By Zach Schonfeld
When hundreds of Order of the Arrow leaders gathered at Philmont Training Center last month, the OA’s national youth officers presented a pressing challenge: “the world is changing, and so must we.”
At the five-day National Council of Chiefs, held from Aug. 1 through Aug. 5, delegates heard updates from national leadership, collaborated to solve shared challenges, and envisioned the OA’s path forward in a post-pandemic world. The event marked the OA’s largest in-person national event since the start of the pandemic, with more than 400 local leaders in attendance representing lodges and sections nationwide.
“The most incredible thing about our time at Philmont together is that it will not only impact the lives of us here in this amphitheater, but also the lives of people who never attended this event,” 2021 National Chief Derek Porter told delegates. “Each one of us, members of the National Council of Chiefs, have begun a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity included forums for the youth and adult delegates to directly influence the OA’s potential new organizational structure.
The Project Magellan task force—a group formed to explore how the OA might best structure itself for the future—shared a draft design with delegates, called a prototype. They were the first to give feedback on the then-current model, and it is likely to change before being finalized.
Delegates were given feedback cards to provide written suggestions in addition to live discussions with task force members. The group is now in the process of reviewing this information before revising the draft prototype.
“Having the feedback of local leaders at the NCOC was critical to ensuring every voice of our organization was represented, and their input is shaping the future of our organization,” said 2021 Central Region Chief Terry Hendriex. “We were able to get answers about structures at the lodge level they felt were desired and get invaluable feedback as to how to improve our prototype to better support the lodge.”
The Project Magellan task force has two primary goals throughout the process: organize to stay true to the OA’s mission and purpose as the BSA’s organizational structure changes and provide as many opportunities as possible for young people to lead.
“Its purpose is not to create change for change’s sake, but rather to help the Order of the Arrow adapt to new challenges and ensure we continue to provide amazing program to the Arrowmen across the country,” said 2021 Southern Region Chief Nick Morey.
But the NCOC wasn’t just about the OA’s new structure. Delegates spent each morning participating in top-tier training on a variety of topics to become stewards of change and build a modern organization. Lodge leaders faced the inevitability of change through a multi-day lodge merger simulation.
In the afternoons, delegates participated in open programs offered throughout Philmont Scout Ranch. From day hikes to horseback riding, cornhole to casting lines, and tours to tower climbing, all in attendance experienced the unforgettable scenery of the backcountry.
With its incredible beauty and wondrous adventures, Philmont served as the perfect backdrop for delegates to envision the OA’s future.
“No matter what brings a Scout to Philmont, we find our home here,” said Porter, the National Chief. “Everyone at this ranch has a role. Every crew hiking out of basecamp has a crew leader to guide the way.”
When delegates left basecamp for home at the end of the week, they returned to their lodges with a new willingness to take action to strengthen local programs, grow the OA’s membership, and chart a modern vision for the organization.
With that in mind, national leadership also announced the 2022 National Order of the Arrow Conference theme: Tomorrow Begins Today.
The conference will be held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on July 25-30, 2022. Many lodges have already opened delegate registration for their contingents, and staff and individual registration will open on Oct. 4.
“For the OA to persevere, each of us must do our part,” said 2021 National Vice Chief Greg Brown. “It takes real courage to step up as a leader and engage in conversation. Our capability to do good in the world grows exponentially when we work together as one.”