Electoral Manouvres in the NARC

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Two key briefs in Scouting Ireland are up for election at the forthcoming meeting of National Council. What challenges do the new incumbents face? The Irish Scouter shares some thoughts..

Outsiders might be forgiven for assuming that Scouting Ireland convenes a meeting of it’s ruling National Council every time the wind changes direction, but to be fair 2015 was quite an eventful year for the now twelve year old association.

It was a year that saw the election of a new Chief Scout (after some fairly dramatic and unprecedented scenes) and a new National Secretary, both newly elected incumbents and long-standing members with strong credentials. Both received strong mandates to drive the positive change that members are looking for after a long period of stagnation.

With two National Council meetings in 2015, it seems like another in just a few weeks time has come up quickly, but nonetheless in April, delegates will gather once again. In doing so they will vote to replace another two-fifths of the National Officer team (accounting for five of the twenty seats on the National Management Committee) when both Chief Commissioner positions come up for election.

Scouting Ireland has two Chief Commissioners, one to head up Youth Programme, the other to lead the Adult Resources agenda in the association. Each area has a standing committee, the National Youth Programme Committee (NYPC), consisting of various representatives from different programme areas and the National Adult Resource Committee or (NARC) covering areas such as Training and Awards.

These committees and the various team leads within have terms of office co-terminus with the relevant Chief Commissioner, so in effect both committees will see an influx of new blood in the weeks following the elections in April.

CANDOUR ON CANDIDATES

It is early in the process but the campaigning has commenced and to date one clear candidate appears to be a potential favourite for the Youth Programme role.

Two strong candidates are lining up for the Adult Resources position, including the incumbent, both with credible track records and equally strong profiles.

With portfolios that are of critical importance to the association and it’s ability to deliver into the future on Youth Programme (the primary reason Scouting exists) and Adult Resources (a primary enabler to help deliver the former), strong candidates with the ability to do the job, the willingness to make that commitment AND the humility to ensure that members are listened to, their views are acted upon and they are in receipt of regular and open communication, will be central to the process.

Whatever sideshows inevitably open up for entertainment value in the coming weeks, it would at least appear that some serious players are ready to take up the challenge, if elected to do so.

The days of ‘popularity contests’ featuring well known but ultimately ‘also-ran’ candidates look to be increasingly a thing of the past in Scouting. Members now expect ability, clarity, transparency and humility from anyone who puts their name forward for a key leadership role in the association.

CHERUBIC CHALLENGES

Whoever takes over the Youth Programme brief will have big shoes to fill, but will also have some strategic challenges to grapple with. Teenage membership continues to slide in Scouting, making the association look more and more like a baby-sitting service and less like a youth movement.

Rover Scouts is ticking over for the handful of dedicated scoutaholics who will climb over hot coals to attend any Rover event, but has largely floundered as a bigger idea. Venture Scouts equally remains in the doldrums, with the overwhelming majority of the population in the age range oblivious to the joys of being a venture scout – and many Scout groups rather lukewarm about having something so appallingly informal contaminating their den.

Quality of Youth Programme fluctuates wildly by group and youth participation, the thing that Scouting’s technocrats love to warble on about at every given opportunity, remains, in reality, a somewhat precious and sparsely spread commodity.

SENIOR MOMENTS

Some of these challenges will need some Adult Resources focus. Training for adults for example had arguably become unnecessarily complex, putting some scouters off. A new, simpler training programme is underway and with it, hopefully a clearer link between commitment and progress for scouters.

Scout skills and the paucity of knowledge among Scouters (the Irish scouter admits to being a bit rusty in some areas here too) is an issue to be addressed, but perhaps most critically, the concept of youth participation and an adult scouters commitment to that IDEAL, is something that training for scouters needs to press home. When scouters genuinely embrace that concept, the skills deficit becomes a gap, rather than a crisis.

Young people can figure out a lot more than many scouters given them credit for.

In some ways it almost seems that the more the ‘Youth Programme’ side of the house focuses on ‘kidults’ and the older and older ‘youth members’ seem to get (is the upper age range for a ‘youth’ member currently 26 or 36?), the less members we seem to attract in these areas. Yet, by contrast, on the adult resources side are we at risk of overlooking younger adult scouters (aged 18 – 26) because we are running around trying to accommodate all the people in this age range who are still trying to pretend they are children?

