Putting Units First

Putting Units First

Scouting happens where we deliver our life-changing programs to young people

Scouting happens where we deliver our life-changing programs to young people. That’s in our units – Packs, Troops, Crews, Ships and Posts.

Supporting those units effectively and efficiently is our primary mission. That’s why Northern Star Scouting is launching the Units First initiative, beginning January 1, 2020, following several months’ work by a variety of task forces and sub-committees.

There will be some significant organizational changes, and all of us – staff and volunteers at all levels – will work together to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The most notable changes:

  • District functions will be narrowed and re-focused on building strong units through two things: coaching, and recruitment/membership support.
  • All other current district committee members will be invited to be part of centralized council committees - activities, advancement, camping, communications, FOS, OA, popcorn, roundtables, or training.
  • All 16 district boundaries will shift to create 13 new Scouting districts that coincide with school district boundaries.

Many details remain to be worked out, and we need your ideas and involvement. There will be ongoing presentations and discussions at roundtables, council meetings, work groups, and at the January 25 Council Coordinated Committees meeting. The latest information and updates will be posted here on our website.

Units First Presentation

When we put Units First, we maximize the impact Scouting has on the lives of young people. That’s what we’re all here for, and we’re grateful for your part in it.

Expression of Interest Survey - For Everyone with a Passion for Scouting

The goal of the Expression of Interest Survey is to connect volunteers with their interests and passion for Scouting. If you are interested in working directly with your local community units in supporting healthy units we want to hear from you. If you are interested in helping local community units be more visible in their community we want to hear from you. If you are interested in assisting youth and adults in areas such as Camping, Communications, Training, Advancement, Activities, Order of the Arrow, Fundraising, Popcorn, Membership, or Commissioners and Unit Health we want to hear from you. Please fill out the Expression of Interest Survey and let us know where your passion is in Scouting.

Expression of Interest Survey


Why is Northern Star Scouting going through these changes called “Units First”?

For the last few years, Northern Star’s strategic plan has included learning about and implementing new ways of delivering Scouting at its most critical levels. Scouting has been relying upon organizational structures and hierarchies beyond the period of their relevance and usefulness. We need to streamline, simplify, and de-layer the ways in which we give units what they want and need. The Units First initiative ensures units are the center of everything we do. Though the changes are significant we know that putting Units First is the right thing to do. We know people are looking for simple changes to better support units and better support volunteers. Our community needs Scouting and Northern Star needs to provide the best program, the best support, and the best structure it can as we strive to have a positive impact on all youth.

Are districts going away?

No. We’re drawing new district boundaries that keep school districts whole within each district and balance the number of units served. We will have 13 geographic units (rather than 16 currently). In addition, each district is only going to be focused on unit service and membership / recruitment. All other district functions (activities, camping, advancement, training, roundtable, popcorn, ) will be centralized at the council level. New Districts will not have district committee meetings though they will continue to locally support commissioners and membership/recruitment teams.

What about our District events?

Current districts will function as planned through January 2020. On February 1st, the new map will go into effect and professional staff will be reassigned. Programs that are already planned for the spring can continue, but everyone will need to be conscious of staff support capabilities. Volunteers with passion for specific activities should get involved with the council activities committee, so their ideas can be shared across Northern Star!

How do people get involved with staffing training / activities / advancement / roundtable / etc. in the future without district operating sub-committee Chairs at the local level?

The council operating committees will be growing and operating with a broad mandate to provide opportunities for all Scouting units across the Council. People serving these roles at the district level now will be invited to join the council team. Anyone interested in participating and volunteering to assist with a council committee can reach out to the staff advisor or chair for that committee. Please communicate the area you live in as well as the operating committee you are interested in helping with.

How will volunteers know about training / activity / advancement / etc opportunities if they are not provided by the District and communicated via Roundtable?

All events will be calendared for the year and on the council Website so units can plan around their training needs. The newly-formed council communications committee will be leveraging existing and new technology to get information directly to unit volunteers and families. In the first part of 2020, regular emails directly to unit leaders will be the primary communication vehicle.

Who is the district commissioner or district membership chair for the new districts?

A group of individuals have been working very diligently over the past month to fill these positions. Feedback was taken from our legacy district chairs, district commissioners and district membership chairs on who was interested in various positions. In filling the new district commissioner and district membership chair positions we looked at how we can best align the needs of units, communities within the new districts, and the needs of council committees with volunteers passion and interests.

