With the search underway for a new Chief Executive Officer at GSUSA, I started thinking about what I would do if I were CEO.
1. Relocate Headquarters
Earlier this year GSUSA announced its intention to sell part of its suite of floors at 420 Fifth Avenue in New York. Why not sell all of it? Let’s relocate to a less expensive, more centralized city, how about Chicago or Memphis or Kansas City? Personally I vote for bringing HQ back to Washington DC.
In addition to corporate offices, archives, and an expanded museum, let’s include a conference center and hostel facilities for traveling troops. Girl Scouting promotes active citizenship, which is enhanced when girls tour the Nation’s Capital and see how our government works. The Rockwood National Program Center served a similar purpose for decades but today still suffers from a lack of public transit options. A better model might be that of the National 4-H Conference Center. Nice, affordable space near public transit.
2. Return to a Skills-based Program
Girls learn by doing activities, not by reading about them. They like challenges and stretching themselves. Let’s dump the Journeys and emphasize learning by doing with a rich range of badges. Put them all in ONE handbook, available in print and online. As Miss Frizzle always says in the Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (Wouldn’t Miss Frizz make a great troop leader?) She had great field trips and knew the importance of getting outside.
3. Invest in Staff Stability
Girl Scout councils have become pass-through workplaces. Few staff stay as long as two years, regarding the jobs as temporary stages in their careers. But younger doesn’t necessarily mean better in terms of employees; it simply means cheaper. How do we get them to put down roots? We could ask new hires to make a two-year commitment. We could also recruit from another demographic—current volunteers. Would empty-nesters, long-time volunteers whose troops have graduated, be interested? They are already familiar with the program, so they would have less of a learning curve. We can’t build strong relationships and continuity with fleeting partners.
4. Promote a Culture of Collaboration
The various components of our movement must commit to improving communication, treating others with respect, and not going off to pout in our tents. This is OUR movement. It is up to us to find ways to perpetuate it.
The old recipe for Brownie Stew applies in the conference room as well as the campsite: everyone brings something to the table—new ideas, hard-earned experience, and enthusiasm, to name a few. Just because an adult wasn’t a member as girl doesn’t mean they can’t contribute today.
We must eliminate the fear of being expelled or fired that intimidates leaders and staff into silence.
Staff must learn to value the contribution of volunteers—that means recognizing the hours they serve as well as the dollars they give. Both forms of contribution are equally vital to the future of our movement.
National, council, staff, volunteer, girl—we’re all part of the same big troop.
5. Promote Girl Scout Pride
The Girl Scout uniform is a symbol of an internationally respected organization devoted to the development of girls. Wearing your uniform identifies you as a member of Girl Scouts of the USA and of a worldwide movement rich in tradition. It shows Girl Scout pride and provides for recognition and visibility. (“The Girl Scout Uniform,” Leader Magazine Fall 2003).
The best way to improve our visibility is to, duh, BE VISIBLE. Part of that means wearing a uniform. The public won’t know what we’re doing if they don’t realize who we are. This includes staff, perhaps just one or two days a week, but we’re all in this together. Plus, uniforms are one segment of merchandise whose profits go to GSUSA. Is it a coincidence that the budget deficits swelled when uniforms were all but eliminated?
Getting off my soapbox now. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the members or staff of my council, my family, or even my cats.
GSUSA Executive Search Team: Interested? You know where to find me.
©2016 Ann Robertson
53 thoughts on “If I Were CEO of GSUSA”
AMEN! Well said!! You have my vote.
Beyond perfect, Ann!
Girl Scouts is for girls. The most important adults are their leaders. The other adults, volunteer or staff, are the support system for those leaders.
Good list to start a conversation.
Rockwood was such a wonderful place to call home for 2 weeks while my troop toured Washington, D.C. around 1955. In 1959, I enjoyed being a select camper for the Girl Scout Roundup in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1965, I was an adult volunteer at the G.S. Roundup in Farragut (state park, now) close to Couer D’ Alene, Idaho.
We had to be trained skills in order to attend such events. In all 3 of the above scouting activities, we were in full uniform at all times and felt great pride as young women in representing such a fine organization. My troop from North Wilkesboro, N.C. learned the skills to become hospital aid workers to help Registered Nurses in our local hospital and many of us went on into the medical field.
At that time, all of us were taught basic survival camping skills.
I am so glad to read all of your well founded comments. I hope that you have applied to be the next CEO for Girl Scouts at the national level. More POWER to you. It is folk like yourself that might save Girl Scouting in the USA and return it to the roots that we are all so proud.