WHO AWARDS AWARDS?

The adult awards process is opaque, sexist and politically driven. Too many awards go to recipients who ‘know’ people and too many scouters who work hard and deserve recognition miss out because they don’t ‘know people’. Paperwork is copious and if a word is out of place, it gets rejected. Women under index, relative to their portion of the membership and ‘troublesome’ types (people with an opinion) get blackballed. There is an opportunity to lift the veil in this area, remove the dead hand of the clique from the process with some new blood on the awards committee and ensure that scouters get recognition for hard work, even when they are not political favourites.

ICING ON THE CAKE

Both the Adult Recources brief and the Youth Programme brief are broad and need strong leaders to head up the teams. But both also have the benefit of time spent by large numbers of volunteers; often working quietly in the background and undertaking what is frequently valuable strategic thinking, but can also be on occasion somewhat less than glamorous work.

No doubt the newly elected incumbents will be looking to try and retain some of the talent present currently on both teams that drives the successes where they happen. But equally, some new blood and fresh eyes will be welcome to ensure the teams do not become staid or devoid of innovative thinking at a time when energy and new ideas are going to be important across both.

The members of National Council used two elections in 2015 to place two star performers into two key roles. The ‘hat trick’ as it were, will be to manage the same again in April and in doing so create a line up of leaders at the top tier of our management structure that has so far not been seen.

Scouting Ireland’s national structure may finally be coming to a position where it can finally fire on all cylinders at once. Just imagine the possibilities.

8 thoughts on “Electoral Manouvres in the NARC”

  1. Not for the first time I do not recognize the Association Garrett is talking about .. Was a “troublemaker” in my time and it did not stop me being re-elected to old CBSI NEB many times and indeed getting the Silver Wolfhound. Lets be narky and inclusive and constructive all together and then have a song and pint.

  2. Dermot, your contributions brighten up my day (and I am sure they do likewise to the days of many others who read this site).

    CBSI was not without it’s problems, but it didn’t have the same level of cliquishness that SI has had, certainly until recently. In addition, whilst it was perhaps more unilateral, the Chief Scout awarded Silver Wolfhounds, not an anonymous committee, some of whose members would appear to have agendas (anti-female and/or pro certain interest groups for example).

    You clashed swords with the late, lamented Joe Lawlor, but he was clearly a Chief Scout first, so even though he may have regarded you as a pain in the ass (perish the thought of course), he clearly rose above any personal desire to overlook you, because he saw the contribution you made, however inconvenient that contribution might have been for him.

    We simply have not had sufficient people of that sort of calibre in enough key roles at the same time, for some time in SI. I think, following recent elections, we do. Hopefully things will improve further on this front after National Council.

    Alas, time got away with me over Christmas and I could not look you up (nor many other old friends I wanted to see – this parenting gig is fairly time-consuming, I have been discovering), but I hope to do so on my next visit home. We have lots to talk about.

    I believe Scouting Ireland now (finally) has the sort of impartial leadership from people of genuine integrity (and enough of them in key roles at the one time) that places us in a position where we can become the best that we can be as an association, whilst taking some of the many positive attributes from CBSI and SAI too and adding these into the mix.

    Nothing is ever perfect and some things do need fixing in the NARC and the NYPC, but as we have seen in recent years, the direction set by and the demeanour displayed by the LEADER can have a remarkable effect. I’m optimistic that the effect will be overwhelmingly positive in both areas, having seen the serious candidates on hand (to date) for both roles.

