Definition of
Active Participation


The information below is taken from the  2013 printing of "Guide to Advancement", BSA Publication 33088 (SKU 618673), which replaced the former publication 33088 entitled "Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures", and the 2011 Guide to Advancement. The Guide to Advancement is the official Boy Scouts of America source on advancement procedures.


Since we are preparing young people to make a positive difference in society, we judge that a member is "active" when his level of activity in Scouting has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end.

4.2.3.1 Active Participation

The purpose of Star, Life, and Eagle Scout requirements calling for Scouts to be active for a period of months involves impact. Since we prepare young people to go forth, and essentially, make a positive difference in our American society, we judge that a member is “active” when his level of activity in Scouting, whether high or minimal, has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end.

Use the following three sequential tests to determine whether the requirement has been met. The first and second are required, along with either the third or its alternative.
  1. The Scout is registered. The youth is registered in his unit for at least the time period indicated in the requirement, and he has indicated in some way, through word or action, that he considers himself a member. If a boy was supposed to have been registered, but for whatever reason was not, discuss with the local council registrar the possibility of back-registering him.
  2. The Scout is in good standing. A Scout is considered in “good standing” with his unit as long as he has not been dismissed for disciplinary reasons. He must also be in good standing with the local council and the Boy Scouts of America. (In the rare case he is not, communications will have been delivered.)
  3. The Scout meets the unit's reasonable expectations; or, if not, a lesser level of activity is explained. If, for the time period required, a Scout or qualifying Venturer or Sea Scout meets those aspects of his unit’s pre-established expectations that refer to a level of activity, then he is considered active and the requirement is met. Time counted as “active” need not be consecutive. A boy may piece together any times he has been active and still qualify. If he does not meet his unit’s reasonable expectations, then he must be offered the alternative that follows.
Units are free to establish additional expectations on uniforming, supplies for outings, payment of dues, parental involvement, etc., but these and any other standards extraneous to a level of activity shall not be considered in evaluating this requirement.

Alternative to the third test if expectations are not met:

If a young man has fallen below his unit’s activity oriented expectations, then it must be due to other positive endeavors—in or out of Scouting—or due to noteworthy circumstances that have prevented a higher level of participation.

A Scout in this case is still considered “active” if a board of review can agree that Scouting values have already taken hold and have been exhibited. This might be evidenced, for example, in how he lives his life and relates to others in his community, at school, in his religious life, or in Scouting. It is also acceptable to consider and “count” positive activities outside Scouting when they, too, contribute to his growth in character, citizenship, or personal fitness. Remember: It is not so much about what a Scout has done. It is about what he is able to do and how he has grown.

Additional Guidelines on the Three Tests.

There may be, of course, registered youth who appear to have little or no activity. Maybe they are out of the country on an exchange program, or away at school. Or maybe we just haven’t seen them and wonder if they’ve quit. To pass the first test above, a Scout must be registered. But he should also have made it clear through participation or by communicating in some way that he still considers himself a member, even though—for now—he may not fulfill the unit’s participation expectations. A conscientious leader might make a call and discover the boy’s intentions.

If, however, a Scout has been asked to leave his unit due to behavioral issues or the like, or if the council or the Boy Scouts of America has directed—for whatever reason—that he may not participate, then according to the second test he is not considered “active.”

In considering the third test, it is appropriate for units to set reasonable expectations for attendance and participation. Then it is simple: Those who meet them are “active.” But those who do not must be given the opportunity to qualify under the third-test alternative above. To do so, they must first offer an acceptable explanation. Certainly, there are medical, educational, family, and other issues that for practical purposes prevent higher levels of participation. These must be considered. Would the Scout have been more active if he could have been? If so, for purposes of advancement, he is deemed “active.”

We must also recognize the many worthwhile opportunities beyond Scouting. Taking advantage of these opportunities and participating in them may be used to explain why unit participation falls short. Examples might include involvement in religious activities, school, sports, or clubs that also develop character, citizenship, or personal fitness. The additional learning and growth experiences these provide can reinforce the lessons of Scouting and also give young men the opportunity to put them into practice in a different setting.

It is reasonable to accept that competition for a Scout’s time will become intense, especially as he grows older and wants to take advantage of positive “outside” opportunities. This can make full-time dedication to his unit difficult to balance. A fair leader therefore, will opportunities both inside and outside Scouting, and consider them part of the overall positive life experience for which the Boy Scouts of America is a driving force.

