NMC Numbers Up


By Steve Cull

There is no greater lie than a statistic.

Anyone who has ever written a report knows that you can manipulate facts and figures to make whatever point you want. Inclusion or omission of certain data can serve whatever devious ends you can dream up. That said, there is a time and place for looking at the numbers and seeing what arises. Let’s see what a quick analysis of the make-up of the National Management Committee since 2004 throws up.

A particularly human Scouter completed the following statistical analysis and there is no doubt that there is some human error contained within. Data was compiled on a best-efforts basis using annual reports, personal recollections and picking the brains of other Scouts and Scouters active at a national level. Behind every number there are decisions and assumptions. Where it is useful to know what those are, they are included. There are no conscious judgments or opinions in this piece, just the numbers, honest.

This analysis will look at gender, geography and legacy association among other things. Other things include such delicious topics as how membership of a fellowship patrol crosses over with membership of the NMC and how likely an NMC member is to complete his/her term.

Let’s start with an easy one, laying out the basis of this statistical analysis. My calculations show that there have been 68 different members of the NMC since the foundation of Scouting Ireland (excluding the Interim NMC for simplicity). These members have an average term length of 3.4 years (basic rounding is in place here when a member has not completed a full year).
12 women (18%) have been members of the NMC, leaving 56 men (82%) to make up the numbers.

35% of the members are from the Dublin Scout Province, an unsurprising over-representation, with the province contributing 19% of the national membership (at end 2014). There is a common narrative that North Eastern Province has dominated decision making since the formation of Scouting Ireland. True? Well, it has had 13% of the NMC members since 2004, in comparison to its contribution of 20% of the national membership. So on this level at least, it has been underrepresented proportionally. The West and South make up the numbers for under representation (West, 2 members, 3%, 11% of national membership – South 9 members, 13%, 18% of national membership). The Northern Province and the South East are in goldilocks territory, just right, with the NP having 10% of the NMC members and 10% of the national membership and the SEP with 24% of the NMC members for 23% of the national membership. No member from the Western Province has ever been elected to the National Management Committee other than for the position of Provincial Commissioner for that province.

There have been 2 Chief Scouts, 3 Chief Commissioners (Youth Programme), 5 Chief Commissioners (Adult Resources), 4 National Secretaries, 3 National Treasurers, and 4 NSRAP coordinators. There have been 5 Communications Commissioners and 4 International Commissioners. After a bad start for under 26 members, with vacancies and resignations common, stability has prevailed in these roles in recent years, with members far more likely to complete their terms. My analysis suggests that only 2 members have served 2 full terms as Provincial Commissioners to date, though this will likely increase in 2016. 3 members have been Provincial Commissioners and subsequently members of the NTPIC (for all intents and purpose the ‘National Officers’).

‘Ah, the ol’ NTPIC’, I hear you say, how about some stats on that subset of NMC? 20 different volunteers have sat at that table, plus 2 Chief Executives. Gender gap here is stark, with only 15% of members having been female. Assuming that the NSRAP members are not necessarily members of Scout groups in a province, members with an association with groups in Dublin Scout Province dominate, at 30% of NTPICers. No members from the Northern and Western province have sat at the NTPIC table to date. 3 each from the Southern and South Eastern provinces and 4 from the North East make up the numbers. Again excluding the NSRAP representatives, 81% of members of the NTPIC come from the CBSI/Scouting Ireland (CSI) tradition and there hasn’t been a NTPICer from the BSI/SAI/Scouting Ireland S.A.I. tradition since 2009, there having been a 50/50 split at the foundation of the new Scouting Ireland.

As a young Scouter in Cork I remember some CBSI/Scouting Ireland (CSI) stalwarts decrying that Sea Scouts ran the new association. Despite having 8% of the national membership (close to the membership of the WP and NP) and 4 of the largest 10 groups in the country, just 1 Sea Scout has been a member of the NMC since the foundation of Scouting Ireland, and that for a very short period.

Here are some quick nuggets for those who are interested in conspiracies/remarkable coincidences. 5 members have gone on to work for Scouting Ireland or one of its subsidiary companies. There have been almost as many members of the Buffalo Patrol (10) on the NMC as women (based on a recent list published online), bearing in mind one member satisfies both criteria. After National Council 2015, this is the first time since the foundation of Scouting Ireland that there has been no member of that fellowship among the volunteers who sit at the NMC table. 74% of members come from the CBSI/Scouting Ireland (CSI) tradition. One in 10 members have occupied more than one role on the NMC. One in 5 NMC terms has not been completed due to a member resigning, running for another position or taking up a staff role.

Food for thought?

Corrections welcome on any human errors readers may find.

6 thoughts on “NMC Numbers Up”

  1. While statistics can be used by any side to justify their stance, one important point to remember is that in order for a province to have representation, then someone from that province must put themselves forward for election. Then that province must send sufficient delegates to ensure their election. I stand to be corrected, but I do not think that we have had anyone put themselves forward for election from the west.
    This is not something that Scouting Ireland can be blamed for, it is something that we in the west need to address

    1. You can’t be elected without standing certainly! This piece definitely isn’t blaming anything or anyone. It couldn’t be further from that. I just hoped it would be useful to think about some things. It might even be the prompt for people to start thinking about running!

      I’ll see if I can find enough information on candidates to do a further analysis, showing who stands for election.

  2. I’m afraid I’m struggling with the “so what?” of this piece? Is this just a series of observations or is there a deeper message.

    The key question that I ask myself on stats is around causation – are the stats linked and if so which is the cause and which is the effect? For that, in my view, we need more data and a longer sample period.

    We’re a voluntary organisation with every group in the country having the opportunity to send the same number of delegates to national council. Those that put themselves forward for election and those that turn up and cast their votes are self selecting. Some groups, individuals and counties are more enthusiastic about these things than others and its ever been thus. These things also go in cycles as personalities change and enthusiasm ebbs and flows – perhaps in another 10 years the stats will say something different.

    Given our rules and constitution I don’t think we need to fear the hijacking of the NMC by one group or other – decisions are made by those that show up – if we don’t like the decisions, then we need to show up, put our name forward and canvass.

    If we don’t like the rules and constitution, lets propose motions to change them.

  3. I think the “So What” of the piece is the debunking of many of the myths about the various secretive entities (Buffalo Patrol, Sea Scouts) that allegedly hold the reins in SI.
    I believe that in general the turn out to National Councils is so poor that if any individual can mobilise any segment of SI (a province, a section, an age group) to pursue group tickets, show up and vote, that individual is in with a pretty good shot at getting elected, even if that segment is a comparatively small portion of the nominal eligible vote.
    Postal or online voting would greatly diminish the prospect of SI being wagged by any particular tail.
    I also think 10 years is long enough to find, or conceal, a pattern in data.

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