As our volunteers’ lives continue to become busier, the BSA has looked for ways to streamline and simplify our leaders’ ability to deliver the Scouting program effectively.
Recently, a cross-functional team of some 20+ BSA employees has been developing an innovative set of Den Leader Experience features for Scoutbook, the free web app used by Scout leaders and parents alike. “We want to help new den leaders feel equipped and empowered to run awesome den meetings that the kids enjoy and that parents consider to be a valuable use of their family’s time,” says Ryan Hill, the BSA’s national director for digital marketing and strategy.
The new features simplify planning, preparing, and recordkeeping for den leaders beginning this fall. Rather than having to juggle leader books and other resources, den leaders can do everything they need from within the app— everything from organizing meetings for the year to preparing for their next meeting to tracking attendance and advancement. They will even be able to communicate with parents of absent Scouts about what their kids need to do at home to get caught up.
A big part of improving the den leader experience involves packaging the required adventures for each Cub Scout rank into about 12 meetings per year. “If you attend these required meetings, and your den leader simply keeps attendance in the app, then you have earned your advancement and you’ve benefited by the lessons of character and leadership that we’ve always designed for you to get out of Scouting,” Hill says.
And communicating that value to parents is a key part of Scoutbook’s new features. Although experienced Scout leaders understand the life lessons that come with building a birdhouse or taking a hike, newcomers to Scouting may not. So Scoutbook directly makes the connections for parents. For example, when a Tiger completes the My Tiger Jungle adventure, parents will learn that the adventure “starts your child on a path of understanding the natural world around them. Building on their natural sense of curiosity, this adventure teaches your Scout about appreciation for animals and nature, all while having fun in the outdoors.”
Like most mobile apps, this one is expected to evolve over time. Even as they unveil new features, the BSA team is thinking about what comes next. “We’ve spent a lot of time interviewing den leaders, parents, and Scouts from around the country,” Hill says. “We’ve received a lot of really great ideas that we’re excited to roll out in future phases to bring new levels of fun and simplicity to everyone in Scouting.”
Despite the way Cub Scouting has evolved over the last 89 years, one thing has remained consistent. “When the program is delivered the way it was designed, it works,” Hill says. Now, delivering it will just be much easier.
An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of Alumni Alive!