The latest in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works,
and how to get the most out of the experience. For past articles, see back issues of The Guide.

Building Partnerships and Broadening Relationships (Cont.)

Fundamental to the Scouting movement has always been the cultivation of friendship among participants. What would the buddy system be without a working relationship between two or more people? Our Scout Law reflects important qualities inherent in strong relationships; trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courtesy, kindness are all necessary to building true and lasting friendships. Scouting provides opportunities for developing relationships through our program of activities and outings, the Patrol Method, meetings and service projects. It is incumbent upon all of us in Scouting to foster and support relationship building, not only among leadership, but especially among our youth. Scouting provides a powerful vehicle to help our youth unplug from their electronic devices if only occasionally and plug in to meaningful personal engagement with real live people! What a concept! Building meaningful friendships and fostering a strong program of engaging activities can help with retention as Scouts make membership and involvement a priority in their lives.

I was also struck by how well Scouting is fostering broader relationships among people of different backgrounds and life experiences. Our opportunity to get to know, learn from and come to appreciate and respect a diverse population is a meaningful part of our movement, something that distinguishes Scouting today from the Boy Scouts of my youth, and from many youth serving organizations. Our progress is reflected in the growing number of young women in our Packs and Troops, the pilot testing of co-ed Scouts BSA troops unfolding this year, the rebranding of our organization to Scouting America, and our efforts to make Scouting accessible to all youth regardless of financial means, geographic location or disability. This was really brought home to me recently when I was introduced to a program called Trail Life USA. This scout-like program replete with uniforms, camp programs, rank advancement and similar aspirations to developing character, leadership and a reverence for God is church sponsored and run for boys only, does not tolerate those questioning their sexual identity, and insists upon religious practice limited to their sponsoring church. I’m sure their youth enjoy outdoor programming and have fun, but how limited their experience must be. For all of the growing pains we have encountered as we have grown our program, I believe we are headed in a positive and productive direction in sync with Scouting around the world.

Building partnerships is also central to the success of Scouting, although we often become so immersed in the daily work of planning, meeting and programming that we pay short shrift to it. Let’s start with our Charter Partners. How many of us take the time to keep our Charter Organizations informed on our work, progress, challenges, needs, aspirations, and the success of our units? Do we include them in our unit committee meetings? Do we invite them to our courts of honor, social events, outings or service projects? How can we cultivate a stronger working relationship with them? What about other organizations within the local communities we serve? When we need to sell popcorn, need help with our Friends of Scouting Campaign, need help in recruiting, or need expertise in providing advancement and enrichment opportunities to our Scouts, do we turn to local businesses, service clubs, faith-based groups, schools and other youth serving organizations? The answer should be “yes”, and we would all be better off if we took the time to establish and cultivate working partnerships. It may be easiest to begin with our families and ask what businesses, community relationships and partners they have that might be appropriate for Scouting. How might we provide service to a community organization in exchange for making them aware of our needs? Could we take advantage of the facilities or staff expertise of a nearby business when presenting a merit badge or Cub Scout adventure to our Scouts? Seeking in-kind support can be just as important and valuable as asking for monetary donations to fund our programs, but what can we do for them in return? How can we build a partnership that is a win-win for both? At very least, we will help spread the good news of Scouting today more broadly in the community, and gain their understanding of our efforts to recruit new families into Scouting.

It is all too easy to take Scouting for granted today. After all, it has been a part of the fabric of our community for more than century. Scouts have always risen to the challenge when needed, but in order to be there when called upon, we need to be front and center in the thinking of our neighbors and friends. Scouting must do more to foster the development of meaningful friendships between and among our members, and must do more to build productive and powerful collaborative partnerships in those communities we serve. It will take time and reflection to support our Scouts as they make lasting friends, and most certainly will take time and intentional effort to establish and foster partnerships. I am convinced that both will be well worth the effort and will likely propel and strengthen Scouting into the future. Thank you once again for entrusting your youth to Scouting and sharing your talent and treasure, and most importantly your time.

Paul Shrode