A retired Registered Nurse/ Girl Scout
I would give girl scouting back to the girls and I would require all paid employees to volunteer in the girl level at least 80 hours a year no not as leaders but in other capacities and see what is needed at the girl volunteer level I feel councils are very disconnect from the real meaning of part of girl scouts
It is quite obvious that you have a real, sustaining passion for this organization!! I wish I could say the same for myself. You have “hit the nail on the head. I just wish national would pay more attention to what we are doing to promote the program at the local levels!! If you don’t apply, we might just enter your name on our own!!
Love, love, love all of these ideas and comments! I think Ann Robertson has very good ideas starting with getting out of NYC for the headquarters and getting rids of journeys. t back to bascisBringing back uniforms so the public knows who we are and what we are doing besides selling cookies. And how about letting us teach those girls how to get back to basics. You know, fire building, outdoor cooking, singing around the campfire, Learning how to use a knife, etc. These skills are being lost because no one is teaching them anymore. It’s all about doing crafts and muddling through journeys. I too hope and Robertson is considered seriously is next CEO GSUSA, or another like minded person. We need to shake things up!
Fabulous! Not just well written, but well thought out and well reasoned! You’ve got my vote!
Oh, Ann. I love what you said. I don’t agree with every single thing, but I think there is an incredible opportunity and need to really delve into what makes Girl Scouting, Girl Scouting, and to get back to basics. We need a strong foundation for the national organization and councils to be sustainable, and that requires vision, clear thinking, and attention to what works (Learn from the past!).
I love Girl Scouts so much, and seeing the current state of affairs is hard – there is so much value that we bring to the country and the world.
I would support bringing GSUSA back to Washington, DC, though…and maybe we could both find jobs there down the line and work together again!
Thanks Brigid! That means a lot coming from a (former) long-time staffer!
I’d vote for you! and love the Back to Basic Skills and Service ideas!
I vote for you!! Linda Mathis(met you at Conover swap meet)
Ann, great ideas you have, but let me add “to make it affordable for ALL girls” again like it use to be. The fees have become ridicules and many parents have decided against GS because of this reason.
I fully agree. For my scouts who parricipate in cookie sales, we always pay their registration fees. So with the cost hike, they will have a huge drop in profit for things like community service and activities.
Personally, my co-leader & I would love to sport a uniform if it weren’t for two things:
1) COST. We both live on single incoms, choosing to raise our own kids. $50 for a scarf, sorry, not a priority in my book. The gas, mileage, wear and tear on our vehicles, not to mention time we put in…it would sure be nice to have some sort of a break for things that are Girl Scout related for us and the troop!
2) Style. I am sorry, correct me if I am wrong, and in no way do I want to offend anyone, but the style does not do well for the age groups that many of us leaders are. I am not saying to make these uniforms inappropriate, but an update in style now and then, to go with the times, would be nice. (If the styles have been updated since I last checked, please forgive me. This goes back to problen #1.)
One smaller handbook per age level should be sufficient. $22.00 just for the binder is way too much for most girls. Also, maybe time to look at a different fund raiser – our kids (and adults) are so unfit…no wonder camping is becoming obsolete. Be creative – be with the times.
You read my mind!!!! After I graduated college, I got caught up in job hunting, and being an adult, and I found other groups to replace what Scouting had given me. That was the early 70’s. I got back into Scouts a bit in the 90’s when I made a replica of Juliet Low’s uniform from 1919 as part of a costuming group. I also decided to share it with troops in Milwaukee. I got it out and dusted it off again for the centennial in 2012, and then got sucked in to becoming a volunteer historian. (OK, so I leaped at the chance). I was mildly appalled at what I found: Almost NO badges, and what they had was focused mostly on leadership and financial skills. NOBODY seemed to be wearing uniforms. I didn’t see a lot of interest in troops going camping, and the camping they did seemed to be more in lodges than in tents. I think we have lost the essence of what Girl Scouting is. I used to LOVE to wear my uniform whenever my troop went anywhere. It shouted to the world, “I am a Girl Scout!” I was proud of that and wanted to show it off to the world. That uniform also got me a bit of respect from the public as well. It made me feel special. I agree that uniforms today are extremely expensive. But the “suggested” uniform is chinos and a white polo shirt; How hard is it to go to Wallmart, or even Goodwill to buy something comparable so you are recognizable as SOME sort of organization because you’re all dressed alike?!!! Juliet Low referred to uniforms as an equalizer because, “No girl is dressed better than anyone else.” Come on people! Lets get back to the basics that made this a great organization from the start!
