Small Scout Troops

I noted above that the average troop size was 11.1 Scouts. It seems to me that it is more difficult to run a good Scouting program in a small troop. I know from my own experience that small troops are limited in the kind of program they can offer. For example, many games require large numbers of Scouts. BP felt that between-patrol competition is important in the Scout program (BP 1945:23). This is not possible if there is only one patrol in a troop. ``Each Scout troop consists of two or more Patrols of six to eight [Scouts]'' (BP nd:38). BP's definition of a Scout troop leads to a minimum troop size of 12. Eleven troops in the sample were smaller than this. Only two troops were large enough to have more than two patrols. The WOSM suggests that Scout troops should have between 24 and 48 members (WOSM 1998:25).

There are other reasons why small troops are potentially problematic. Small troops can lead to resources being inefficiently utilised. For example, if a small troop has a talented Scouter, then only a few Scouts will benefit from that Scouter's work. Similarly, some small troops have three Scouters. Scouts Canada policy requires that a troop have one Scouter for every six Scouts (Scouts Canada 2000a:62). Three Scouters could therefore be running a troop of 18. Material resources, such as increasingly rare free meeting halls, are also put to inefficient use with small troops.

Troops may be small because of deficiencies in their program. Such troops would cause a crowding out effect. For example, Wolf Cubs would leap up the troop, be dissatisfied with the program, and not return. In the process, they would generate negative word of mouth about Scouting in general. If the troop had not existed, the Cubs would probably have been linked with a neighbouring troop, been satisfied with the program, and stayed. Thus the quality of a program is more important than how many troops there are.

Another problem with small troops is the opportunities that they give to potential child abusers. The one-on-one nature of a small troop gives the opportunity to develop the kind of relationships necessary to coerce children to participate in abuse and to remain quiet about it. A large troop has many more sets of ears and eyes. Chances are that at least one would reveal any harmful goings-on. While sexual abuse is probably foremost on most people' minds, discipline techniques which rely on physical or emotional abuse are also an increased risk in small troops.

Some people have suggested that small troops provide opportunities to participate in activities, such as some games, that do not work with a large number of people. This reveals a misunderstanding of the role of the patrol. The patrol is the small group. Large group activities should run at the troop level; small group activities should run at the patrol level.

Re-balancing troop size can be done in two ways. One can increase the number of Scouts or reduce the number of troops. I think one should always be striving to do the former, and hopefully the findings of this thesis will help with that. In the mean time, troops can be merged so that all are a reasonable size. As I discussed above, this merging may itself contribute to membership gain as resources are more efficiently utilised and a greater variety of activities becomes possible.

Liam Morland