My reply has always been that it depends on how you define success.
When I first started, I thought if I could just get them out of the gym and do something other than basketball as the default, I would count it as a success.
Later, I thought if I could just get someone to earn a Venturing award, it would be a success.
Now that I've had one boy who has earned Venturing Silver, I think I would really like to see more Venturing awards earned. But is that success?
This fellow Scouter told me his measure of success was that I had a boy earn Silver. Considering he's the first Venturer in our district to do so makes it quite an accomplishment. That is certainly a good thing for this young man, but does it mean my crew is successful? Not necessarily.
How does one measure success in Scouting?
Some would talk about the number of boys who earn their Eagle. Others might take a slightly broader view and ask look at how often boys are advancing, or earning badges. So often it comes down to advancement in some way or another.
At the moment, in my crew, I'm looking more at youth leadership than advancement. I often think that if I could get the crew officers meeting more regularly, taking a greater role in planning and leading activities it would be a great success. My view of success has changed a bit in the three and a half years I've been doing this.
But is that a good measure of success? I'm not sure. I think to really measure success in Scouting, we have to go back to the fundamental purposes of Scouting.
Mission Statement: The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.While advancement is good, a better view of success would be in the character of the men those boys become. But that's not a very easy thing to measure. However, if we run the programs correctly, we will see some success.
Vision Statement: The Boy Scouts of America will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.
The BSA has given a tool to help us do better at running our programs. It's called Journey to Excellence. This tool gives us benchmarks to shoot for. It gives us a guide as to what we should be doing in our programs and, I think, will help us improve--if we use it.
Here is the 2011 scorecard for Venturing: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/mission/2011_JTE_Crew_Requirements.pdf
I have to admit, we haven't done very well. I haven't used this tool as I should, and I think if I was to actually try to come up with a score, we probably wouldn't make the bronze level. In that sense, we haven't been very successful. Part of that is that I haven't done as much as I should. Partly it's because we don't have a committee working quite like it should. Partly, perhaps, it's because I have had difficulty getting the youth to lead (whether that is my fault or theirs, I don't know). Whatever the cause, we aren't quite where I would like to be.
But I'm going to try to do better. I plan on sharing this scorecard with my youth and with my committee. I hope to set some goals with my youth and make this a major focus. Because the important thing here, I think, is that we are trying to do better.
Every troop, team, or crew is at a different level. Everyone is going to view success differently. Some may simply want to move beyond unorganized basketball. Some will be looking at advancement. Some at participation at summer camp. But as we chart a course toward success, and eventually reach our goal, our vision should change. We should be constantly trying to do better.
And maybe that's the true measure of success. Maybe success lies in improvement and growth. Isn't that what Scouting is all about anyway?