October 14, 2008

It's a tradition: Change and griping

"What Happened to the Girl Scouts" is the headline on a magazine article that comes up in an Internet search. I'm amazed that mass media has picked up on the changes, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in Girl Scouts.

Will it be about the merging of councils, the changing of programs, or lambasting the values? Is it pegged to the 51st National Council meeting in Indianapolis Oct. 29-Nov.2?

It is a look at values - the downplaying of international relationships. It is a look at changes - a handbook revised just 11 months after being published.

Nice - an article written in 1955 - has words that connect with today's Girl Scouts.

What pops out for me in the May 1955 Atlantic article is this:
"Every six or seven years the Girl Scouts completely revise their manual. In between - ordinarily the book remains the same during additional printings except for minor typographical corrections."

So change is a tradition.
"Yet less than a year after the first printing, more than sixty changes were ordered. Some expressions were toned down, strong sympathies diluted, and a few plain facts erased."

So revision is a tradition.

Author Ben H. Bagdikian, "one of the first to be alarmed by the policy of retreat disclosed in the article which follows" carefully looks for evidence that Girl Scouts, the organization, has changed its thinking, its values. He cites examples like this:

"The old Handbook said, "Scouts and Guides all over the world are known for their willingness to help other people." In 1953 the "all over the world" was dropped."

So debating the inclusion or exclusion of a phrase in documents is a tradition.

Today's hot topic on the Internet e-mail lists is that "they" are against "unhealthy traditionalists."

The phrase - an obstacle to changing a program - is found in a table cell in a "Strategic priority" document shared with a Yahoo group on Feb 16, 2008:

"There is an unhealthy devotion to traditions on standards, uniforms and

Another shares that she saw the phrase as "an unhealthy attachment to tradition" in a PowerPoint she was forced to watch. Later, someone sends out a PowerPoint from an annual meeting where it was held.

Now, a group has ordered shirts that say Unhealthy Traditionalist: Eat 2 Thin Mints and call me in the morning."

I'd prefer to push for the positive: Healthy Traditionalist: Eat 2 Thin Mints and call me in the morning (Can you be healthy eating thin mints?) because I think traditions are healthy.

But then I think debate is healthy and so is change.

"Have the Girl Scouts themselves changed? Have they altered their basic ideas about international friendship and the United Nations?

Nothing of the sort. The Girl Scouts of America was and is a fine organization which still encourages idealism, good citizenship, and international friendship. What happened in 1954 was that the Girl Scouts in the forty-second year of their existence decided it was no longer safe to say so too plainly."

Another section in the article also makes me smile:
"The (1954) pamphlet correcting the new 1953 Handbook was filled with instructions like: -

"Page 86. Change the sentence beginning with Line 2 to read: 'Service is your way of making a contribution to your community." A few months before, it had read: "Service is your way of making this a better world in which to live."

In 2008, we are back to "Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place."

Traditionalists, after all.

October 13, 2008

What's best? Mashed, baked or hash brown potatoes

Pulling someone's dream into yours or yours into theirs is like dealing with spuds.

I just can't decide which way is best.

Should you strive for mashed potatoes, peeling the skin to see what is inside, cooking each individual piece to the right degree, then throwing them under the mixer with just a bit of milk and butter.

Can you live with lumps? Or do you keep beating until everything, everyone is on the same page.

Or do you leave the skin on, knowing the richness it can provide, and throwing each into the oven to slowly become done. There, a place where you can still identify the individual pieces to be selected and eaten individually

Or is the skin not the issue? Leave it on or leave it off, but dice each potatoe before tossing together in the well-seasoned pan to create a dish that speaks loudly of individuals but draws it's strength from the mixture.

What happens when you take on the chef's role near the end of the project? Past the time of dreaming together and nearer the time of it must be done.

I wonder why i was I supposed to know there were pictures in your head. Or that easels shed pages filled with sketches that explained concepts some believe were magically implanted in my brain.

Did I maneuver the group plan to fit my dream because I was the one willing to use the tools? Did I let the all positive affirmations drown out the collection of no's and maybes.

Yet, now I have enough time in to see the pattern of how some can complete, compete, and/or critique only when the work is almost done. Some need an almost finished structure before they see the possibilities which, of course, means redoing

Quotes of resistance being a part of the story strengthen the one told by my body as the leg starts to wobble and the mind escaped into mush.

I hear again folks telling me chaos is expected, to be prepared for surprises.

Right now I am thinking of skipping the potatoes.


October 12, 2008

Finding results not always easy

My journalism background helped me reply to a post on GSUSA's newly launched discussion board.

Girl Scouts elect and send delegates to a National Council meeting every three years. In 2005, many came early to participate in Open Space. There's another Open Space to kick off the meeting this year. Some are asking why repeat it if there's no evidence of results from the 2005 conversations.

That evidence had started being discussed in another thread. Plus there's a video final report that I think shows someone was listening.

And I think in all parts of our lives the only assurance we have that issues we bring up won't be ignored is if we take the responsibility for making sure they are not.

Here's the rest of my reply:

I wasn't there in 2005. But as a "recovering journalist," I know I often was/am frustrated when trying to follow up on the success or failure of a project because:

  • No one kept track of what happened after the big campaign, or the community discussions.
  • Or I couldn't find out who was keeping score
  • Or that person couldn't share the results
  • Or the outcomes weren't measurable. For instance, how do you measure influencing a person's thought process?

Do we know if something said at the 2005 Open Space triggered an idea or action months later? Did seeing what happened at Open Space lead to the concepts of Open Space being used to solve another problem?

I ended by saying I hope we hear from folks about the 2005 and 2008 conversations here so we can all share what we know.

Yet, I don't expect many responses because I don't think people connect what was said in 2005 with actions in 2008. I'll base that on years of watching too committees coming up with plans to breathe life into downtowns.