I am a leader for my daughter’s troop and a former girl scout. The times have changed. I love your ideas. get back to basics. the journeys are a pain the girls really don’t want to sit thru a story when they were in school all day they want to get out and explore and do stuff. As a volunteer I have found in just 3 yrs that they have changed many things and find it hard to really get parents involved during to the lack of support for some councils. That needs to be a priority. us leaders are planners and we use input from the girls to plan but when the websites are so out of date it is not easy. They need to be 3- 6 months in advance for activities and info. Families days are busy and if we can not give them at least 3 months notice for council activities it is impossible to get girls involved. And fix the camps. I know why our camp was closed vs what was told. Fix camps get costs down on camps and u will get more girls to go. make more troop camping opportunities vs 2 over a summer time and get the cost down on that. We are volunteers we love it but when we have to pay $100 too for camp it is hard. training should also be free for volunteers. We need this training to make troops for the girls the more training and preparedness we have the more we are willing to stick with it as long as our girls do.
This is exactly what leaders have been saying for years.
Have you sent this to Sylvia at Sacevedo@girlscouts.org?
Yes, I have. No reply yet. Perhaps many people should send it….
yes yes yes yes YES!!!!!!
Well I sure am glad to see that some one is looking and seeing something BIG Needs to be done, I hope it’s quick, and action starts. Barbara. 🤔
Sent from my iPad
Reblogged this on what's mama writing and commented:
I coulda written this. I love every aspect of this.
Go Ann Robertson! I’d vote for you for CEO. I grew with your platform totally!!!!
These are all great ideas. Girl Scouts can be anything they want to be. Might I suggest that whomever is in charge does an immediate inventory and land management plan of all Scout holdings. Too many camps are closing because of poor management planning. I for one am tired of seeing our beautiful PA. camps being sold for golf courses. Hire a good land manager.
I’m a Life Member… Junior and Cadette Scout in the 60s.. Adult Leader and Volunteer Support from 1985 to 2003.. Scouting was fun and my kids loved the camping, cooking, knot tying, orienteering, etc…. I’ve been asked back to become a Daisy Leader which is totally different when two of my girls did it in 87 and 90… Girl led — Well, that was the Patrol system which I learned as a Junior and passed onto all my Troops from Daisy and up… Guess what — I’m bringing back the Patrol system again.. Thank goodness I have a younger co-leader who believes the same way. She was a Scout long before it went nuts on the Journeys, etc… Back in the day we had to learn what law went with the badge we were earning… Interest Projects T a service project before you earned it…. What a shock when they DESTROYED the historical Library of our founder’s birthplace. Our Council has NO Residential overnight camps. What a shame… I might be getting back into being a Leader in my 60s, but my girls will be doing old fashion Girl Scouting. Uniforms are going to be mandatory … Yes we’ll be doing a Troop shirt (we’re using my Miss Daisy Raccoon design from my 1987 Troop), but other parts must be used. As for “Journeys In A Day” what a joke…. The Scout can’t fully understand that Journey… Its a way of a Leader being too lazy on teaching and letting the Scouts understand what they have learned… I could go on forever… Bring back the old with some modern…. This new crap has ruined Scouting and what Juliet Lowe had in mine….
Ellen, I am also a lifetime GS who joined GS in 1952, as a Brownie. When I started a new Daisy troop in 2005 as a grandmother I had NO IDEA what to do! When they were Brownies we used the Brownie Ring form of government and they loved patrols as Juniors. I didn’t really know what else to do. It worked…
Ellen, you said what I’ve been fighting for 7 years now! All the changes finally caused all my girls even my own to leave scouting! Not to mention, nothing to keep me involved after 30 years!!!!
I am posting this all around today:
Here is a message from our Interim CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, on the official GSUSA blog. http://blog.girlscouts.org/2016/07/what-if-you-were-ceo.html.
Ms. Acevedo has read this article from Ann Robertson at the GS History Project! https://gshistory.com/2016/07/26/if-i-were-ceo-of-gsusa/ – – so please go as soon as you can, and comment on both postings. If you only have time for one, comment on the GSUSA posting.
I think our Interim GSUSA CEO will read our comments!
Speak up – – and speak out – – on what YOU would do if you were CEO – – what does Girl Scouting NEED right now?
Go, Girl Scouts from across the country and overseas. One…. two… three… go!!
I agree 100% with this.
Why can’t headquarters move back to Savannah?
AMEN! Well said!! You have my vote.
Relocate headquarters to Savannah which is more affordable and where Girlscouts got its start.
Girls want and need to get back outdoors. I have had 3 daughters go thru Girlscouts kindergarten thru 12th grade yet once they turned 14 they dual enrolled into BSA into venturing so they could get into the high adventure.
As a volunteer speaking,it would be nice if staff was paid more so they could afford to stick around longer. Many are good at their jobs and love it but can’t afford to pay the bills so they don’t stay very long.
