How to make Scouts Canada Democratic

Help make Scouts Canada democratic

By Scouters Liam Morland & Edward (Ted) Claxton, September 2003

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How does one make a national organization like Scouts Canada fully democratic without breaking the bank? One possibility would be to follow the example of another national, not-for-profit organization, Mountain Equipment Co-op.

Mountain Equipment Co-op is a retailer of outdoor equipment with a mail order department and stores across Canada. MEC is a retail co-operative which exists to serve its 1.5 million members. One must be a member to make a purchase. MEC is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. All MEC members over the age of 16 are eligible to vote in the election of the Board. There are nine positions on the Board. Each year, three people are elected for a three-year term. This overlap ensures continuity.

The mechanics of the election are simple. Any member can nominate another member for election to the Board. Nominations must be supported by five members. Each spring, MEC members are sent an election package containing a booklet with candidates' statements and voting instructions. The written statements are the only campaigning that happens, preventing politicization. After reviewing the candidates' statements, members vote on the Internet, by phone, or by mail. The election is overseen by an accounting firm which ensures the fairness of the vote.

A election system similar to MEC's should be used to elect the Board of Scouts Canada. Every Scouts Canada member over a certain age (I suggest 14) would be eligible to vote. And the cost of democracy? Giving the vote to all member over the age of 14 would cost Scouts Canada about $2 per member.