Some of the discussion at a recent district-level meeting centered around progress toward the annual Quality District award. Our district usually earns this award, but we missed last year by one item – the number of units in the district earning Quality Unit was less than forecast. We talked about measuring membership, measuring retention, measuring crossover percentage, measuring commissioner visits, measuring dollars raised (another sticking point – not in the dollars raised but where it came from) – everything but the one measure that matters: Are we delivering for the boys?
Indeed, this is a difficult thing to measure, at least in numbers. You could say it can be measured in how many boys advance in rank, how many merit badges are earned, how many patches and awards received. But, how about measuring the smiles after catching a fish, or making it to the top of the climbing tower, completing the mile swim, or surviving a COPE course? Success in delivering for the boys is counted in the miles hiked, the sights seen, the traces not left, the good turns done for others… in short, those moments that can’t be measured in quantities or numbers.
The measurables – FOS performance, popcorn sales, boys recruited, leaders trained – are important, and our hard-working Scouting professionals may obsess about them, but they should not be the focus of the rank-and-file Scouter, or the absolute measure of the success of the program. You don’t need a yardstick – just look at the nearest patrol or den, and you can tell if the program’s working.