Who Patrol’s the Fellowship Patrols?


A transparency questionnaire …

1. In Scouting Ireland to date how many National Officers have been members of a fellowship patrol during their term of office?

2. How many employees in Scouting Ireland and its subsidiaries are in a fellowship patrol?

3. How many NMC members since 2004 have been a member of a fellowship patrol whilst in office?

4. Do some fellowship patrols count among their membership both employees and volunteer directors of Scouting Ireland?

5. Would this scenario be likely to present any challenges in terms of optics for stakeholders inside (and outside) Scouting Ireland?

6. What implications would it have for transparency in Scouting Ireland, (a registered charity funded by member subscriptions and government grants)?

7. Is there any reason to believe that conflicts of interest may arise from time to time and what measures might be in place to manage those conflicts of interest?

And what exactly IS a fellowship patrol?

Scouting is a truly wonderful thing.

At it’s heart, the Scout Group. This is where most of us begin our Scouting adventure and the place where we form our deepest friendships and strongest loyalties.

It is not surprising that the bond of friendship and loyalty established in the scout group can frequently transcend many others. Friendships can span years, even decades and are bolstered by a companionable shared pride in the group and an understanding and belief in the scouting concept.

Some members of course, volunteer to help other groups. Some do so in the guise of a County or Provincial role. Some work at National level, supporting the entire association or segments of it.

Many key Scouting roles nationally require the endorsement of the wider membership. People interested in such roles, typically share some information about themselves as part of the election process. This ‘Scouting CV’ mentions various things but the most important reference is detail of the candidates scout group, the work undertaken there and the duration of service.

Regardless of the role undertaken however or at what level, local Scouting involvement keeps us all grounded. There is nothing better for a County Commissioner or a member of the NMC than to return to their scout den and be assigned a game to run, be handed a sweeping brush, or be pointed in the direction of the kettle. Your own Scout Group is a place where, no matter what your position or title elsewhere in Scouting, you remain just you and nobody bats an eyelid when you walk into the den.

The relationships one form’s locally and historically in Scouting will rarely influence a good leader with an eye on good governance and being fair to all.

The prominence of Group affiliation as part of the election process shines a further light in rare instances of potential conflicts of interest presenting themselves.

But there is another far less formal but no less robust a framework that exists in Scouting alongside the Scout Group. The fellowship patrol.

Fellowship patrols have probably always existed to a greater or lesser extent. Scouting Ireland CSI sought to formalize the practice in the latter days of that associations existence and the concept sort of caught on around that time.

Formally run fellowship patrols are relatively few in number and are usually identified through the use of a patrol name, a fixed membership, a patrol neckerchief and a couple of specific events per year. Less formal fellowship patrols can simply be some old friends meeting for an annual hike or a few drinks, but the continuity more so than the intensity of activity highlights the bond of friendship and thus loyalty that exists within fellowship patrols.

In many ways, this bond is comparable to the links to scout group. Deep and unshakable, built up over many years and where loyalty to one’s companions can come to overrule all other Scouting considerations. The two big differences in terms of transparency is that (1) some fellowship patrols have specific agenda’s or objectives. These views or positions could influence the views of delegates in an election, if they were aware of a candidates affiliation to a given fellowship patrol. (2) Membership of a fellowship patrol will rarely appear on a Scouting CV….

Imagine an election taking place or a job vacancy arising in Scouting Ireland. If the interview panel consisted exclusively or predominantly of members of one Scout Group and another member of the same group got the job over many other equally well-qualified applicants, might a conflict of interest be suspected? Quite likely.

Play this scenario again with a Fellowship patrol in place of a Scout Group however and the ‘remarkable coincidences’ suddenly become largely if not totally invisible to most observers.

As part of the process of improving good governance in Scouting Ireland, should a protocol be put in place that requires candidates for prospective employment to declare membership of a fellowship patrol?

Should participants in an interview panel declare a potential conflict of interest, if a fellowship ‘colleague’ is successfully short-listed for interview?

Should candidates for senior volunteer roles in Scouting Ireland be equally candid about their fellowship patrol membership, so that delegates to national council can be clear about the number of members of a given patrol that might be represented on the National Management Committee, a standing committee, contingent team or even among the ranks of employees?

Should directors of Scouting (members of the National Management Committee) be expected to resign from a fellowship patrol upon election, in the interests of eliminating perceptions around conflicts of interest and/or favours done for friends, whilst occupying a position of considerable influence in such a large and diverse organization?

