Scouts Canada's Strategic Directions

Scouts Canada recently published their new Strategic Directions in the February 2006 issue of The Canadian Leader Magazine. They have yet to published them on the web, but you can get a copy here and read our commentary.

Implementation of Strategic Directions for Scouts Canada

Our Chief Commissioner, Glenn Armstrong, in his introduction to the recently presented Strategic Directions quotes B-P, "[Scouting] is a movement because it moves forward. As soon as it stops moving, it becomes an organization, and is no longer Scouting." Our Chief Commissioner goes on to say that "Scouting is a volunteer led organization, supported by professional staff. That means that the volunteers must lead the way." The elemental question is, how is it possible under the current regime for the volunteers to lead the way?

I suspect that every Scouter agrees with our Past Commissioner, Mike Scott, who regularly asserted that "the Section Scouter is the most important person in Scouting". His assertion points to a fundamental aspect of Scouting, namely that it is effective at the level of local organization. B-P recognized this and pointed out that the District Commissioner was one of the most important functionaries in Scouting. This proposition is obvious because the District Commissioner is the person most directly in contact with the program leadership. The District organization is the level at which the Scouting community operates and the level at which the local community at large relates to the Scouting community. The concept of centralized control and "Staff Led" functions has turned out to be an unmitigated failure.

There is no doubt that the old system was not up to the mark, but the new system is clearly worse. Why is it worse? It is worse because the membership has been robbed of its ownership of the movement. The stakeholders' stake in the movement has been purloined. The idea behind the new structure was that so-called "burdensome" administration would be removed from the local organizations. The supposed result would be to free up more adults for section leadership. What actually happened? All one needs to do is look at the 2002/2003 membership numbers to see that 10,000 adults left Scouts Canada. These were mostly Scouters in those so-called "administrative" positions who had done their tour of duty on the front lines and were backing up the functional aspects of the organization. Is it any wonder that local organizations are now struggling? Necessary local administrative tasks have effectively been down loaded onto the program leadership and onto the Area Commissioners' teams.

It is patently obvious that an administration centre in Toronto is fundamentally irrelevant to Scouting in Tobermory. Never mind Tobermory; it is barely relevant to us in Kitchener. These administrative centres cannot possibly react in a timely or effective fashion. Our national leadership forgot that Scouting works at the community level through a local support network. The best way to accomplish this is through an effective system of District Councils. The effectiveness of these District Councils will result only if they are accountable. They will only be accountable if there is a democratic environment and structure.

The Board of Governors does not and cannot "run" the Scouting Movement. The most that they can do is provide the general framework and basic administrative resources that are essential to any functional organization the size of Scouts Canada. The very ideas that our youth would be employed in any way, shape or form to act as a sales force behind "national fundraisers" to support the superstructure of our Scouting organization or that we would rely on that process as a financing tool for the national or council organizations are so far disconnected from reality as to be laughable. Council Commissioners have actually stooped to threatening groups and individuals with financial penalties for non-participation in the popcorn fundraisers. This sorry state demonstrates that the Movement has been stopped dead in its tracks, it is no longer Scouting.

In addressing the relative importance of the various strategic priorities it is essential that we consider and act first upon the most pertinent and effective priority. I would respectfully suggest that our CEO, in his summary of the priorities, is focusing on the wrong end of the priorities list. The first step in the implementation of the Strategic Directions must be item 7.1, namely "Democratic Reform". Responsibility, accountability, and authority must be placed in the hands of District Councils who must have elected officers who will be answerable to the local scouting community. If this is not done promptly there will be no environment suitable for growth. The predictable result will be that strategic plans Number 1 through Number 6 will become irrelevant because there will be no functional organization left to carry them out.

We urgently call upon the Board of Governors to immediately and earnestly and fully restore the Ordinary Member to his or her rightful place as a part owner and stakeholder in Scouts Canada. We urge the Board of Governors to institute without delay all measures necessary to constitute us full participants in the democratic governance of the Movement at the local, council, and national level.

Ted Claxton, Treasurer, SCOUT eh!