Attached you will find a list of District Key Three positions that are currently filled. Not all District Key Three positions are currently filled. We continue to work in filling these positions as quickly as possible. As asks are made and confirmations are received we will update the list on the website.

Thank you all for your commitment to Scouting and your willingness to serve the youth in our community.

List of District Key Three Positions


Will the District Award of Merit still be available to recognize volunteers?

Yes, Districts can continue to recognize volunteers with the District Award of Merit within the prior district boundaries during the Spring of 2020, and under the new district boundaries for 2021. Where and how the award will be presented has not yet been determined.

How will Merit Badge Counselors be screened and managed in the new Advancement Committee Structure?

All Merit Badge Counselors will be screened by a sub Committee of the Council Advancement Committee and approved during the last two weeks of each month. There will be one single Merit Badge list with all counselors available to all Scouts which will also be uploaded into Scoutbook monthly.

Will there be any changes to the Eagle BOR and Project Approval Process?

No. The Eagle Process will continue to be managed at the local level with the support of the Council Advancement Committee and the BSA Guide to Advancement https://www.scouting.org/resources/guide-to-advancement/

Eagle Advancement Team Contacts

How will Scoutbook be supported in the future?

We are in the process of developing a Scoutbook Support Team that can assist units with the transition and answer questions and serve as a guide to making the most of the system. By 2022, we are planning to have all Scouting Units using Scoutbook.


What’s Happening to Roundtable?

Roundtable is evolving. While districts won’t be putting on their own monthly roundtable, the council RT committee is planning to ensure unit leaders have regular opportunities for training, information and fellowship. Plans are not finalized yet as to what the new format will be.

What are the Roundtable Work Group’s findings?

  • Roundtables are not reaching as many people as they should be.
  • Unit leaders attending a regular meeting once a month, becomes one more meeting to attend in an already busy schedule.
  • The leaders who could benefit the most (our lesser tenured leaders) seem to have the toughest schedule to attend another night meeting.
  • Roundtable attendance continues to drop over the past several years, in most Districts
  • We could, and should, be using technology to better provide information and supplemental training to our units.
  • The term Roundtable does not resonate with many of our newer volunteers, and requires explaining about what the benefits of this meeting are.

What about materials like recruitment packets, recharter materials etc? Is there a plan in place for units to pick up critical materials?

The future gatherings being planned for each year are being planned around the Scouting calendar to be able to provide materials to unit leaders. These include: School Night for Scouting materials, Fall Program Planning materials, Unit Charter Renewal materials, etc.

What is this new Roundtable going to be like? What else will be put in place to supplement?

The Roundtable Committee has made several key recommendations:

  • These meetings/gathering do not need to be monthly
  • Each of these gatherings would take place at the same time but be held in a different “regional area”.
  • These gatherings would need a new name to better reflect the purpose of attending. Not “roundtable.”
  • More and better communications directly to our volunteers will be needed. These would be targeted communications for the program level the volunteer is registered in.
  • The Northern Star website would need to become more robust in offering short segments of supplemental trainings similar to You Tube “how to” videos or “Ted Talks”.
  • Other areas of support, such as webcasts, podcasts, or chat groups for unit leaders to share information, may be needed.

How can we share information / ideas for future Roundtable type support?

Through the Northern Star Roundtable committee. See work-group contacts list.

Work-Group Contact List

Order of the Arrow

Will chapters continue to exist?

Yes, chapters will continue to exist but will have new responsibilities, and likely will reduce in size (in terms of locally appointed positions). Responsibilities of chapters will likely include unit-level relations (e.g. elections and camp promotions), a civic/ conservation service project to be conducted/ coordinated locally, as well as a fellowship event to conducted/ coordinated locally.

Will the lodge continue to operate chapter-level conclaves?

No, the lodge (and potentially a middle-tier structure) will take on the responsibility of planning and conducting induction conclaves.

Will youth and adult leadership positions be eliminated?

No, the aim is to ensure that all current terms continue through the lodge election cycle, with a similar number of positions being offered in the Fall of 2020.

Will the lodge or chapter be responsible for program?

Mixed. The lodge will be responsible for major events including inductions, Fall Fellowship, Winter Banquet, and Lodge Leadership Development. Chapters will focus on unit-level relationships, and conduct functions for the units in their local area (likely 2 per year outside of direct unit visits).

Are there any changes planned for the 2020 unit election cycle?

No, The 2020 unit election cycle will continue as planned.

When will the new chapters/ leadership positions be implemented?

The completion of the 2020 lodge leadership election process will be the starting point for the new structure (August 1, 2020).

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Putting Units First

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