Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recognition v. Advancement

I'm working on a presentation about the Venturing Silver Award for round table this month, which got me thinking about the Venturing method of recognition. And I decided I've been wrong. Sort of.

In the past I have tried to emphasize the difference between the Boy Scout method of "Advancement" and the Venturing method of "Recognition." I've told people that Advancement is not a method of Venturing. I've often interpreted that to mean that the Venturing awards aren't as important to the program as Scout ranks are to the Boy Scouts.

That has actually been a fairly hard position for me to hold, since I love the Venturing awards and think every Venturer should work on them. I also think that they provide ideas and structure to potential activities. And I think leaders who aren't at least sharing information about the awards with their youth are negligent in their duties. But, since Advancement isn't a Venturing method, it isn't a big deal if the youth don't work on the awards. To support this idea I have occasionally referred to the Journey to Excellence program. Nowhere in either the 2011 or 2012 Journey to Excellence scorecard for crews are awards mentioned. Obviously that means they're not that big a focus, right?

With this view in mind I have, in the past, described the Venturing method of Recognition as being broader than the awards. Sure, it includes the awards, but it also means we should be acknowledging any important achievement in the lives of our youth. It possibly opens the door to custom "awards" for anything the crew deems important.

I still think that recognition is broader than advancement, but I've changed my mind a bit on the importance of the awards.

Let's review the official literature.

From Scouting.org, under Venturing methods:
  • Recognition. Recognition comes through the Venturing advancement program and through the acknowledgement of a youth's competence and ability by peers and adults. (emphasis added)
  • Teaching Others. All of the Venturing awards require Venturers to teach what they have learned to others. When they teach others often, Venturers are better able to retain the skill or knowledge taught, they gain confidence in their ability to speak and relate to others, and they acquire skills that can benefit them for the rest of their lives as a hobby or occupation. (emphasis added)
If the awards weren't that important, why would they be mentioned twice under two different methods?

From the 2011 Guide to Advancement (
"The purpose of the Venturing awards program is to facilitate these four goals; provide a pathway for personal development; encourage learning, growth, and service; and recognize high levels of achievement.
 "Except for Sea Scouts, Venturers work on awards, not ranks, and they can choose to work along with others in a crew or go it alone. They may also work simultaneously on the Bronze, Gold, and Silver awards; there are time-oriented requirements, but not between the earning of one award to the next." [In theory, a Venturer could earn bronze, gold, and silver all on the same day.]
 What I've come to realize is that the change from Advancement (as a Boy Scout method) to Recognition (as a Venturing method) isn't so much to lessen the importance of the awards as it is to emphasize the nature of the awards. Let me try to explain.

In Boy Scouts, the advancement focus is rank. A boy progresses from tenderfoot to second class to first class and on toward Eagle. Once he reaches Eagle, he's done. Sure he can earn more merit badges and get palms, but his advancement is essentially over. It's a linear progression from one level to the next.

That's not how it is in Venturing. We don't have ranks--we have awards. And while there is a limited advancement structure from bronze to gold to silver, that's not the whole picture.

The following is a simple diagram I've put together to illustrate the various awards available to Venturers. The basic structure is Bronze, Gold, Silver. But there are five different bronze awards: outdoor, religious life, sports, arts and hobbies, and sea scouts (I've left off sea scouts because they are a special case and I'm not going to deal with that here). The outdoor, religious life, and sports bronze have an associated "expert level award": ranger, trust, and quest.
The result of this structure is pretty cool, I think. After a Venturer earns a bronze award, he has several options for what to do next. He can choose to earn the Gold and then Silver, or he can go for the expert level award associated with whatever bronze award he earned, or he can earn second bronze award.

For example, one youth may start by earning the Religious Life Bronze award, then earn Gold and Silver. Even though he has now earned the highest award in Venturing, he then decides to go back and earn the Trust award. (The arrows in the diagram show the path of advancement in terms of order earned.)

Another youth might not care much about earning Silver right away but go for the Outdoor bronze and then Ranger award. After earning Ranger he then chooses to go for Gold and Silver. After earning Silver, he decides to work on the Sports bronze.
It's possible that a youth might even choose to take a path that looks something like this, starting with Outdoor bronze and ending with Trust:

This non-linear, personalized progression through the awards is one of the things that I really, really like about Venturing. It can be tailored to just about anyone's interests, and youth can go any direction they want.

So, I've changed my mind. The fact that the method is titled Recognition instead of Advancement will no longer, in my mind, lessen the importance of the awards. The awards are an essential part of Venturing. They provide structure and motivation to the program. From here on, I will un-apologetically promote earning of Venturing awards. I'll do more to encourage leaders to use the awards as part of the program. And I'll do even more to encourage my youth to earn their awards.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for doing this. This is a great way to present the Venturing program. Thanks