Are you offering the best possible Scouting experience for your Scouts? With Journey to Excellence, you’ll know for sure.
A few years back, Neil Lupton explained Journey to Excellence to a group of fellow Scouting volunteers. There was only one objection.
One volunteer — we’ll call him Chad — listened as Lupton explained how JTE is a balanced scorecard for measuring Scouting success. He heard how units score points in four categories: planning and budget, membership, program and volunteer leadership. He learned how it helps good units become great as they advance from bronze to silver to gold.
But Chad had a problem. A good Scouting experience, he argued, can’t be assigned a point value.
“Suppose you’ve got a really, really good unit that doesn’t score well on the JTE criteria,” Chad told Lupton. “What then?”
Lupton, a Silver Buffalo Award recipient, 60-year Scouting veteran and the chairman of the national Journey to Excellence committee, was ready for Chad’s question.
“Let me make sure I understand,” Lupton said. “You’re not growing in membership. You’re not advancing. You’re not camping. You’re not doing service. You don’t have youth leadership. You don’t have trained leaders. What makes you think you’re good?”
Lupton’s response wasn’t discourteous. He was making a point: “A really, really good unit” will score well on JTE — even if they’ve never heard of it.
Robert Baden-Powell had never heard of JTE when he created Scouting. Norman Rockwell never included a JTE scorecard in his paintings.
But the timeless Scouting values those men promoted are embedded deep within the 5-year-old JTE system.
JTE isn’t about shoehorning your Scout unit into an arbitrary scoring system, Lupton says. It’s about highlighting “the things the unit is supposed to be doing anyway.”
JTE: The Basics
Jeff Rand is Lupton’s professional counterpart on the Journey to Excellence committee. He says JTE helps a unit leader answer the question: Are you and your Scouts getting the most out of Scouting?
You answer that question by keeping score. You get points in a number of categories and, at the end of the year, you add up your score from each category. If the total is high enough, you earn bronze, silver or gold.
Each category is important, but a poor performance in one or two won’t doom your unit.
“There’s no one criterion like membership or advancement that’s overriding,” Rand says. “A strong unit is doing lots of good things.”
You fill out your scorecard at the end of the calendar year and hand it in according to your district or council’s instructions.
New scorecards come out every year. The ones for 2016, which apply to the 2016 calendar year, were released in early 2015 so units could start planning early.
Proactive, Not Reactive
Planning ahead is what makes JTE so powerful.
Your JTE score isn’t hidden inside a box to be opened on New Year’s Eve. It’s right in front of you. At the beginning of the year, you see exactly how you’ll be scored and can plan accordingly. At regular intervals throughout the year, you track your progress. At year’s end? No surprises.
“It’s really most beneficial prospectively — not retrospectively,” Lupton says. “Look at the JTE scorecard and say, ‘This is my road map.’”
Soon, you’ll monitor JTE progress from your smartphone or tablet. With Scoutbook, the BSA’s revolutionary Web app for tracking Scouting, you’ll glance at your JTE progress while in line at the grocery store.
Get on the Scoreboard
Becoming a gold JTE unit isn’t easy. And you probably won’t achieve gold in your first few years. Some might see that as a failure. Not Lupton.
“Gold is outstanding, and it’s hard to meet that standard,” he says. “Silver is excellent, and bronze is perfectly satisfactory.”
A Boy Scout who doesn’t achieve Eagle still benefits from the program. Similarly, a unit that doesn’t achieve JTE gold status still offers a great life-changing program for youth. What’s important is that you’re equipped with the facts to make any necessary improvements.
“The key thing is to be on the scoreboard,” Lupton says.
Units that use JTE see continuous improvement. Same goes for the JTE system itself.
Lupton, Rand and the JTE team gather feedback from fellow volunteers, focus groups, blog comments and emails sent to email@example.com. They consider all ideas before updating the scorecards every year.
In a way, JTE scorecards are kind of like the iPhone. A new one comes out every year with some key improvements, but the best parts stay the same. Each year, it gets a little closer to perfection.
“What makes a good unit? That doesn’t change much,” Lupton says. “The numbers may change a little, but the basics don’t change.”
Quality Districts and Councils
Units aren’t the only ones keeping score with JTE. Districts and councils have their own scorecards for tracking success. Their JTE score is directly related to those of their units.
“It is the job of the district and the council to help the units do as well as possible,” Lupton says.
Don’t get discouraged if your score is low. Help is available from your unit commissioner or a district or council professional.
The Quality Unit Award
Been involved in Scouting for five years or more? Then you remember the Quality Unit Award, which JTE replaces. With the Quality Unit Award, Lupton says, units had little guidance.
“You decided what your criteria were, and you decided if you met them,” he says. “It was pass/fail. You were either a Quality Unit … or you weren’t.”
Things are better with JTE, which empowers units with a specific blueprint for planning their Scouting year. You know what you do well, what you need to improve and by how much. With JTE, you see the finish line at the start of the race.
Visit scouting.org/jte to view and complete a JTE scorecard for your pack, troop, crew, ship, team, post, district or council.