A board of review can accept an explanation if it can be reasonably sure there have been sufficient influences in the Scout’s life that he is meeting our aims and can be awarded the rank regardless of his current or most recent level of activity in Scouting. The board members must satisfy themselves that he presents himself, and behaves, according to the expectations of the rank for which he is a candidate. Simply put: Is he the sort of person who, based on present behavior, will contribute to the Boy Scouts of America’s mission? Note that it may be more difficult, though not impossible, for a younger member to pass through the third-test alternative than for one more experienced in our lessons.

4.2.3.2 Demonstrate Scout Spirit

The ideals of the Boy Scouts of America are spelled out in the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan. Members incorporating these ideals into their daily lives at home, at school, in their religious life, and in their neighborhoods, for example, are said to have Scout spirit. In evaluating whether a member has fulfilled this requirement, it may be best to begin by asking him to explain what Scout spirit and living the Scout Oath and Scout Law mean to him. Young people know when they are being kind or helpful, or a good friend to others. They know when they are cheerful, or trustworthy, or reverent. All of us, young and old, know how we act when no one else is around.

A leader typically asks for examples of how a Scout has lived the Oath and Law. It might also be useful to invite examples of when he did not. This is not something to push, but it can help with the realization that sometimes we fail to live by our ideals, and that we all can do better. This also sends a message that a Scout can admit he has done wrong, yet still advance. Or in a serious situation—such as alcohol or illegal drug use—understand why advancement might not be appropriate just now. This is a sensitive issue, and must be treated carefully. Most Scout leaders do their best to live by the Oath and Law, but any one of them may look back on years past and wish that, at times, they had acted differently. We learn from these experiences and improve and grow. We can look for the same in our youth.

Evaluating Scout spirit will always be a judgment call, but through getting to know a young man and by asking probing questions, we can get a feel for it. We can say however, that we do not measure Scout spirit by counting meetings and outings attended. It is indicated, instead, by the way he lives his life.

4.2.3.4 Positions of Responsibility

“Serve actively in your unit for a period of … months in one or more … positions of responsibility” is an accomplishment every candidate for Star, Life, or Eagle must achieve. The following will help to determine whether a Scout has fulfilled the requirement.

4.2.3.4.1 Positions Must Be Chosen From Among Those Listed.

The position must be listed in the position of responsibility requirement shown in the most current edition of Boy Scout Requirements. Since more than one member may hold some positions—“instructor,” for example—it is expected that even very large units are able to provide sufficient opportunities within the list. The only exception involves Lone Scouts, who may use positions in school, their place of worship, in a club, or elsewhere in the community. Units do not have authority to require specific positions of responsibility for a rank. For example, they must not require a Scout to be senior patrol leader to obtain the Eagle rank.

Service in positions of responsibility in provisional units, such as a jamboree troop or Philmont trek crew, do not count toward this requirement.

For Star and Life ranks only, a unit leader may assign, as a substitute for the position of responsibility, a leadership project that helps the unit. If this is one, he or she should consult the unit committee and unit advancement coordinator to arrive at suitable standards. The experience should provide lessons similar to those of the listed positions, but it must not be confused with, or compared to, the scope of an Eagle Scout service project. It may be productive in many cases for the Scout to propose a leadership project that is discussed with the unit leader and then “assigned.”

4.2.3.4.2 Meeting the Time Test May Involve Any Number of Positions.

The requirement calls for a period of months. Any number of positions may be held as long as total service time equals at least the number of months required. Holding simultaneous positions does not shorten the required number of months. Positions need not flow from one to the other; there may be gaps between them. This applies to all qualified members including Lone Scouts.

When a Scout assumes a position of responsibility, something related to the desired results must happen.

4.2.3.4.3 Meeting Unit Expectations.

If a unit has established expectations for positions of responsibility, and if, within reason (see the note under “Rank Requirements Overview,” 4.2.3.0), based on his personal skill set, the Scout meets them, he fulfills the requirement. When a Scout assumes a position, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable. Some degree of responsibility must be practiced, taken, or accepted.

