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Inclusive Scouting Guide

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Advancing Inclusion and Belonging for All:
A Guide for Scouts and Scouters


Living Our Values: Advancing Inclusion and Belonging in Scouting

“Adventure, learning, challenge, and responsibility—the promise of Scouting is all this and more. If you are ready for the adventure to begin, then let’s get started.” — Boy Scout Handbook, 13th Edition, p.91 (1)

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has experienced many challenges, opportunities, and changes in recent years. As cultural norms evolve, we’re learning more and more about how American pillars like the BSA have, in both intended and unintended ways, made it hard for some communities to enjoy opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as fully as others. With the rapid pace of change toward improved standards of diversity, inclusion, and belonging for so many different people, this knowledge can sometimes feel overwhelming. Even if we value these important changes and want to help build a more inclusive future, we may not always know what to do, where to turn, or how to deepen our own leadership and understanding.

In Scouts For Equality’s 2018 Inclusive Scouting Survey (2), Scouts and Scouters around the country described concerns and insights about the need to advance inclusion and belonging in the BSA:

  • The BSA needs to not just say, but show how we are accepting today compared to years ago.” — Scout, New York
  • What is national doing to promote respect? I don’t see it.” — Assistant Scoutmaster, New York
  • I feel like I’ve hardly moved the needle. All I’ve got is that we have to stand up to bigotry. Doing that in a way that moves the conversation forward is really, really hard.” — Assistant Scoutmaster, Pennsylvania
  • I have never seen any resources. If I was an LGBTQ+ Scout, I would be scared.” — Unit Commissioner, Florida
  • They leave most of it up to the units without specifics for how to make progress happen.” — District Committee Member, Colorado
  • I don’t think there is a good set of guidelines for conflicts.” — Scoutmaster, Missouri
  • They simply don’t have expertise to develop these resources, and in many cases, I think they are actually trying to avoid saying anything official about a sensitive issue like transgender members. My biggest concern is that the ‘separate but equal’ system they established is very binary in nature: boy or girl. It allows no ‘grey area’ for kids who are non binary or just unsure about who they are.” — Venture Crew Chair, Virginia

Historically, the BSA has been slow to embrace new opportunities for learning and service. As we can see, they continue to face challenges in implementing new standards of inclusion and transforming old habits of discrimination and exclusion.

Despite the fact that the BSA has not been a leader in this regard, it is also true that positive change is happening. After a century of openly discriminating against girls, the LGBTQ+ community, and atheists & agnostics, the BSA has taken a significant step in repealing its ban on LGBTQ+ Scouts and Scouters and opening its programs to girls. Now, it is time to support one another in ensuring we transform the BSA’s old habits of exclusion and discrimination so everyone in America can be confident in knowing that Scouting serves them, too.

It’s time to live and practice our Scouting values as fully as possible. To be helpful, courteous, and kind means actively practicing inclusion and creating environments where those who have been excluded and marginalized can find belonging. If we remember to practice our most fundamental Scouting principles, we can learn from the shameful mistakes of the past and make sure Scouting serves as the powerful force for justice it can be, and should be, for many years to come.

Who is this guide for?

“Servant leaders know what it takes to make their group—and each of its members—successful, and they do what it takes to achieve that success.” — Boy Scout Handbook, 13th Edition, p.32

This guide is for all Scouts and Scouters interested in advancing the values of inclusion and belonging in their unit, district, council, chapter, lodge, section, area, and region. This guide is for everyone who is inspired by the wisdom and insights of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Rooted in Scouting’s deepest values, this guide offers guidance for helping our movement become synonymous with the values of real inclusion and belonging for all.

How to use this guide:

“What really matters is how Scouts and Scouters show leadership by sharing knowledge and offering guidance and encouragement to others.” — Boy Scout Handbook, 13th Edition, p.43

To help Scouts and Scouters fully embody the Scout Oath and Law, this guide defines important concepts and addresses common questions about the changing membership of Scouting. It provides a framework for inclusion and belonging anchored in the core principles of Scouting, and shares best-practices for engaging with, and learning from, diverse communities. To support further learning, this guide also provides readers with a curated list of digital resources for practical advice, deeper understanding, and ongoing character development.

We encourage everyone to use this guide to support their own practice of living Scouting’s values and promoting our movement as a powerful force for good. Readers should take their time working through this guide; writing notes and reflecting on how the content challenges our assumptions or resonates with personal experience.

Here are some recommendations for how this guide can be used:

  • As an opportunity for individual learning and personal reflection.
  • As a foundation for discussing the values of inclusion and belonging in Scouting with others. This might involve your patrol, unit, lodge, or committee.
  • Whether you are working individually or with others, we encourage everyone to consider the following questions:
    • In what ways do I/we agree?
    • In what ways do I/we disagree?
    • How do I/we advance inclusion and belonging in my/our specific environment?
    • Do I/we still have questions?
    • Do I/we need more information?
    • Where can I/we go to learn more about different barriers to inclusion and belonging?
    • How can I/we navigate our differences to promote Scouting for all by living the Scout Oath and Law?
    • Where are my/our blind spots and biases?
    • How do I/we work together to transform old habits to improve our program for everyone?
    • Is there anything preventing me/us from practicing the core values of Scouting or implementing best-practices outlined in this guide?
    • If so, what do I/we need to do to overcome those barriers?

We hope this guide supports ongoing reflection and lifelong learning as opportunities and challenges arise in pursuit of greater inclusion and belonging in Scouting. Be creative!

What’s inside:

Part 1 – Defining Important Concepts. This section provides background information and a case-study for understanding why we need to advance inclusion and belonging in Scouting.

Part 2 – A Framework for Inclusion and Belonging. This section shows how the Scout Oath and Scout Law provide a strong foundation for improving communication and implementing strategies for greater inclusion and belonging in Scouting with humility, curiosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Part 3 – Inclusion and Belonging in Action. This section includes policy guidelines and overall best-practices for advancing inclusion and belonging in Scouting. This section also demonstrates how information provided in previous sections can be applied in specific contexts by returning to the case-study and leveraging personal reflection.

Appendix – Resources for Further Learning. This section offers a curated list of resources for learning more about advancing inclusion and belonging for specific communities as well as reflection questions to be completed at the end of each section.

“Leave this world a little better than you found it…” — Baden-Powell’s Last Messages (3)

>>> Part 1: Defining Important Concepts


Eric Michael B., MBE, MDiv* — Training Director, Scouts For Equality
Justin Wilson* — Executive Director, Scouts For Equality
Justin Bickford, PhD* — Communications Director, Scouts For Equality
Rev. Ben Garren* — Chapter Support Director, Scouts For Equality
Rev. Scott Thayer — Faith Relations Director, Scouts For Equality
Michael Peters* — Volunteer, Scouts For Equality
Jane White* — Volunteer, Scouts For Equality
Jasper Davidoff* — Volunteer, Scouts For Equality
* Eagle Scout
Design by Roselyn Adams,