Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, asked Scout Executives throughout the nation to set aside the past and begin exploring how we can serve the entire family. He asked us to consider a few things:

First, an organization like Scouting can neither sustain all new ideas equally, nor can we continue to add layers of complicated programs for our constituents. He reminded us that as we look back over the past 106 years, we have done both of these things. As we have, we have stopped growing. After nearly 40 years of membership decline, we simply don’t have the resources to continue down this pathway.

Then he asked us each to search for the “secret sauce” in our super-achieving units. An example he shared is three small areas in the BSA serving Vietnamese Scouts. These groups have sustained themselves with new leaders for more that two decades and delivered vibrant programs for boys and girls and their families through a partnership with GSUSA. These programs serve the community effectively by serving the entire family, not just boys. He didn’t say this kind of partnership should be implemented everywhere, but asked that we, too, find ways to serve the entire family.

The Chief also pointed to the fact that we have delivered character education and trained the nation’s leaders for decades, without complicated programs like pistol shooting and ATVs, both of which may be great program enhancements, but may not add to character development and leadership growth in the lives of our youth members.

Then he asked that as we look to the future, we should do six things:

  1. Define our market for the “whole family,” not just boys
  2. Study our character outcomes from program, as we recently did in the Tufts Study, but for all programs, not just Cub Scouting
  3. Build on our current progress in Exploring and STEM Scouts, along with Lions as an interim growth strategy
  4. Define our long-term market for the next 100 years
  5. Develop a full understanding of our program outcomes
  6. Design infrastructure to support outcomes in the simplest manner

The Chief said that he did not have the answers yet, but he knows that the “secret sauce” is out there. He invited all of BSA to share their ideas with him based on the six things listed above.

Read more about Top Hands this year at:

Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. However, his pride in Scouting, is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative and Commissioner.


  1. Avatar
    Donna says:

    I’ve seen many comments elsewhere quoting Wood Badge training re: diversity and inclusion. Since this policy pertains to trans boys-i don’t see how accepting only girls who say they’re not, is diverse or inclusive. By definition, all girls would need be accepted.
    Personally, I would be happy with the program being coed or only boys, I just don’t see how only some ‘boys’ is fair to anyone, especially the Scouts.

  2. Avatar
    Tom Kroenung says:

    After today’s announcement on transgender membership, it is time for the ‘Scouting’ programs of the BSA to be a full program for the ‘family’ and allow girls in at all program levels. To be a true gender acceptance program. If some folks have heartburn on this, leave it to the chartered organizations to decide whether they want a coed, all-male, Or all-female Pack or Troop. The BSA has always had gender neutral programming. This will not be a hard change to take on as today’s announcement suggests. As some people have shared on the web, the BSA has four coed successful programs available. Why not in 2017 have a coed option at the youngest levels and resolve that membership conflict. What a huge convenience this will create for families. Go SCOUTING USA!

    1. Avatar
      JH says:

      I disagree with leaving things up to the chartering organizations. That is where you end up having confusion. If BSA is to incorporate all genders it should be done from a national level with protocols in place to make everyone comfortable. Even now I have heard “Such and such Pack or Troop doesn’t allow female leadership”. If people are turned away by one Pack/Troop it is not likely that they will look for another nearby. Either they assume that all will have the same policies or their feelings are hurt so they don’t want to be part of a group that turned them away.

      1. Darryl Alder
        Darryl Alder ( User Karma: 9 ) says:

        The problem with that idea, is this. Scouting units are owned by the Chartered Organization, not the BSA. Many of those organizations have other standards than that what you are suggesting. However, in Scouts Canada they have had the same situation for several decades and have gotten along fine.

  3. Avatar
    David Fernandes says:

    Scouting should be open to both genders.We need to have program for all young people. I support changes to create Scouting USA. If Scouting doesn’t change,it will not survive.

  4. Avatar
    Brandy Koenig says:

    Girls should be included at a much earlier age. Introducing co-Ed when they are hormonal teens makes it so much harder for them to work together. I’m currently in a Troop and a Crew, and two Girl Scout Troops (Packs). It would be so much easier for my family if we could go to one meeting for my younger Scouts. Not to mention that the BSA has a much better program then the Girl Scouts. I hate that they are the only option for my girls.

