A Simple and Unified Approach to Commissioner Training

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Scott Sorrels
National Commissioner Service Chair

Earlier this year, the National Commissioner Service Task Force announced a “simple and unified” theme as a guiding principle for how we can make the duties of unit commissioners and the administrative commissioners who support them both easier and more fulfilling. In short, we need to make the expectations that we have for our volunteers more manageable and easier to achieve. We spoke about the need to carry that same message throughout our commissioner service support resources.

Now some six months later, and as noted in our two feature stories, we are in the process of rolling out new basic training materials for many of our key commissioner positions. The materials are shorter in length, simpler to use in terms of presentation ease, take less volunteer time to achieve the same training thresholds, and deliver more of a unified approach within the broader aims of serving units and supporting the National Strategic Plan.

In the coming days, the “simple and unified” College of Commissioner Science courses will be added to the national website. The new College of Commissioner Science courses are designed to provide a uniform set of materials in order to provide excellence and consistency in content whether you attend a college in Florida or in Oregon. This approach meets the challenge by National Commissioner Tico Perez to provide a uniform high standard of materials in support of all of our commissioner colleges. As Tim Acree, our training chair would say, we do not want to be a “slave” to PowerPoint presentations, and thus the materials offer teaching notes and alternative means of presentation to make a commissioner college course both engaging for the participants and responsive to the specific needs of the local council. Tim and his team of 35-plus volunteers have been writing the materials for a number of months, and we owe them a great thank you for their innovation and service.

We will continue to strive to make the functions of unit commissioner as simple as possible. It is also supposed to be fun. During our analysis, the task force identified various job descriptions with at least 38 different tasks that we ask of a unit commissioner. That is hardly a simple job description. Put more simply, the BSA needs unit commissioners to focus on the following four primary areas:

  • Supporting unit growth in the Journey to Excellence criteria: JTE measures performance characteristics that unlock the door to a successful unit. We should analyze the unit’s program and identify JTE areas where help is needed to move the unit to a higher level of JTE success.
  • Linking district committee resources to the unit: We should support the district committee’s delivery of a “catalog of services” to support the specific JTE elements needed for a particular unit’s health and success.
  • Visiting units and logging the visits into the Unit Visit Tracking System (UVTS): Our core task remains visiting the unit. UVTS input feeds critical information to the district committee to help link resources to the unit.
  • Supporting on-time charter renewal: The commissioner’s focus is the retention of the unit, though we should be especially mindful of supporting new youth membership efforts as we move more toward a volunteer-led, professionally guided approach to increasing membership.

The concept of linkage is critical to our execution mission. In the best of worlds, the unit commissioner is a link to the subject matter experts and resources who reside at the district committee level. Where those subject matter experts do not yet exist, our commissioners should support the efforts of the district Key 3 to recruit and deploy the right resource specialists. There can be little doubt that we need to strengthen our district operations in order to increase unit and youth retention.

In the coming months, the task force will “tear the covers off” of our printed and online resources and will move forward in support of a simple and unified message that is consistent across our platforms. Similarly, the findings and recommendations of our Roundtable Study Committee will be finalized and presented for your review and implementation.

We welcome your comments, innovative ideas, and partnership as we continue to move toward a simpler and more unified approach to commissioner service.