By Reidar Kelstrup, Service Vice Chief
From July 30th-August 3rd 2016, around 4,000 Arrowmen descended upon Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana to discuss the future 100 years of the Order of the Arrow. The purpose of this event was to bring youth leaders and key adults from across the nation to learn, grow and be inspired to be the driving force behind the Order’s second century by focusing on membership, program and innovation at the local level, which will subsequently empower delegates to return home and be powerful agents of change.
Each lodge was allowed a maximum contingent of three youth and two adults. T’Kope Kwiskwis Lodge took a total of four: Lodge Service Vice-Chief Reidar Kelstrup (myself), Lodge Service Advisor Dwight Thompson, Lodge Inductions Vice-Chief Jacob Thornton, and Lodge Secretary Advisor Helen Young. All attendees were organized into crews of about 14 with whom we attended classes, ate the first couple of meals, and roomed. No two members of the same lodge were in the same crew in order to encourage discussions with different perspectives from all over the country. In my own crew, Crew 36, we had a staff crew leader from Houston Texas, an Arrowman from Ohio, an Arrowman from Kentucky, my roommate who was lodge chief of the lodge in Northern Wisconsin, an Arrowman from a lodge in Pennsylvania (with about 4,000 members and which holds 8 ordeals a year) formed five years ago in its council’s 15th merger, and more each with unique and valuable perspectives and ways of doing things.
Every day we attended classes all geared toward either getting us discussing ideas with our fellow crew members, or teaching us new tools and ways to think outside the box to address issues we may not have even realized we have. One overarching model they used was the model of Leader X, a leader who will take in as much information as possible from all sources and come to the best decision on how to move forward and overcome a problem. The Leader X model was limited in the grand scope of leadership (maybe Decider X would have been a better title), but it was a good tool to carry across the message that there are innumerable perspectives and more than one way to skin a cat. We may like the saying: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but the message of NEXT was just because it ain’t broke doesn’t mean there ain’t a better way of doing it. Our contingent tried meeting at least once each day to discuss things, and were there whole laundry lists of ideas about new perspectives and different practices at each meeting.
Some classes were more informational. There was one class that was debuting a new National video for us to show to LDS troops at elections because the ratio of LDS involvement in Boy Scouts is much higher than other demographics but much lower for OA involvement (something I did not know). The video is still being fine-tuned, thus has not yet been officially released to my knowledge (but it is fantastic).
Following all classes and dinner, we would all gather in Indiana University’s gorgeous performance hall for some form of rally session. Sometimes there was humor (as when we got a performance by a local improve group, IndyProv), sometimes there were announcements (as when members of the National Committee detailed their plans from each department for the coming years of the OA), and sometimes there was music (as in the light show at the conclusion of the final rally), but there was always something to learn and think about. The National leadership were reinforcing the message of rejuvenation and new perspectives. One day saw a successful business advisor speaking to us about how he advises businesses to grow and change. What happened to Blockbuster after Netflix was founded? What about Kodak after digital cameras? Both of these were some of the biggest grossing businesses in their day and went bankrupt in a matter of short years because they failed to innovate. Another day held the co-founder of Rent Like a Champion. It is a company founded in 2006 that connects travelers with rental houses in college towns on game day weekends (and which won on Shark Tank). He talked about the need for innovation which lead to the formation of his company, now a company with an 80% average annual growth rate since 2012. Repeatedly the telling statistics that 45% of units don’t have elections, 43% of unit leaders don’t see the OA as a benefit to the unit, a 64% OA retention rate in 2015, 58% of youth seeing their lodge programs as not impactful, a 2015 national Brotherhood conversion rate of only 32.38%, and many more were discussed and we were all charged with finding solutions to these problems that we all face. Leading the OA into this new century means innovating to overcome these challenges, and it is up to us to do it.
After the conclusion of all the day’s activities, crews would meet together and discuss points of the day’sthings we learned, takeaways, thoughts, ideas, current practices and what we can do to make them better. Periodically throughout the days (usually during the rally sessions or meals) polls would be taken via phone on the app, Mentimeter, gathering data about our opinions of the direction of the OA, the priority of certain aspects of it, and so on. On the last day in the cafeteria, there were 6 boxes each with a part of the OA’s mission, or ideas on where to go from here. The purpose was to vote based on what we think the OA’s priorities in the coming years should be and the results will be given straight to the National Committee (along with the results of all the Mentimeter polls) in order to guide the decision-making of the OA’s future.
On a few of the days, there was also a fun activity held called the NEXT Factor. It was basically Shark Tank for OA. Lodges had been tasked with making and submitting videos prior to NEXT describing one awesome and innovative practice that they do. Finalists were then selected and got to present their ideas to a panel of the 4 region chiefs in front of an audience of Arrowmen who would then vote via Mentimeter for which idea they thought best. The winner would receive funding to implement the idea on a national scale. Winners included having a parent dinner the Friday night of ordeals to inform parents about the OA while their sons go through the Pre-Ordeal, and runners-up included an app by which Arrowmen can track their progress through the OA.
All-in-all NEXT was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the OA’s impact we make to the lives of others, the challenges we face, the things we do, and so much more. It was extremely refreshing to hear new ideas and different perspectives on problems that have stumped us as for years as well as ways of improving policies that I didn’t even realize could be improved or are problematic. There is never room to stop growing. NEXT: A New Century was a wonderful opportunity to learn how our fellow Arrowmen throughout the nation tackle issues, function, and in all aspects work to fulfill the mission of the Order of the Arrow. I am extremely optimistic about the future of our brotherhood and lodge and cannot wait to see the heights we can achieve through membership, program, and innovation.
Yours in Service,
T’Kope Kwiskwis Lodge