(See the end of this post for an update.)
As we move into mid-September, it’s time to stop and evaluate how our Journey is going this year.
Of course, I’m referring to the Journey to Excellence, the BSA’s replacement for the Centennial Quality Unit award. Last fall, I wrote about the new evaluation program that stacks units up not against their own commitments but a list of thirteen reference points with measurements for each, similar to the old Quality Unit program, but with a twist: there are three levels of success and two ways to get there. You must score points in 11 of 13 categories, and the number of points you score determines your level — bronze, silver or gold.
There are all kinds of resources on the BSA’s Journey to Excellence page, including scorecards, spreadsheets, glossaries and slide shows that explain the program in intricate detail. If you have not yet visited and looked at the requirements for your unit, now is a good time to go do that.
The reason for the urgency is that although you don’t have to submit your evaluation until the end of the year, you need to checkpoint your unit now so you can see where you stand, and make corrections and improvements if you want to up your score.
When I recently went through this mid-year evaluation for our troop, I was pleased that we did well in several areas. We have had better than average recruiting and we are a larger than average-size troop — much larger, in fact, as we approach 70 youth members. We camp every month and attend summer camp with attendance at the Gold level. We lost a few scouts to age-out and move-out but all in all, we retained about 85 percent. Advancement, check. Budget, check. Webelos transition, check.
A couple areas, though, could definitely use some improvement, which is possible before the end of the year so we don’t lose points. We have only planned three service projects during the calendar year so far, so one more project would be needed to qualify for that line item. While all of our direct leaders (Scoutmaster and assistants) are trained, not all of our committee members are, something that can definitely be fixed, thanks to online troop committee training. And while we are using the Patrol Method and getting better at doing so, we failed to send a scout to National Youth Leadership Training this year, so we miss out on the Gold level of that one.
While you are reviewing your performance for 2011, also look ahead at 2012. There are a few changes next year. Most of the requirements stay the same, but a few of the numbers change, plus there is a new requirement to include fitness in your troop or pack program plans throughout the year. Be sure to alert your pack committee or troop PLC to this requirement now, so when they plan next year’s program, they can include fitness activities.
The Journey to Excellence shouldn’t be something to lose sleep over, nor should it be considered a standard to which your unit program should be planned. Units that do Scouting the way Scouting is done will have no difficulty earning high marks in the Journey to Excellence. If you look at your numbers and find some shortcomings, however, use that as a clue as to what you can do to provide a better experience for your boys. Once these numbers fall into place, the measurements that really matter — are the boys having fun? — will almost certainly make the mark.
Update: In the process of completing your Journey to Excellence for 2011, you’ll encounter the terms “your last charter renewal date” and “your current charter renewal date” in the instructions on page 2 of the form. There are also the terms “this year’s recharter” and “last year’s recharter”. This can be confusing if your charter year begins and ends in January. Is your current charter renewal date last January or next January? BSA has clarified this in an instructional sheet that accompanies the spreadsheet as follows: “If your troop re-charters in December of 2011, your current re-charter year is 2011 and your previous re-charter year is 2010. If your troop re-charters in January of 2012, your current re-charter year is 2012 and your previous re-charter year is 2011.” This instructional sheet will answer most or all of your questions about the spreadsheet that aren’t answered by the form’s instructions or the FAQ. (Updated December 20, 2011)