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Churchill Plan, Are the BSA programs aligned with today’s young people? - Venturing Program improvements

Using qualtrics to accept input to the Understanding the Churchill Plan and What It Means for Scouting does not improve communication with stakeholders, one of the key areas to be addressed in the plan. Upon submitting a comment, no feedback is provided in nearly real time and no means to discuss the merits of the proposed changes to optimize the BSA for success. Further, no rational for the 26 Proposed RECOMMENDATIONS Being Considered is provided.

This topic relates to Venturing Program improvements to increase membership and aligning the program with today’s young people.

Chart shows number of youth in BSA/ScoutsBSA Venturing crews ages 14 to 20 versus year.
bsaventuring

There is no correlation to BSA policies to explain the drop in enrollment in the Venturing program. I surmise the free fall in enrollment is the program itself not providing what the youth want.

Much of what is posted here is taken from the forum topic Where Do You See Scouting Membership In The Next 5 Years? What Can We Do To Grow The Program? Users should copy and paste their relevant post(s) to this topic. Users should post additional Venturing Program improvements here.

Users should like a post if he/she believe that the improvement will optimize the BSA for success. This then will provide a metric to be used in implementing changes to the Venturing Program. The like count is a vote for the improvement. The more likes indicates the importance of the improvement.

This topic bears on the following recommendations

  • Reinvigorate the on-boarding program for new Scout families and members - Venturing enrollment has dropped precipitously.
  • Evaluate program methods and age parameters - There is a proposal to limit Venturing to ages 14-18
  • Establish a volunteer corps for young adults ages 18-29 - This proposal is a new program.
  • Leverage High Adventure bases in overall marketing communications strategy. - I suppose this is to promote attendance at the High Adventure bases which have a waiting list already,
  • Create a membership executive position within councils focused on growth and paid on performance. - Sounds like this increases the overhead expenses of the councils.
  • Transition to digital merit badge resources. - They may be talking about putting the merit badge pamphlets in a downloadable form?

Target your posts accordingly.

I think it would be interesting to see membership numbers in all programs for just community units. Membership was compulsory in LDS units, and now that the church no longer charters units, many former scouts have chosen not to continue in community units. Trends of community units would show a truer picture of how BSA membership has changed over time.

As an example, it is my opinion that the drop in Venturing numbers starting in 2016 is directly related to the LDS church no longer chartering Venturing Crews. So do today’s numbers represent a real picture of average non-LDS Venturing Crew membership, or is there still a drop taking place in community units? Looking at historical non-LDS membership numbers would help answer that question.

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Thanks for asking.
I have discussed this on other forums, and maybe tomorrow I’ll dredge up the link, but the precipitous drop boils down to the following:

  • In about 2010, I discovered in my council that the numbers of venturers actually working the program were being grossly exaggerated. Advisors in other councils discovered the same thing. Youth in various clubs and youth groups had no idea they were registered in BSA! Over the following years, we demanded execs give us honest numbers of crews who were active.
  • Most teens and tweens are paying their own activity fees. Or, they are very sensitive to what their parents are paying for. The moment registration exceeded the cost of one weekend activity (which would include one large pizza), the calculus tipped against rechartering. The program is attractive, the cost is not.
  • Most teens and tweens don’t need two adults of opposite sex present just to have a meeting or day activity. Many don’t need them for overnights. When BSA required the same youth protection for 14-20 year-olds as for 8 year-olds, the calculus tipped in favor of bypassing BSA in order to fulfill the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates.

In short, if BSA wants to attract 14-20 year olds, it has to roll back these three barriers (false reports, registration costs, inordinate supervision requirements). If not, youth will venture on without BSA.

In a sense, the registration costs did help curb false reports. So, there was some benefit to the fee structure. But the youth perspective of value-for-money is not there. The value-proposition has to change.

Where do these fit in Churchill? They don’t. The plan exists because National has no stomach for giving youth that level of autonomy and accountability.

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Tweens

Not only that, many 16-20 year-olds drive their own car which expands their opportunities for group activities.

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Offer registration deep discounts to scouts upon joining a Venturing Crew. - the retention rate is just dismal.

Venturers age 16 and 17used to be able to drive to events. That was revised in 2017..

JeremyBlevins

The Venturing uniform should display the scouting ranks earned along with the core awards side by side since scouts can continue to earn scout ranks and merit badges while in venturing.

newleftpaocket

The intent of Venturing was to keep older boys active in scouting and to attract older youth not having a scouting background.

What better way to market the Scouts BSA program than to have Venturers to display their scout rank that they worked so hard to obtain than on the Venturer uniform.

Reinvigorate the on-boarding program for new Scout families and members, with a continuing key focus on “Safe Scouting” and “Keeping Young People Safe.”