  5. Avatar

    I think that Scouting is the best program available for teaching kids leadership and values. I have long lamented the lack of opportunities for my 8 year old daughter to participate in Scouting. The promise of Venturing seems a lifetime away to a little girl and an aging father. Please find a way to include little girls in Scouting. Does not have to make programs fully co-ed. I like the bonding of young boys and men. A girls den/patrol perhaps, within a pack/troop? As of now, we are looking forward to HATS in a year, when she reaches 4th grade.

  6. Avatar
    RJ says:

    This plan is unfortunate and reeks of the continuing destruction and dismantling of a once great organization. This direction will further push families away from BSA, and has forcedone many to look at creating a new organization that will focus on developing strong leadership skills in young men as well as teaching them to be the strong male role-models of the future. The founder of this organization is probably rolling over in his grave.

    1. Avatar
      Christopher Meyer says:

      Why would Baden-Powell roll over in his grave? After all, he helped his sister Agnes form the Girl Guides when he saw that girls were also interested in Scouting.

      I find it interesting that some Scouters are so opposed to co-ed Scouting, yet it works almost everywhere else in the world. Not to mention, we have co-ed Venturing units, and we have sisters of Cub Scouts across this nation participating on Pack Overnighters without our Cub Scout Packs falling apart (in fact, I suspect those Packs that do Pack Overnighters are probably amongst our strongest Cub Scout Packs).

      Before discarding this intriguing idea, perhaps you should study one of the groups our CSE is referring to: https://www.facebook.com/LDHDLaVang/ As you can see, co-ed Scouting is working for them, and that unit is stronger than many other Boy Scout Troops I’ve seen.

  7. Avatar
    Travis carpenter says:

    My wife and I served in scouting a long time. We don’t now because we found the organization in our council to be a culture and club centered around the adults . the program at all levels was about the adults. Its hard to describe but it was a social club of altruistic origins that had abandoned its origins in favor of competing for status. It no longer held the values espoused.

  8. Avatar
    Art Wilkerson says:

    If you have youth led programs, let the youth lead them. Change advisers often to get fresh guidance! You don’t need adults on boards making decisions unless they send time working with youth. Why have rules or suggested guidelines if no one is going to follow them.

  9. Avatar
    Bill Clancy says:

    My son had mild autism and scouting was how he learned to socialize, lead and work with other adults. He eagled and went on to urn dual Degrees in college. Scouting was his out

    We luckily joined 2 troops that were tolerant of differences and had adult leaders that prided themselves in drawing kids out and into the mix. With just a little accommodation and a little extra adult attention….kids with autism blossom in scouting

    1. Avatar
      Eric Van Es says:

      Yes, there should be more guns in the program. Safety should be taught more often and with different types of firearms. Pistols should be introduced when rifles and shotguns are.

  10. Avatar
    Sandra House says:

    We definitely need a program for girls at the Cub Scout level. The pilot STEM program is good, but girls that age want a program like the program their brothers and male cousins enjoy. Some girls just don’t like the Girl Scout program for various reasons. Many of them participate unofficially in the program activities during pack events anyway.

    If there were a pilot program for girls, I could fill a pack with females in no time. It is my understanding that in Europe they just have Scouts and are not gender specific. We could have separate programs for girls and boys at the Cub Scout stage with joint activities. Perhaps break it out by male and female dens with shared pack activities.

  11. Avatar
    Danny McMurphy says:

    I do agree. I had my young daughters at a camporee being held on private property in the GSLAC when I was a Venturing Leader. I was there with my Crew. I was told to take them home as they were not registered in the Scouting program. I’m still upset about that since I use to take my youngs sons with me all the time to Boy Scout campouts when I was a Scoutmaster. My oldest son is now a COO in the Council in El Paso.

  12. Avatar
    Mike Ober says:

    Since more and more families are single parent households we need to provide a service for both boys and girls. This needs to go all the way down to the Cub Scout level.

  13. Avatar
    Ernest Warring says:

    One thing that needs adressed help with attisium for parents more and more parents are bring kids to scouting ..with this problem.

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