Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Is a poorly-run unit better than no unit at all?

A hot topic for discussion in my area is what to do about units which are percieved as 'poorly run'. Of course, whenever there is an average or a perceived 'standard', for every unit which is above average there must automatically be one which is below, what matters more is the margin. But - Guiding relies on volunteer leaders, what expectations can we realistically have about how much time they devote to the hobby, how much training they do, and how varied a programme they as individuals are in a position to offer? Is it reasonable to close units because we feel they are poorly run, or to parachute in new volunteers (if we can get them) and impose them on existing leadership teams?

Then that brings the question of what is 'poorly-run'? Is it quantifiable - failure to run x number of outings per year, retention rate falling below x%, failure to submit subscription payment within x days of the due date? Or is it really more something which can be perceived from the outside but not really quantified - the lack of variety in the programme week by week and year by year, the failure to actually do the activities which were advertised on the programme, the lax attitudes to completing the relevant programme challenges of the section (Roundabouts/Adventure and Adventure On/GFIs), the unit which feels and looks more like a youth club? These things may be signs that a unit isn't doing as well as it might be, but they are far harder to actually measure, and declare as being 'right' or 'wrong'.

And to what extent can we intervene in a unit which we feel is 'poorly-run', but which isn't actually breaking any rules? Should we take steps to close down the Rainbow unit because they have done craft for the 6th week in a row, or for more than 2/3 of the meetings in a year? Should we be mounting a formal investigation into the activities of the Guide unit which always has a lot of 10 year olds joining, but always has hardly any over-12s? Should we be officially questioning the Brownie unit which seems to be comfortably off, but whose members have no Adventure badges or Interest badges on their sashes?

Or is it better to live with what we perceive to be square pegs plugging the holes, and providing spaces in units for the girls who want to join Guiding, even if the units are below the ideal, than no pegs at all and the girls not getting to join any unit, good or poor?

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