Adaptation: Changing a Culture

Submitted by Chuck Eaton, Scout Executive

It has been an enlightening Fall as we rolled through the first typical six weeks of Scouting in the Spirit of Adventure Council. During the summer we had the benefit of simply running a few Scout camps: the highlight of our program. However, they are in many ways separate from the day-to-day, week-to-week operation of running a Pack, Troop or Crew. Once we hit September, all the units started up and the committees returned to their work, cultural differences started to emerge. Those differences are both our biggest challenge and greatest opportunity: crafting something new, adaptable, and flexible, to help us play better in the 21st Century marketplace of youth activity and family culture.

In this blog, I’ll lay out a few of the early changes and indications of what and how we are working together to help Scouting thrive in every community.

  • Customer Service 
    • Popcorn delivery – we had some great positive feedback from the improvements in the popcorn delivery system this year. The Council spent significant portion of the popcorn profits to increase the customer service.
      • “I just want to pass along a very appreciative THANK YOU to the two gentlemen that delivered our popcorn for Rowley Pack 15 to me yesterday.  I had every intention of having them drop the cases in my driveway and incrementally getting them down into the basement.  The guys helped me bring ALL 128 cases down to the basement, it was awesome. They were great!”
    • Council Open six days a week – as a somewhat unintended consequence of “open to the public” we re-organized our support staff to have a receptionist at the Egan Center on Saturdays. When we started doing that and the phone rang for other non-camp related questions, Scout leaders were happily greeted by an actual person on Saturday who often answered their question and solved their concern.
  • Project Based Giving 
    • Last week the properties committee held our first ever “Volunteer Auction” with over 20 people in attendance. Each of these skilled workers committed to donate time and expertise to various projects at our camps. Over 100 projects were “up for auction” and about 25 of those were selected. Spirit of Adventure will pay for the materials and the workers will make a contribution of time and talent to complete the project.
  • Governance “How we make Decisions” 
    • From the very beginning (May 28, 2015) we talked about the strategic direction of Camp Sayre and the camps that now make up the “Northern Network.” As part of that process we talked about Lone Tree as a camp that we would, over time, develop a specific direction designed to help Scouting thrive. But, until that time the direction was developed, it would be “on hold” with some basic alterations designed to maximize efficiency to its program and facility.  Now we are ready to start developing that direction. To develop that direction we will hold listening sessions specifically for how Lone Tree fits into the strategic plan.
      • Monday, October 26th, 7:00 PM @ First Presbyterian Church, 346 Broadway, Haverhill
      • Sunday, November 1st, 2:30 PM @ Flint Public Library, 1 S Main St, Middleton
      • Monday, November 2nd 7:00 PM @ EDCO 36 Middlesex Turnpike, Bedford
  • Merit Badge Counselor List
    • One of the greatest customer service concerns that came out of the initial listening sessions was the unnecessary and bureaucratic difficulty caused when trying to register and secure an accurate list of merit badge counselors.
    • After two focus groups at summer camp, and meetings with the VP of Program, District Advancement Chairs, and the full Advancement Committee, we enacted a plan that would eliminate the problems and streamline the system.
      • This procedural change impacts a very small percentage of merit badges (less than 10%) and a much smaller percentage of our total membership (less than 3%). The entire design was to make the process simpler. Sadly, many folks were taken back by the speed of the change and the perceived burden it put on unit leaders.
      • To be clear – it does not put any additional or new burdens on unit leaders, quite the opposite. The concern over the change speaks more to the decades long struggle with customer service and a disappointingly well-earned lack of faith in “The Council.” I find that to be heart breaking.
    • One unit leader recommended some opportunities to enhance the new procedure:
      • a Google doc for all unit leaders to help find the counselor for the hard-to-find merit badge.
      • GREAT IDEA, Instituted now! By adding this simple, self-managed list any scout leader can update the list in real time.
      • For a unit leader to contact the merit badge counselor, they should reach out to Marian McQuaid at the customer service center. She will confirm Scouter’s registration status (if they are registered – they are cleared for YPT) and she’ll provide the contact information.

Things will change – that’s why we merged 🙂

They will change for the better and if there is a problem with the change, we’ll adapt and tweak the new system. Before the merger, one council leader said of the two cultures “one culture is concerned with doing it right, while the other is concerned with doing the right thing.” This is very insightful, and neither perspective is better than the other; in fact, the reason we have such high hopes for this merger is because these two perspectives are inherently compatible.

Not that it’s always easy 🙂

I hope to see everyone at the listening sessions or some of the Roundtables in the coming weeks and months to discuss these and other changes as we work together to help Scouting thrive.