    Until that opportunity to share some thoughts over a pint or two Dermot, I will make do with the nuggets of wisdom you share freely here and for which I wait, as you can imagine, often on the edge of my seat =)

  3. The biggest problems for these older youth sections are the constraints the older adult members put on them and the lack of trust and belief in them. The program was built by adults and it doesn’t cater for the milestones faced and social constraints which have a hold on the young people. It is the relentless young scout members in Ventures and Rovers who are pushing for the changes that are slowly coming about. It is our empowerment which is most important and effective because we have more autonomy to make these changes happen than the younger sections and are less tangled in the politics of SI than the older leaders. SI pays only lip-service to their child-centered approach. Let us also not forget those of us who don’t want to be world changers but want to enjoy scouts as an outdoor pastime. A lot of teens and young adults are facing huge pressure in school and at home, to do well in exams, to take on part-time jobs etc. and don’t have the energy to engage in the politics that is the one program and Scouting Ireland. They want to participate but not initiate. Why should we alienate them because they don’t want to/can’t organise themselves they way adults want them to? It is precisely the attitude towards the older sections shown in your article which debilitates them. Yes they are capable of more and yes they are still also kids with lots to learn so it is up to us as adult scouters to find the balance between the two. We should see our movement as a continual learning experience from beavers to scouter and we should nurture our leaders by giving them constructive criticism. Is this not the point of the one program? Why should should this beneficial experience stop at 15 or 18 or 26? Life doesn’t stop then. Education doesn’t stop then. Learning doesn’t stop then. Things like conflict management, motivation and team building is so much more important for older sections and their leaders. More targeted training should be provided for Scouters involved with older sections. Clarity for the role of Rover mentors is needed. Adult members should be actively listening and proactively working with the youth rather than smiling, nodding and patting them on the head then doing exactly opposite of what is wanted/needed. Young people are relatively reasonable and when they’re not, they just need an extra push in the right direction. Start paying attention to what young people actually say and not what you think they say.

  4. Emily, I could not agree more. The simple reality is that youth participation (GENUINE youth participation) is truly terrifying for a lot of scouters. Many more I am sad to say, simply don’t believe in the concept and prefer to call the shots themselves (they miss the point of scouting completely in doing so). Equally, our association structures do not suit concepts like venture and rover scouts, yet we are not willing to find a way to be flexible and in doing so give wings to two great outlets for younger people.

    We should also recognise as you say, most scouts are not like those who sit on national panels. They do not eat, drink and sleep scouting. They would in all likelihood just do something else if their group closed. They are the people who are disappearing in greater numbers each year, because the participation, autonomy and general story they were sold about Scouting is not coming through for them.

    Scoutaholics are passionate, vocal and true believers to the cause as it were. They are vociferous and the loudness of their voice is often mistaken for size. The scoutaholics (and theirishscouter is included here) will stay no matter what. They will complain, fight to improve things, find ways to get on with it – but scoutaholics are a TINY minority of our membership. Just because we are surrounded by them at key national events and conferences, we might sometimes get the impression that this is what our membership looks like. It actually could not look more different.

    Figuring this out and acting upon it, is one major key to unlocking success, especially in the older sections.

  5. Sorry, Garrett, yet again you engage in spurious comments.Where is your evidence that the awards committee acts in a sexist manner? My group has had a series of awards made, following application, and on no occasion has there been any problems.Your comments are without foundation and call into question the integrity of all members of the committee, who must be complicit in some form of conspiracy to act in the manner you suggest.

    1. Paul, thank you for your comments. There is a widely held perception that has persisted for some years now that the awards committee has a sufficient number of members from a ‘clique’ in the association that favours its friends, but blackballs others. As an example, count the number of females who have served on the NMC since the foundation of Scouting Ireland who have been awarded recognition for their service (their NMC work usually the tip of the iceberg, by the way). Contrast this with the number of males from a well-known clique in the association who miraculously seem to have far more gongs, often with (to an outside perspective) no obvious contribution over and above that of these less well-connected members.

      I appreciate Paul, this is a viewpoint, but it is prevalent (far more prevalent than merely being my viewpoint I can assure you). Various submissions in favour of members have been made in recent years and have been ignored. What is needed is greater transparency and a better rotation of members on the committee (a TRANSPARENT rotation).

      It is obvious that not all members on the committee are biased, but there are trends that are of concern to members and the incoming CCAR will have an opportunity to address it.

  6. complete and utter nonsense. An assertion that a committee acts in a biased fashion, when challenged becomes described as a perception. Again a reference to a well know clique……smoke and mirrors Garrett, name names or give it a rest.

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