Girl Scouts: A Community of Memory

A lot of people are familiar with the Girl Scouts and associate the organization with key factors: badges, cookies, and arts and crafts. However, Girl Scouts is more than just badges, cookies, and arts and crafts; it is an organization that protects and promotes the goods of service and leadership.  Image

In 1912,Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia, as a way for women to develop various skills that would both create and strengthen their leadership skills, making them into women who would make the world a better place. This mission serves as a community memory for the organization today. After all, “a community of memory is alive, owned by no one person, and the product of ongoing engagement with the past through the present, engaging with the future that is not yet” (Arnet, Fritz, & Bell, 2009, p.146).

A community of memory is defined as “a sense of organizational conscience, retaining what an organization deems as good” and acts as a way to guide an organization’s identity and reasons for acting (Arnett, et al., 2009, p.145-6). However, it is not necessarily to say that the community of memory is formed by current stories that are shared within an organization, but rather it is composed from “those who have come before the person who now work at the telling of a given memory at a given time” (Arnet, et al., 2009, p.146). Using Girl Scouts as an example, we can see that the community of memory was formed by Juliette Gordon Low and is now continued by the current council staff and volunteers who continue the work of the organization. Girl Scout councils across the country work hard to continue Juliette Gordon Low’s passion for creating women of courage, confidence, and character who will grow to become leaders and work to make the world a better place by providing girls with programs to help develop their leadership skills.

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Sometimes situations and issues arise that disrupt our protection and promotion of service and leadership. Recently, Girl Scouts of Connecticut has gone through some large changes. Within the last 7 years, the Council has reorganized 3 times which has shifted employees, service centers, and volunteer contact points. The constant upheaval and shift in directions and policies has left long-time and new volunteers frustrated. It becomes difficult for them to find answers to their questions, keep up with their trainings, and do the work they want to do with the girls. A constant change in staff members and contact points, as the organization continues to redistrict itself and move employees to different service centers, has created a feeling of unease with the current volunteers as they are unsure of whom they are supposed to be working with. It then becomes even more difficult for them to get answers to questions or clarification on policies, which furthers their frustration. This challenge for current volunteers has contributed to the feeling of mistrust of the organization and caused the volunteers to not want to continue working with Girl Scouts of Connecticut.

Another issue current volunteers are faced with are the limitations being placed on them and the processes they need to follow. While it is beneficial to have a continuous update of policies and procedures because it allows for the creation and implementation of mindful guidelines, it is a frustrating point for current volunteers. Constantly having to review and re-learn the various policies and procedures that govern Girl Scouts of Connecticut volunteers is a time-consuming task. Often, volunteers are provided with webinar trainings, in-class trainings, and re-printed materials they are expected to sit and read through. This takes time away from their personal activities, family time, and Girl Scout meeting/planning events.

These current issues are considered “rhetorical interruptions,” or events that disrupt the routine of an organization. If we view Girl Scouts of Connecticut as a culture, and regional and policy changes as another culture, perhaps we can uncover a way to mitigate the interruption by facilitating intercultural communication. Intercultural communication is “the study of differences and similarities of cultural content and its influence on persons within and across different cultures” (Arnet, et al., 2009, p.156). In this example, we can look at the each culture’s protected and promoted good – the Girl Scout organization values service and leadership, whereas regional and policy changes value constant learning and service. Both cultures protect and promote the good of service, a shared ideal that the cultures can use to help assuage the rhetorical interruptions. The two cultures need to look at how and why they protect and promote the good of service. The Girl Scout organization believes that service to others, whether on a troop level or a community level, is an important aspect to becoming a leader. Regional and policy changes protect and promote service by providing service centers in more areas, as well as updating information so that it is easier for volunteers to understand and creates a consistent experience for all volunteers and girls within the organization.

In knowing this information, we can see how regional and policy changes present service (and learning) opportunities to volunteers and staff so that they can more effectively help service girls to continue to create leaders. The regional and policy changes provide the Girl Scout organization with new tools to be able to continue its protection and promotion of service and leadership; the two cultures work together to make their goods stronger. As Arnet, Fritz, and Bell (2009) state “The irony is that the rhetorical interruption is what permits us to learn” (p.164) and that “at times, life makes us change our commitments to the routine” allowing our cultures and our community of memory to grow and become even stronger.

 

Resources:

Arnett, R., Harden Fritz, J., & Bell, L. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Girl Scouts of Connecticut. (n.d.). Girl Scouts of Connecticut. Retrieved March 1, 2014, from http://www.gsofct.org/index.php

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