Provide continuity for youths to move from a Scout BSA troop to a Venturing crew. I see the Venturing program as a higher level in Scouting but the program is not unified with Scouts BSA program such that it is obvious to members what they can actually work toward the Eagle rank and beyond. Adventures should include other projects not necessarily just outdoor activities.

The Venturing program should expand on the scout merit badge requirements by adding sections to the requirements just for Venturing (with unique patches worn on the sash), which would entice adult leaders having interests in those tier II and tier III adventures such as:

Horsemanship Merit Badge
Venturing Requirements. Do the following:

  1. Plan a minimum of 5 day trail ride using pack horses or donkeys
  2. Properly pack a horse or donkey with all equipment and supplies
  3. Demonstrate how to hobble or corral the animals for overnight
  4. Using safety precautions, Complete the trail ride using what you learned in completing the requirements for the Horsemanship merit badge. and the Camping Merit Badge
  5. Using video camera, document your trail ride and report on the things could/should have done differently for your next trail ride to prepare to teach the material.

horseanddonkeys

Backpacking Merit Badge
Venturing Requirements. Do the following:

  1. Plan a minimum of 5 day backpacking trek using goats and/or dogs
  2. Properly pack a goat(s) or dogs with all equipment and supplies not carried on your back
  3. Demonstrate how to hobble or corral or leash the animals for overnight
  4. Using safety precautions, Complete the backpacking trek using what you learned in completing the requirements for the Backpacking merit badge and Dog Care merit badge and the Camping Merit Badge and the Animal Science Merit Badge, Goat Option.
    A. Make a sketch of a live goat. Show the location of the various wholesale and retail cuts.
    B. Discuss how wool are sorted and graded.
    C. Do ONE of the following:
    (1) Raise a kid from weaning to market weight. Keep records of feed intake, weight gains, medication, vaccination, and mortality. Present your records to your counselor for review
    (2) Visit a farm or ranch where goats are raised. Describe what you saw and explain what you learned. If you cannot visit a goat farm or ranch, view a video from a breed association, or research the Internet (with your parent’s permission) for information on goats. Tell about your findings.
    D. Describe some differences between the production of purebred and commercial kids. Then select two breeds that would be appropriate for the production of crossbred market kids in your region. Identify which breed the buck should be.
    E. Define the following terms: wether , doe, buck, kid.
  5. Using video camera, document your trail ride and report on the things could/should have done differently for your next backpacking trek to prepare to teach the material.

goats donkeys

Communication Merit Badge
Venturing Requirements. Do the following:

  1. Plan the construction of radio transmitter and broadcast station studio. Develop a plan to teach a skill or inform someone about something.via the information broadcast station.
  2. Using safety precautions, Build and tests the transmitter using what you learned in completing the requirements for the Electronics Merit Badge
  3. Conduct weekly broadcast for one month using what you learned in the Communication merit badge.
  4. Using video camera, document the assembly of the radio transmitter and the record videos of the broadcasts and report on the things could/should have done differently in the construction of your radio station to prepare to teach the material.
    fmtransmitter

American Business Merit Badge
Venturing Requirements. Do the following:

  1. Plan incorporating your Venturing crew so that crew property such as cash balances, gear and vehicles, are owned by the corporation
  2. Using what you learned in the American Business merit badge.Obtain legal assistance preferably pro-bono to set up the corporation preferably a limited liability corporation where you complete all the paperwork (bylaws) for registration with the secretary of state including the obtaining a fictitious name.
  3. Conduct business of the corporation per the bylaws at regular meetings
  4. Record videos of the meetings of the board of directors to prepare to teach the material.

American Business merit badge

Nearly all the Scouts BSA merit badges can be expanded to include requirements meeting tier II and tier III adventures such as:

  • Service project - Build a totem pole to be erected at the summer camp
  • Indian Lore Merit Badge - Make bows and arrows for personal use and for fun and profit
  • Model Design and Building Merit Badge - Build model airplanes for display at the charter organization
  • Indian Lore Merit Badge - Build a replica of Native American canoe or dugout
  • Metalwork Merit Badge - Build an crucible for melting aluminum and making medallions and other objects for fun and profit
  • Cycling Merit Badge - Rehabbing antique bicycles
  • Indian Lore Merit Badge - Knapping flint arrowheads
  • Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge - Rebuilding small engines
  • Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge - Rebuilding lawn mowers
  • Aviation Merit Badge - Join the model airplane club and learn to fly radio controlled airplanes
  • Aviation Merit Badge - Take airplane ground school working toward a private pilots license
  • Swimming Merit Badge - Swimming and lessons and races
  • Wood Carving Merit Badge - Carving (visit a woodcarvers club),
  • Salesmanship Merit Badge - jewelry crafting and metal working and sculpting for fun and profit
  • Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge - Attend meetings of the city Advisory boards
  • Wilderness Survival Merit Badge - Survival training and outing to perfect skills
  • Welding Merit Badge - Build a cockpit to fly those radio controlled airplanes without those hand held controllers.
  • Aviation Merit Badge - Rebuild an aircraft (a 2000 man hour project)
  • Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge - Rebuild motorcycles
  • Orienteering Merit Badge - Orienteering classes and contests challenging places
  • Outfitting your day bags, backpacks, and gear
  • go to garage sales to obtain camping equipment and refurbish them
  • Salesmanship Merit Badge - Assembling electronic kits for fun and profit
  • go to garage sales to obtain computer equipment and refurbish them
  • repair and refurbish scouting equipment if needed
  • Digital Technology Merit Badge - Setup a WIFI and LAN for charter organization
  • Programming Merit Badge - Develop crew website, setup an online store, and learn computer programming by developing a cell phone app for scouting like indexing Safe Scouting rules and recommendations.
  • Snow Sports Merit Badge - Learn techniques of Camping in the winter
  • Whitewater Merit Badge - Run the Colorado River or other big river out west
  • Salesmanship Merit Badge - leather craft for fun and profit
  • Salesmanship Merit Badge - Producing you tube videos for fun and profit
  • Thru hike a national or state trail
  • Service project - trail and camp maintenance
  • Small-boat Sailing Merit Badge - refurbish and refit a large sailboat.
  • Moviemaking Merit Badge - creating YouTube videos for fun and profit
  • Fly Fishing Merit Badge - tying flys for fun and profit

Many of these adventures can qualify as service projects and can also be a source of income for the crew.

When the tier II and tier III adventures requirements are identified then the crew and adult advisors will know what the possible adventures the youth may wish to pursue. It just makes for a better program.

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@davidEPPS, what venturers or prospective members have you been talking to who want a double standard for MBs, when they already have their own specialty awards?

Again, why would any youth want to pay a registration fee plus dues to front the award in order build a circuit or draw a goat? Why not use that fee and dues to buy the parts to the circuit or the art supplies for drawing?

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I agree that merit badges for Venturing is I’ll advised. The main aspect of Venturing is that is a youth ran program. I think that aspect gets lost when the BSA talks about. When I was a youth, venturing was always talked about like it was just a high adventure. There are many more aspects to venturing than just high adventure. Ever since the overhaul awards and the introduction of the discovery, Pathfinder, and summit awards, venturing has leaned into the leadership and personal growth of venturers. The main aspect that I feel is appealing to that age group is that they get to make decisions for themselves for what they want to do and they get to execute that. The adult leadership roles are much less involved and provide freedom for venturers to grow and learn on their own

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I appreciate the heat from @Qwazse and @bryantatum regarding the expansion of the merit badge requirements to include high adventure requirements meeting the tier II and tier III adventures needed to earn the Venturing core awards.

The intent of Venturing was to keep older boys active in scouting and to attract older youth not having a scouting background.

What better way to attract older boys active in scouting to join a Venturing crew then to publicize and market Venturing through the Scouts BSA merit badge program and to show how they can earn higher ranks of Star, Life, and eagle and in addition earn their Venturing core awards.

Older youth, not having a scouting background, can have high adventure and can earn merit badges in the process and then decide to pursue the Eagle rank and join a troop for a year and knock out their tenderfoot, 2nd class, 1st class ranks.

I find the STEM Nova awards just hokey. They are not tier II and tier III adventures where the youth can develop skills, they are just book work like many of the Scouts BSA basic merit badge requirements. The other awards are related to outdoor activities. Many youth are just not intrigued by out doors stuff. They prefer to go in depth with other subjects.

Having experience with a crew I found that adult leadership (crew advisor) was unwilling to propose to the youth adventures that they could select and lead because the adult leadership did not have the skills needed to mentor the youth nor were they willing to find and work with mentors to support the youth nor physically fit enough to keep up with the crew.

Associate advisors must be chosen that are capable to perform the adventures that the crew want to have. There is no better way then to enlist merit badge counselors to be the Associate advisor for the adventure.

The Venturing Advisor Position Specific training is completely silent on how adventures relate to Associate advisor qualifications and experience.

My proposal is all about “Reinvigorating the on-boarding program”. So Venturing can feed back into Scouts BSA program like Scouts BSA feeds into the Venturing program.

The crew must figure out for them selves how to pay for their adventures. They will decide if they want to collect reoccurring dues or one time activity fees or use one of the skill sets learned to make products for sale. The only out of pocket cost for the youth is the yearly BSA registration but even that can be paid out of the crew budget if the members so decide. Venturing is a is a 14-21 old youth ran program.

Can’t argue with you about STEM. And science is my profession and I do it with math!
And I agree about on-boarding associate advisors, but …
Associate advisors don’t provide skill necessarily, consultants do. Most of what I did as an advisor was hand venturers phone numbers! (When I wasn’t handing them maps.)