Should similar rules apply to professional staff above a certain level?

Is it anybody’s business what fellowship patrol anyone is in?

Theirishscouter believes it IS in the interests of the membership to know about fellowship patrol membership in the case of candidates for national office and employment in particular.

It’s a question of transparency. But it is also a question of loyalty.

Where does one’s loyalty lie? Can every individual be relied upon to put the interests of the association ahead of that of some old friends if they are sure that favouring their friends will never be found out?

Lets be clear. Most members of Fellowship Patrols are honourable, decent people. They are passionate scouters. They are as opposed to cronyism or perceived cronyism as any other member of Scouting Ireland who is not in a fellowship patrol.

But in the same way that controls exist in politics to prevent conflicts of interest arising, (despite most politicians being honest, publicly-spirited people); the same must apply in Scouting if our structures and leadership are to enjoy the full confidence of all members.

What would the implications around government funding be, if the wrong perception took hold around a particular decision, or the optics suggested something that in reality was innocent, but looked too much like a coincidence to be considered as one?

How would Scouting Ireland protect itself against such a scenario arising?

All candidates for national positions should declare their membership of a fellowship patrol prior to election. Employees (senior employee’s in particular) should do likewise. Current incumbents should lead by example and declare membership of a fellowship patrol, where appropriate.

Alongside a written manifesto and participation in a Q&A in advance of the election (in the case of volunteer candidates for election), this would greatly enhance the level of information available to the electorate and thus enhance the quality of the decisions made around the types of people we place into key positions in our association.

We owe it to candidates who are prepared to undertake big responsibilities and time-consuming jobs in a volunteer capacity to ensure they have a mandate for the vision they set out prior to election. Equally, we owe it to employees to ensure that it is clear to all that they were hired for their talent and competence. Imagine getting a job and then having some people wonder privately if you got it because you are good or simply because you knew the right people?

In essence transparency and the availability of relevant information to members in advance of making a decision is not only a good governance practice, it successfully eliminates the risk of and even suggestions of potential impropriety, cronyism and conflicts of interest. It also allows our elected members to get on with the business of running Scouting Ireland.

Fellowship patrols will continue to be an important and enjoyable part of Scouting life, much like that reassuring constant – the Scout Group.

To ensure not only a level paying field for all, but critically to also be seen to ensure such fairness, is important if a wider level of trust is to be re-instilled in Scouting Ireland’s National structures.

The author acknowledges the contribution of others in Scouting Ireland who provided research and analysis towards this article.

11 thoughts on “Who Patrol’s the Fellowship Patrols?”

  1. Garret your fixation with this mythical issue is startling and absurd. I am not a member of any Fellowship Patrol. I am a member of Scouting Ireland but primarily I am member of Donnybrook Scout Group. Over the years I have held, Unit/Group, Regional/County and National posts. I have been asked to undertake roles by my old Association CBSI and my new one SI. At no stage dis membership/non membership of any such Fellowship Patrol impact. I would been asked/not asked to undertake roles because of my views/abilities/lack of abilities on occasions but Never Ever do I believe because of your obsession.

    1. Hi Dermot

      I hope you are well. (1) You are a fast reader! (2) With characteristic modesty, you seem to have jumped to the conclusion that this article is about you. I can assure you, its a general viewpoint on a scouting concept. There are many fellowship patrols. (3) This is the first article on the topic, so hardly an obsession, but the views I express chime with those of a surprisingly large number of members, as I and others discovered whilst researching the piece.

      Look forward to seeing you before too long. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment.


      1. Garret I did not assume it was about me at all (I am more of a “has been” than a “will be” in Scouting Ireland and while it may be the first article you have being going on about it for years. Hope you are well too. Will we see you in the RDS

  2. Dermot, surely you are an ‘association grandee’ at the very least (and most certainly not a ‘has been’ at any rate). The RDS will depend on some progress on a couple of work related projects.

  3. Never heard of the concept before but if as you say there are few formally run fellowship patrols then there are few who would have to declare they are in one. It’s seems that the informal ones are just groups of old cronies, innocent enough in itself, but like minded folks will always stick together. To be honest the concept sounds a bit weird to me, if adults want to stick around in scouting they should contribute, don’t want lots of old lads just hanging around talking about the good old days especially if they are trying to exert some sort of influence over the association by stealthy means as you seem to be applying.

    Surely the issue is best addresses by asking candidates at Q+A if they are a member of any formal or informal fellowships?

