“The retention mission of the commissioner corps is best achieved by providing an adequate number of trained unit commissioners who provide a link to district committee resources in support of a quality unit program.”
Embedded within our retention mission statement is a concept that is the subject of an increasing amount of focus— and with good reason. That concept is that a primary role of the unit commissioner is to provide a link to district committee resources who can provide support for a quality unit program. What do we mean by providing a link? Providing a link does not mean that the commissioner is supposed to become the expert on all Scouting matters. That goal, while laudable (and no doubt pursued by many zealous Scouters), overburdens our commissioners with unrealistic expectations and can only lead to frustration on the part of our commissioners and unit leadership. In an ideal Scouting world, we are supposed to be able to identify a unit’s needs and bring relevant resources to the unit. Said another way, rather than becoming the source for all things advancement-related in a district, we should link to the volunteers who are subject-matter specialists in the area of advancement.
A growing topic of discussion is the importance of ensuring that the district committee has sufficient resources to perform its unit support and membership roles. My experience indicates that the quality and depth of our district committees vary widely, often even within a council. The raw numbers tell us that we have more than 41,000 volunteers deployed in district functions (compared to more than 30,000 unit commissioners), or more than 22 volunteers, on average, per district committee. Separately and collectively, that is a lot of volunteers who are available to support unit success. In order to have an impact, however, that district committee has to be full of volunteers who feel empowered to perform their roles and who, along with unit commissioners and unit leadership, have been sufficiently trained to credibly provide subject-matter expertise.
You will see an increasing emphasis on the importance of the role of the district committee. What can we do to support
the improvement of district committee effectiveness? First, we should continue to educate other Scout volunteers on our respective roles, emphasizing that as commissioners we fervently believe in the need for strong, empowered subject-matter experts at the district committee level. By trying to fill that void ourselves we only perpetuate the lack of resources to support unit success. Second, we should lead and support efforts to identify and recruit more volunteers to serve at the district committee level. Third, we should look for opportunities to showcase district committee expert resources to our unit leadership through roundtables, council and district training events, and regular unit dialogue. Finally, we should openly talk about the importance of volunteers in recruiting and retaining membership and support the efforts of the district committee to build and deploy a volunteer base to recruit new members. A strong, functioning district committee is a unit commissioner’s “best friend” in providing resources to support unit success. And we are the link!
Thanks for all you do for Scouting.