Unit Key 3: A Critical Element of Unit Retention

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By Ellie Morrison, New-Unit Retention Task Force chair

This is a busy time for commissioners in the BSA. There are lots of moving parts to keep up with. But at the end of the day, our main task is still providing quality unit service to units.

Three years ago, the Unit Performance Guide methodology was developed. It was then piloted and later adopted as the BSA’s approved best method strategy for starting and retaining new units. It also focused on strengthening the unit in its early development so the unit could become a sustainable “highperforming unit.” This successful concept was introduced and continues to be taught at all of our first-time professional Scouter PDL-1 and volunteer training courses (held at Philmont and the Florida Sea Base) with a focus on being “volunteer driven, professionally guided.” Based on feedback from the field during the pilot program stages where the procedures outlined in the Unit Performance Guide were utilized, it became obvious that these best practices can be used for any unit, regardless of tenure or Journey to Excellence recognitions.

One of the main drivers for retaining a unit is the concept of the “unit Key 3.” The unit Key 3 comprises the unit committee chair, the unit leader, and the chartered organization representative. The unit commissioner serves as an advisor to that group. With a new unit, the unit commissioner will meet with the unit Key 3 each month and provide guidance and district resources when needed. In a tenured unit, the unit commissioner might join the Key 3 less often. The unit Key 3 meeting makes an excellent unit visit and can be counted in UVTS and JTE.

The unit Key 3 concept has several advantages:

  1. The unit Key 3 is designed to meet monthly in between the monthly unit committee meetings. It functions much like the other Key 3s in Scouting, i.e., district Key 3, council Key 3, etc. In today’s fast-paced world, waiting a month to make a decision can be too long.
  2. In addition, it is obvious that a smaller group is easier to schedule and work with when doing research, problem solving, or reviewing JTE progress or Voice of the Scout feedback.
  3. The regular committee meetings are still needed, but the unit Key 3 can take some of the burden off those committee meetings so that more can be accomplished in a shorter time. And today, time is a precious element and a factor in volunteer participation.
  4. Efficiency is important, but probably the biggest advantage to using a unit Key 3 is the strengthening of the relationship between the chartered organization and the unit. With the chartered organization representative a part of the Key 3, the awareness of the unit’s challenges and successes creates an atmosphere of mutual help and support.

If you haven’t encouraged all of the units you serve to adopt the unit Key 3 and become high-performing units, now is the time.