  4. Beaver Patrol (and Beaver Patrol 2.0) member, never attended Recharge or other Fellowship Events
    In the past four years, members of the Beaver Patrol have
    – been appointed members of
    — International Team
    — Communications Team
    — PMST,
    — Messengers of Peace
    — Team Lead at World Scout Jamboree
    – have been elected as
    — National Youth Reps
    — Youth Advisor to the World Scout Committee
    – attended conferences in
    — Netherlands
    — Uganda
    — Slovenia
    — Kuala Lumpur
    — West Virginia
    — Saudi Arabia,
    – are on a first name basis with numerous World Scout Bureau staff members
    If the Fellowship Patrol you are trying not to refer to has all the power, then they’re not using it very effectively 😉

    1. Ger, if you are seriously attempting to equate being on a committee in Scouting Ireland with having ‘power’, then I need to join the same committee’s you are on =)

  5. Hi
    I joined the heritage group becouse I have an intetest in scouting history and tradition. Was very impressed with their documents etc at a stand at NC. Unfortunately have not got to their meetings or activities yet. I persume this is a fellow ship patrol as I got a really nice kneckerchief
    I see no problem at all here. The answer is simple – on scouts.ie last have a list of fellowship patrols, their membership, their purpose & a brief history.Then there is complet transparency and openness. And the heritage group for example will get more members.
    While waiting fot this to happen, the canadadates for election can start off by telling us about the fellowship patrols they belong to, if any

  6. All volunteers and employees should be free to join fellowship patrols of they wish. This freedom of association is guaranteed under Bunreacht na hÉireann.
    On the other hand membership of a fellowship patrol should not be some secret membership and it is not unreasonable to expect that information to be as relevant in an election or job interview as the candidate’s membership of a scouting group because the information is relevant, it informs about background, experience and, to a lesser extent perhaps, attitude, after all, people are only likely to join/be invited to join a fellowship patrol where there is some common bond.

    [psychiclink = “McCarthy”]
    Are you, or have you ever been a member of a fellowship patrol?

  7. These links may help for reference;

    Click to access 43%2006%20Fellowship%20Network.pdf

    Click to access 102_13%20Conflict%20of%20Interest%20Policy.pdf

    More policies in the morass that members of the National Management Committee are supposed to be fully conversant with as part of their role description as is virtually anyone else in the association with a role description that carries the ubiquitous last paragraph in relation to same.

    I’m not sure that the direct comparison of the cornerstone entity of our assoiation, the Scout Group, with a Fellowship Patrol is entirely sound particularly as the latter can be registered as part of the former in some instances. That aside, the potential for conflict of interest is entirely possible in so many scouting arenas irrespective of allegiances to any entity whether it be part of the Fellowship Network or to a specific entity or individual within that network. Personal or even entity advancement isn’t wrong per se it depends on it’s fit with the common goal and, moreover, how it is achieved. Concealment through non-declaration of a potential conflict is clearly not allowed.

    The particular interest in the specific arena, the NMC and election to same, should absolutely be scrutinised for undeclared interests in case there is an actual conflict of interest or, heaven forfend, a perceived one. Optics being what they are, especially in scouting (no “should have gone to SpecSavers” here pall), that only those with the squeakiest of clean lenses will pass the clarity test that full ‘transparency’ demands.

    Skeletons in closets…front and centre right now mister with a full explanation if you please!! We don’t want you jumping out at the height of our scouting passion and scaring the fecking living bejabus out of us thank you very much!

    Membership of a Fellowship Patrol should be akin to membership of any other entity in Scouting Ireland, be that a Six or a Watch, a County or a Province. It has only become a retreat for ‘the gentlemen of a certain age’ because we as an association have allowed that to happen. Fellowship Patrols are actually available to all adults, i.e. anyone over 18 and are subject to the same terms and conditions of membership as everyone else.

    As an association we promote kinship and loyalty as part of our method and core principles. Use of that principle to promote individual interest or advancement is not necessarily wrong providing it is done openly, honestly and in the best interest of the association. For example a Scout Group or County can nominate a person for a position and follows this up by agreeing a voting mandate with their voters for that candidate. Nothing wrong in that, happens all the time. The same would apply to any other entity including members of the Fellowship Network and patrols therein.

    So, my question is;
    Does the absence of a public declaration of support for an individual by any entity, or non-notification by an individual of membership of same, imply some sort of deception to hide a material fact, conflict of interest or otherwise? If it does, why would anyone who calls themselves a Scout and has intentions for any office, paid or voluntary, do that?

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