I think that’s actually what happened. Crews realized that the fastest way to raise funds for their adventures was to not register with BSA. It saves them the fee, plus they don’t need to sync up with adult chaperons, or recruit them to be drivers.
Venturing happens – with or without BSA.

By this, do you mean that youths were misrepresenting themselves by using the BSA brand to solicit donations?

No, he’s talking about “raising” funds by not spending them to register with the BSA, and instead spending what would have been the costs to register to simply have the adventures on their own terms, rather than as part of the BSA Venturing program.

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If a volunteer is qualified to be a merit badge councilor would the volunteer be qualified to be a venturing consultant? I cannot find any guidelines relative to consultant qualification?

You are probably referring to 16-21 year old youth that have their own transportation and are adventurous, fearless, and intrepid enough to venture out and jump off a cliff for fun. I did jump off a cliff when I was 19 and dislocated my shoulder in the process.

I am proposing extending merit badge requirements for venturing to those 14-18 year old youth that are not so lucky to have friends with cars or have parents which prohibit such unmonitored reckless activity or just wise enough to not attempt an activity without proper training.

It seems like we’re talking past one another in this particular case. If I understood him correctly, @Qwasze was pointing out that, in terms of the cost of engaging in an activity, if the “overhead” of being registered with the BSA (and complying with any additional BSA requirements) is gone, then those registration fees can be repurposed for a trip or series of trips, and the costs of “training” get lumped into such a trip in the same way that they would have for the BSA-registered youth, assuming it’s something that actually requires advanced skills. I’m not sure that either @Qwazse or I are advocating for youth simply dumping the BSA and going it alone. We’re just pointing out that if the costs of “membership” (whether measured in dollars or lost opportunities) outweigh the benefits in the mind of the potential members, then the potential membership doesn’t convert to actual membership.

For example, hiring qualified climbing guides to teach and monitor on a climbing trip generally costs the same for BSA and non-BSA groups because the liability insurance is the same for the guides. Some guiding outfits offer discounts, but not as many as I’d wish and not generally enough to offset the costs of registration. At a certain point, the youth may consider themselves sufficiently skilled to undertake the trip without paid guides, which likely would not comport with most BSA rules, as few adult leaders are also qualified climbing guides.

I agree that “younger” venturers constitute a different “use case” from those who are old enough to undertake activities largely on their own, or with minimal adult “supervision”.

In terms of the larger idea of expanding the MB program with additional requirements for venturers, how motivated are the Venturing-age youth to “earn badges” versus “engage in activities”? Most of the venturers I’ve known were all about the “doing stuff”, and not so much about the “earning badges”. If earning badges isn’t a strong motivator for this group of youth, then creating additional badges — whether by adding Venturing-level requirements to existing badges or creating new badges out of whole cloth — doesn’t seem like it will retain or draw in additional members.

The cost of membership is another issue unrelated to expanding the MB program to Reinvigorate the on-boarding with additional requirements for venturing.

If the youth are moving from a troop and have earned 1st class and above then I suspect they are motivated and will be retained other youth not so much. The merit badge requirements provide the necessary background material in order to conduct the adventure safely and knowledgeably.

The merit badge requirements for venturing will actually promote building skills and qualify as tier II and tier III adventures

The merit badge requirements for venturing would be excellent source material for those crews not necessarily creative enough to devise a program on their lonesome as this Venturer did. To devise alternatives for each merit badge requirement for venturing then look to these videos for ideas.

To Reinvigorate the on-boarding program for new Scout families and members, Offer registration deep discounts to scouts and to older youth, not having a scouting background, upon joining a Venturing Crew.

Users should like a post if he/she believe that the improvement will optimize the BSA for success.

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I’m not trying to be thick. It just sounds like the Venturing MBs are an attempt to replace the Ranger, Trust, Quest, Super Nova, Outstanding Shooting Sports, and World Conservation Awards. It sounds like an expensive replacement, because instead of a medal for a heafty lot of work, we are adding a half dozen badges. Which would no doubt come with expensive pamphlets.

Also, the point of venturing for most of my 1st class scouts is to not be bothered with the MB grind. But to find someone who is probably not registered with the BSA to teach them something that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to master with the help of their advisors.

Others have explained the bloated overhead that has made any venturing a tough sell for these youth.

But … maybe here’s where we can find common ground: Scouting.org shares a .pdf of the opening pages of MB pamphlets. Maybe, they can include a closing page in each pamphlet titled If You Are a Venturer …

This page would list some ideas that you talked about and organizations who may provide consultants. Maybe even a photo and caption of a crew doing the “next level” activity related to the badge. (E.g., in the back of Basketry, some pictures of Crew 820 underwater basket weaving.) This would increase the name-recognition of Venturing while putting ideas in scout’s heads.

Round cloth medallions, no. Adventure ideas, yes.

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