By Darryl Alder
Jan 10, 2020

Scout Ambassador Tool Chest: The Ambassador as Commissioner

Resources for organizing new packs, troops and crews
Click here for the whole Scout Ambassador’s Tool Chest

In September, we explained the role of the New-Unit Commissioner. Many of our Scouting Ambassadors recognized right away that that was the role they were already playing with their new units.

Our local council has asked that any Scout Ambassador who has succeeded in starting a unit accept the assignment of being that unit’s commissioner. This means serving as an ongoing advisor to the pack, troop, or crew [unit here after] during the unit’s first three years of operations.

“Why do we need a New-Unit Commissioner?”

Unit Key 3: the unit’s leader, the committee chair and the Chartered Organization Representative

The New-unit Commissioner’s key role is to serve as an adviser to the unit’s Key 3. The Key 3 are the Scoutmaster, committee chair, and  Chartered Organization Representative. Together they comprise the troop’s executive leadership team with the new-unit commissioner as their adviser. 

A New-Unit Commissioner is there to help new packs, troops, or crews through the organization process and to help units that need reorganization. As commissioners, you should work closely with New-unit Organizer if one is working with your Scout group.

The New-unit Commissioner is not a member of the Scout group and, as such, has no voting authority. He or she serves as a representative of the district, linking them to district and council resources as needed.

Working together, you can help the unit get started right. But the commissioner holds a special place in the formation of a new crew, troop, or pack, sticking with them as a mentor for up to 36 months, while the new-unit organizer will move on after 90-days.

It is appropriate for the new-unit commissioner to meet monthly with the unit Key 3. As this leadership team becomes more capable, the commissioner will attend this meeting as needed.

The New-unit Commissioner and New-unit Organizer work together to help units along the path that establishes them as a robust unit.

At that point, the commissioner will make his or her monthly visits to other operations such as unit meetings or activities, committee meetings, or one-on-one coaching sessions with the unit leaders.

Experienced unit commissioners often say it would be much more exciting to “raise a unit in the way it should go” than to monitor an existing one. New-Unit commissioners derive even greater satisfaction from their unique role than other unit commissioners simply because they can take pride in the creation process, watching the unit grow and last for years.

The New-Unit Commissioner guides and encourages unit leadership in the Journey to Excellence and along the path that establishes them a securely independent Scouting unit. You are the go-to person to coach and consult with Crew Advisors, Scoutmasters, and Cubmasters. You work with unit committees to lay a strong foundation around which the new unit forms and continues successfully for many years. You work to become a familiar face to new-unit leaders and become a recognizable, consistent liaison between the chartered organization representative and the district.

“How is that different than a regular Unit Commissioner?”

While the roles of all unit commissioners are very similar in that they both work as mentoring coaches, the New-Unit Commissioner is involved in the organization process with things like selecting and training new leaders.

It is typical for most unit commissioners to be assigned several units at the same time, but this is not true for a New-Unit Commissioner. Being assigned to just one unit, at least during the new unit’s first year, allows for the intensity of service needed to really help the unit get going well. When possible this commissioner serves just this unit for up to three years.

In my experience establishing Troop 3, chartered by the Lakeview Parents Association, there has not been much need to coach the new Scoutmaster. He was eager to learn the job and after pointing him to myScouting.org he completed youth protection training and Scoutmaster Specific Training on-line before ever meeting with the boys.

With his youth, who by the way are NYLT trained, he has planned and held the troop’s first campout. Together they have put a calendar together for the first six months, but now it is time to help the committee develop a strong relationship with him so that our forward momentum can continue.

The committee will need to consider the costs of Scouting and arrange for adequate fundraising. They need to plan a spring membership recruiting campaign before camp. Then they will need to help the troop find the gear for and support that summer camp. It is a tall order for us as an organizing team, but our task is to deliver a good program to youth members.

Duties of the New Unit Commissioner

Commissioners are most concerned with a good unit operation that delivers the promise of Scouting’s adventure. They encourage Roundtable attendance for resources and ideas to make that happen. In other words, the commissioner helps to develop the program capability in a unit which is particularly vital to a new unit.

  • Supports recruitment of at least five adults for the and ten youth for the new unit.
  • Helps leaders get trained online now and to take training and to take live group training as offered by the district and council.
  • Helps the unit leader write a vision statement and set goals for the organizing team pointed to the Journey to Excellence.
  • Supports a leadership succession plan before the end of the first year.
  • Schedules an annual program planning meeting led by an
    experienced district representative.
  • Attend the first meeting. From this point on, the new-unit commissioner takes a leading role in mentoring the unit for the next 36 months.
  • Familiarizes the leaders with the district/council calendar and
    encourages roundtable attendance.
  • Ensures that unit leaders and parents are added to council and district email lists so that they receive current events and training information.
  • Present the charter at a full meeting of the chartered organization with the new-unit organizer.

Commissioner Training

A trained commissioner is knowledgeable and more confident in the role being performed. Trained leaders exhibit knowledge and confidence that is picked up by people around them. When trained you will impact the quality of programs, leader tenure, youth tenure, and a whole lot more.

You can learn nearly everything you need online at myScouting.org and at the National Council Commissioner website. Also, look for upcoming commissioner colleges offered by the council.

Summary

When a new unit is organized Scouting has made a promise to those families that their sons or daughters will have a top-quality Scouting experience: one they cannot get anywhere else. It is a promise that you help keep by being there and doing what is needed to keep the unit moving forward, helping them become results-oriented, rather than procedures-oriented.

We will be successful in our mission when our units continue to operate, find and recruit regularly new youth, and effectively deliver the ideals of Scouting to their members. Good luck and good Scouting.


Darryl Alder, blogger for "The Boy Scout"

Author: Darryl Alder is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Exploring Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Unit Commissioner. He currently serves on the Utah National Parks Council Executive Board and is the New-unit Commissioner for Troop 3, chartered by the Lakeview Parents Association.

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