4.2.3.4.4 Meeting the Requirement in the Absence of Unit Expectations.

It is best when a Scout’s leaders provide him position descriptions, and then direction, coaching, and support. Where this occurs, and is done well, the young man will likely succeed. When this support, for whatever reason, is unavailable or otherwise not provided—or when there are no clearly established expectations—then an adult leader or the Scout, or both, should work out the responsibilities to fulfill. In doing so, neither the position’s purpose nor degree of difficulty may be altered significantly or diminished. BSA literature provides the basis for this effort: the Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009, (“The Boy-Led Troop”); the Patrol Leader Handbook, No. 32502 (“Your Patrol and Your Troop”); the Varsity Scout Guidebook, No. 34827 (in explanations of team organization); the Venturing Leader Manual, No. 34655 (“Leadership in the Crew”); and the Sea Scout Manual, No. 33239 (“Officers’ Responsibilities”).

Under the above scenario, if it is left to the Scout to determine what should be done, and he makes a reasonable effort to perform accordingly for the time specified, then he fulfills this requirement. Even if his results are not necessarily what the unit leader, members of a board of review, or others involved may want to see, he must not be held to unestablished expectations.

4.2.3.4.5 When Responsibilities Are Not Met.

If a unit has clearly established expectations for position(s) held, then—within reason—a Scout must meet them through the prescribed time. If he is not meeting expectations, then this must be communicated early. Unit leadership may work toward a constructive result by asking him what he thinks he should be accomplishing. What is his concept of the position? What does he think his troop
leaders—youth and adult—expect? What has he done well? What needs improvement? Often this questioning approach can lead a young man to the decision to measure up. He will tell the leaders how much of the service time should be recorded.

If it becomes clear nothing will improve his performance, then it is acceptable to remove the Scout from his position. It is the unit leader’s responsibility to address these situations promptly. Every effort should have been made while he was in the position to ensure he understood expectations and was regularly supported toward reasonably acceptable performance. It is unfair and inappropriate—after six months, for example—to surprise a boy who thinks he has been doing fine, with news that his performance is now considered unsatisfactory. In this case, he must be given credit for the time.

Only in rare cases — if ever — should troop leaders inform a Scout that time, once served, will not count.

If a Scout believes he has performed his duties satisfactorily, but his leaders disagree, then the possibility that expectations are unreasonable or were not clearly conveyed to the youth should be considered. If after discussions between the Scout and his leaders—and perhaps including his parents or guardians—he believes he is being held to unreasonable expectations, then upon completing the remaining requirements, he must be granted a board of review. If he is an Eagle candidate, then he may request a board of review under disputed circumstances (see “Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,” 8.0.3.2).

4.2.3.4.6 "Responsibility" and "Leadership."

Many suggest this requirement should call for a position of “leadership” rather than simply of “responsibility.” Taking and accepting responsibility, however, is a key foundation for leadership. One cannot lead effectively without it. The requirement as written recognizes the different personalities, talents, and skill sets in all of us. Some seem destined to be “the leader of the group.” Others provide quality support and strong examples behind the scenes. Without the latter, the leaders in charge have little chance for success. Thus, the work of the supporters becomes part of the overall leadership effort.

4.2.3.5 Unit Leader (Scoutmaster) Conference

The unit leader (Scoutmaster) conference, regardless of the rank or program, is conducted according to the guidelines in the Scoutmaster Handbook, No. 33009. Note that a Scout must participate or take part in one; it is not a “test.” Requirements do not say he must “pass” a conference. While it makes sense to hold one after other requirements for a rank are met, it is not required that it be the last step before the board of review. This is an important consideration for Scouts on a tight schedule to meet the requirements before age 18. Last-minute work can sometimes make it impossible to fit the conference in before then, so scheduling it earlier can avoid unnecessary extension requests.

The conference is not a retest of the requirements upon which a Scout has been signed off. It is a forum for discussing topics such as ambitions and life purpose, goals for future achievement, and also for obtaining feedback on the unit’s program. In some cases, work left to be completed—and perhaps why it has not been completed—may be discussed just as easily as that which is finished. Ultimately, conference timing is up to the unit. Some leaders hold more than one along the way, and the Scout must be allowed to count any of them toward the
requirement.

Unit leaders do not have the authority to deny a Scout a conference that is necessary for him to meet the requirements for his rank. If a unit leader conference is denied, a Scout—if he believes he has fulfilled all the remaining requirements—may still request a board of review. See “Boards of Review Must Be Granted When Requirements Are Met,” 8.0.0.2. If an Eagle Scout candidate is denied a conference, it may become grounds for a board of review under disputed circumstances. See “Initiating Eagle Scout Board of Review Under Disputed Circumstances,” 8.0.3.2.


Page updated on: July 11, 2013



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