Your ideas are on target. Our Cadette troop discussed going to NYC in part to go to Headquarters. Ended up in Washington, DC due to cost and travel time. We do not like the big binders which break apart when dropped, cannot fit in a backpack and do not have sequential page numbers. The binder contents and journeys are filled (ironically) with stereotypical girlie images. The information is presented in a comic book format which is hard to follow. The badge requirements should be in ONE book and only use 1-2 pages, not 6. The Journeys are cumbersome, contain many non-applicable activities and can take an inordinate number of meetings to earn. I showed out girls the classic handbooks from the 1960s. They loved everything about them. The logical presentation of information, the illustrations of the girls in uniform, the skills section…They said that those books seemed more serious and not silly. I understand that these materials are relatively new. Please consider using the basic information, but reformatting the current materials. Thank you. Laura Hulett – Leader of two troops in NC.
Ann, excellent ideas and great springboard to begin work on strengthening the core of Girl Scouting! Melinda’s suggestion that paid staff maintain first-hand knowledge of troops is great. Front line experience is invaluable. I also liked Deborah and Nicole’s comments about making scouting financially available for girls and volunteers. Our country is vast and the geographic, economic, cultural, and social conditions very greatly, but we should strive to offer every girl the opportunity to experience girl scouting.
After a conversation with a salesman today I would add “stop the commercialization of Girl Scouting”. This person is my accessibility lift salesman. We were discussing the accident that left me a paraplegic (it was Girl Scout related) and I mentioned how Girl Scouting had changed in the last few years. And he mentioned how commercialized it was now. Girl Scout cookies this, etc. While this man has no children and no ties to Girl Scouting, he does have Eagle Scouts in his family. Sad that the general public sees Girl Scouting as becoming “commercialized”.
At our recent bridging ceremony, we had our older GS talk at length about their activities, and two girls who were going on destinations spoke about how selling cookies helped, because our troop not only voted to let them use all the profits from their individual sales but to donate more to each of the two girls. A gentleman came up and said that he had refused to help his daughter sell cookies because he thought it was all about selling but now that he realized what we do with the money, he planned to help his daughter sell lots and lots of cookies!
I saw where you were linked on the GSUSA blog – congrats! It inspired me to write my own list on my blog. http://girlscoutwithacause.dawgtoons.com/2016/07/if-i-were-ceo-of-gsusa/
I have lots of input for Sylvia – but I don’t participate on FACEBOOK! Isn’t it discriminatory to make that the only forum for comment? How about a good old fashioned email address?
Yes, Sell the 5th avenue property (all of it). Relocate anywhere we can find a good airport, public transportation.
I love this blog and all the comments. While I was never a scout as a girl, I have been involved with both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts for over 25 years (a daughter with the Gold Award and 2 sons that are Eagle Scouts- and grandchildren now involved – and I’m still a volunteer). I have seen too many changes with Girl Scouting.
Let’s go back to the old format of the badges and books. I loved the bigger variety of badges offered and having them all in one smaller book. I also liked the idea of having to do skill building, technology, career and service requirements with there being more options for the girls to choose from. Not everyone has the same surroundings for opportunities to fulfill requirements.
Another complaint is the Gold Award. Earlier this century I had a troop that was interested. But during the few years they could work on their Gold, the requirements changed 3 times. When talking with the general public, most people know what it takes to be an Eagle Scout. They have no idea about the requirements for Gold. Let’s get back to requiring badges (and having a few required with others optional wouldn’t hurt), leadership, and service BEFORE starting on their Gold. Not just one journey and you are ready. That’s not enough growth involved.
And how about holding national events like jamborees? Promoting wider ops more so girls are more aware of them? Doing more to get girls involved on a greater scale outside their troop and community and seeing the global aspect of the organization. I think we’ve list that.
Ms. Robertson, this is extremely well done, eloquently on target. Items 4 and 3 go hand-in-hand as what would be my absolute top priorities – the rest cannot be accomplished without those two solved – or at least on the road to resolution. I think part of why we have fleeting partners is what you identify as the “fear of being expelled or fired that intimidates leaders and staff into silence” which, with the echoing silence, we dumb down our teams.
Thank you Cheryl!
From the Dali Lama Center Website: “At the Vancouver Peace Summit last September, the Dalai Lama said something that ricocheted around the globe. He said that he is a feminist. And he opined that Western women will save the world.” All Girl Scouts should be feminists – follow in the footsteps of Juliette Low and The Dali Lama! How can you go wrong!
Ann has great ideas and should be supported if at all possible. Girls Scouts is supposed to be a volunteer organization serving girls with leadership and ideas being generated in the field. I should not a business governed by numbers and a few staff expertise is corporate American rather than grass roots volunteering.
Put the camping and outdoors back as a central focus of our mission! Reinvest in our camps without making them to luxurious- no lights in cabins and more platform tents. More adventure and less pampering. Badges should be earned over time with skills checked off by adults.
What Liane said!!!