Linking Needs to Resources

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Larry Chase
National Commissioner Service Recruiting and Retention Chair

Articles in our last two issues discussed the first two steps of the Unit Service Plan process: (1) working with unit leadership to develop a collaborative assessment of unit strengths and needs and (2) developing a plan that focuses on a small number of goals that will improve the quality of the program the unit delivers to the youth it serves. The third step of the process, district commitment, engages additional resources to support the unit and finalizes the plan.

Our simple and unified approach to unit service is designed to enable commissioners to have greater focus on the specific needs of the units they serve and work more efficiently. The “annual service plan” that was used in the past included a list of tasks to be completed monthly by every commissioner for every unit, regardless of specific needs. It wasn’t an efficient use of our commissioners’ time and often didn’t help unit leaders better serve youth. The Unit Service Plan, based on a collaborative assessment and including a small number of goals that address the unit’s greatest needs, can have greater impact with less effort.

Unit commissioners are dedicated servant leaders. They accepted their commission because of their passion for helping others. Their skills enable them to assess unit strengths and needs, communicate clearly, and serve effectively as a team member, coach, and mentor. But although they often are experienced Scouters, they aren’t experts in every aspect of unit operations.

Our district operating committees are—or should be—comprised of a variety of subject matter experts. That should be where Scouters experienced in camping, advancement, training, planning, budgeting, fundraising, membership development, district activities, and so on can be found. Like commissioners, district operating committee members are also committed to starting and sustaining successful units and are willing to share their expertise to help units better serve more youth through Scouting.

Unit commissioners are diagnosticians; they work with unit leaders to identify a unit’s most pressing needs. Often, those needs can be addressed by unit leaders and committee members, and many of the goals included in the Unit Service Plan may be assigned to them. But sometimes other expertise is needed, and it often can be found in a district operating committee member. A member of the district finance committee, for example, may be able to help a unit that doesn’t have an annual budget and lacks experience in developing one. A member of the district camping committee likely can assist a troop without backpacking experience that wants to build that into its annual program plan. District membership committee members may be able to help a pack or crew build a plan to recruit new members; and training committee members can help address unit leader training needs. Once the Unit Service Plan has been completed, the unit commissioner should link unit needs to district operating committee resources to ensure achievement of goals for which unit leaders don’t have the necessary expertise.

Our simple and unified approach to unit service recognizes that unit leaders and unit commissioners can’t address every unit need; our simple and unified approach to unit service recognizes that it takes a district to help units better serve more youth through Scouting. And that’s why district commitment is an essential step of the Unit Service Plan process.

Tying this into our roundtable focus this month, district roundtables offer a venue to share ideas and district resources in the form of subject matter experts, helping the commissioner link the resources to the units. Many times a roundtable topic will help many units with a common need.