another. (Sounds familiar.)

He developed short learning modules, complemented with clips from popular movies, that built on the theme of the day. (Ditto.)

And when participants finished Etter’s course, they were asked to complete a practical project to demonstrate their learnings. (Yep.)

Etter called this Wood Badge-inspired course STEP: Strategic Training for Executives Programme. The first class was held in February in Kigali, Rwanda, with participants from Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

“This was an extraordinary experience for the participants, and the program is, in the few short months of its existence, in high demand and is seen as a new standard for public health training in some of the world’s most help-needed areas,” he says.

This is proof that Scouting’s training for adult leaders benefits more than just our home packs and troops and crews.

These training programs “have, literally, a far-reaching, global impact,” Etter says.

Though he travels extensively, Etter still makes time for Wood Badge. He’ll serve as assistant Scoutmaster of program at a Lincoln Heritage Council Wood Badge course this fall. The course director, Clarissa Aliff, is excited to have Etter on her team, saying he’s “the real deal.”

“Our theme is Walk Your Talk, and each staff member was chosen specifically because they do just that — not only in their Scouting roles but in their non-Scouting lives,” Aliff says. “Kevin is a positive role model to me, the staff and to all those that have the opportunity to serve with him.”

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About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.