ScoutingU to Combine Volunteer and Employee Learning and Development

A couple of years ago, two executives from the BSA’s Center for Professional Development were discussing the nine stages of team development. One of the executives had recently returned from a local council where he had presented the topic. When asked to name the nine steps in team development taught at CPD, he responded, “I don’t remember. I’ll check the lesson plan and get back to you.” When this same executive was asked to name the steps taught in Wood Badge, he immediately and accurately replied, “Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.”

This conversation illustrates two important points:

  1. Careful design and organization of information is critical to learning and, even more importantly,
  2. We are not teaching the same things to our employees and volunteers.

If we do not create good learning and are not consistent in our information, how can we expect to be successful as an organization?

With the changing technological and social environment, consistency and good learning design are critical to developing our workforce to achieve the mission of the Boy Scouts of America. It only makes sense, therefore, that the learning experiences of our employees and volunteers be combined. We cannot continue teaching different philosophies and ideals and expect to achieve exceptional organizational performance, let alone deliver high-quality service and programs to our members and youth.

To address this dilemma, a team of BSA volunteers and executives has spent much of 2013 creating a framework for learning that will ensure consistency in the language and content of all programs, create learning experiences in multiple delivery formats to reach all types of learners, and merge employee and volunteer programs to encourage collaboration and sharing of experiences. The result is Scouting University (or ScoutingU), and you’ll hear more about it in 2014.

The framework was only the beginning; there are many other pieces to the strategy that require further planning and will take time to implement. Currently, the team is developing a Scouting University Web page to keep you up to date on activities and progress, and you may be asked periodically to provide feedback. In the meantime, please email your questions and comments to; you can expect a response within 48 hours.

14 Responses to ScoutingU to Combine Volunteer and Employee Learning and Development

  1. Kim Wilkerson says:

    Great idea and about time. We send at least one Professional and one Support Staff member to Wood Badge each year. This has provided many wonderful learning opportunities as well building relationships with the volunteers. We also encourage staff to become part of the OA and teach at our annual University of Scouting.
    I would like to see forums / courses for Support Staff development. BSA has lots of national level training for the Professional group but not for the Support Staff group which are the folks “in the trenches” everyday turning dreams into reality for the Scouts & volunteers.

    • Mary Marris says:

      Kim, The framework developed for Scouting University will ensure all employees at all levels throughout the organization have access to development opportunities. We have plans to develop Scouting, Business, and Leadership Academies within ScoutingU that help eliminate the gap in training that you have been seeing as well as combine employee and volunteer development. We have much to do, so please continue to follow us and provide your feedback.


  2. Paul says:

    Consistency in terminology, concepts and practices from the unit level to the professional level is a great idea.

  3. Joyce Adcock says:

    What the previous person said I agree with. The more an employee knows the better they can communicate with volunteers. Sometimes I have felt like a different arm of scouting, but I ask questions and try to be informed, it shouldn’t be that way.

    • Mary Marris says:

      Joyce, You are right, knowledge is important and is the key to success for the BSA, its employees, and its volunteers. ScoutingU will bridge that gap to ensure all have the information they need to be great at their work. We are, after all, ONE TEAM. Thanks!

  4. Peter Simon says:

    One of the vital keys to performance improvement lies in consistency of training delivery. Scouting University will provide that consistency. Looking forward to amazing results!

  5. Michael Wright says:

    I disagree. There is a difference in the job. Leadership is leadership; scouting is scouting, but there is a difference in purpose, drive, and sometimes control.

  6. John Whitford says:

    Sounds like a good concept. Years ago my Dist Chair and Commissioner attended the Key III training at Philmont. Sadly, I was unable to attend due to a camp assignment. It was a great experience for them and one that, as a professional, I would have liked to have shared.

  7. Brian says:

    Golly, gosh darn, what a novel concept. Practice what you preach. Who woulda thunk?

  8. John Anthony says:

    We will now talk the same language Scouting

  9. Richard Calzada says:

    I believe this will go a long ways to improve volunteer and professional relationships and trust. The consistent training will leave little room for mistrust!

  10. Connie Knie says:

    I will follow the progress with interest. As well as language consistency, which may hopefully better communication, I would hope another side effect would be that the professional side better understands the mindset of volunteers.

    I believe that the professional side has lost sight of why folks volunteer in the first place. And in the rush to meet deadlines and financial goals volunteers get frustrated and feel very disrespected.

    There needs to be a better understanding by the volunteers as well as to why and how certain goals are set. They see Council and National as always pushing for money and membership but it hasn’t been communicated well as to where they money goes or how to support membership growth.

    So if this new way of bringing the professional side and the volunteer side closer together through common verbiage and sense of purpose then I will look forward to it.

  11. Rhonda Stengel says:

    Wow! I hope this works as well as it sounds! I would love to see the gap between Professionals & Volunteers come together. Many times I find out about changes, trainings, etc, and my DE says he had no idea! I send him the links & info I find. I travel 4 hours to another Council’s UoS 2x a year-to bring back info to teach to our Council. I’m so grateful for finding these web sites, pages, and FaceBook to stay up with all the new info. When we get a new DE (many times with no Scouting experience) we feel like us volunteers are training the Professionals! No, its not about egos-but if we wait for the Prof/Council Staff…we’d be ever further behind in the programs…not very helpful in Training our leaders & being prepared for any changes. Making things more consistent and tied together should go along ways to better programs for our Youth. Thank-you! Will book mark yet another page to keep track of the process ;~) Good Luck!

    • Mary Marris says:

      Hello Rhonda!
      Sounds like part of the problem isn’t just a lack of communication but where to look to get it. That will be something we will pay close attention to as well. There is a lot happening with ScoutingU but it will take time and lots of collaboration. We want to keep everyone up to date on what’s going on so finding the information will be important. Keep an eye out for a ScoutingU website in the coming weeks to help with that. Thanks for your great feedback!

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