Four words — that’s all that fundamentally separates an Eagle Scout service project from a standard Scouting service project.
Four words make all the difference. I’m referring to these: “plan, develop and give leadership …”
All service projects fulfill a Scout’s oath to “help other people at all times” and “Do a Good Turn Daily.”
But an Eagle Scout service project — considered by many to be the toughest of all the Eagle Scout rank requirements — takes things up a few levels.
And it all hinges on those five words.
Requirement 5 of the Eagle Scout rank reads as follows:
While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts of America.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your Scoutmaster and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.
Planning and development require forethought, effort, and time—sometimes more than for execution. Thus, for the most part, they are considered part of the project and are detailed further once a proposal is approved. It is inappropriate to expect a Scout to invest the time required for detailed planning, only to face the prospect of rejection. See “Proposal Must Be Approved … Before You Start,” 22.214.171.124.
It is important not to categorically reject projects that, on the surface, may not seem to require enough planning and development. Consider, for example, a blood drive. Often rejected out of hand, this project, if done properly, could be acceptable. Few would question the beneficiary. Blood banks save lives—thousands of them: maybe yours, maybe that of a loved one. If the candidate proposes to use a set of “canned” instructions from the bank, implemented with no further planning, the planning effort would not meet the test.
On the other hand, there are councils in which Scouts and advancement committees have met with blood bank officials and worked out approaches that can comply. Typically these involve developing marketing plans and considering logistics. People successful in business know how important these skills are. Some blood banks will also set a minimum for blood collected as a measure of a successful plan. To provide another valuable lesson, they may require the candidate to keep at it until the goal has been met.
A good test of any project is to evaluate its complexity. In the case of a blood drive, for example, elements of challenge and complexity can be added so there is a clear demonstration of planning, development, and leadership.
“Others” means at least two people besides the Scout. Helpers may be involved in Scouting or not, and of any age appropriate for the work. In cases where just three people are not able to conduct a project to the satisfaction of a beneficiary, then more would be advisable. It may be, however, that a well-chosen project conducted by only three provides an impact not achievable with those involving more.
One of the purposes for the project is to demonstrate leadership, but this could be considered a more important element, perhaps, for Scouts who have not yet established themselves as leaders. It is for reasons like these that every project must be evaluated, case-by-case, on its merits, and on lessons that will advance the candidate’s growth. Councils, districts, and units shall not establish requirements for the number of people led, or their makeup, or for time worked on a project. Nor shall they expect Scouts from different backgrounds, with different experiences and different needs, all to work toward a particular standard. The Eagle Scout service project is an individualized experience.
For an Eagle project, the Scout is responsible for every step from start to finish. Planning the project, recruiting volunteers, gathering materials, leading the project, documenting the work, and more — it’s all on that single Scout’s shoulders.
It’s tough work, but anybody can do it.
Those who complete an Eagle Scout service project are rewarded with more than just a tricolor medal and badge. They gain an experience that remains with them for life.
Memories from those teenage years will fade over time, but that one – it will not. Inspire your scouts and let it be a blessing upon their lives that will guide them for a lifetime.