Many lodges develop creative and innovative solutions to the challenges they face in implementing their annual program plans. In order to spread the best ideas to other lodges and areas across the country, the Order of the Arrow Lodge Innovation Award was created in 2012 to not only recognize lodges for their efforts but to share them nationwide as best practices. Up to two awards in each region can be presented annually.
Each award is accompanied by a $1,000 cash gift to the donor restricted endowment fund of the council that each lodge serves. That gift will benefit Scouting in that council in perpetuity - meaning forever. In total since 2012, local council endowment fund balances have received over $70,000 in total from the OA as a result of the creation of these permanently encumbered financial gifts.
Announced in 2019, seven lodges were chosen for the Innovation Award.
Narragansett Council’s Tulpe Lodge (Rhode Island) was one of the lodges to receive the Innovation Award. Inspired by a fulfilling experience at the Order of the Arrow’s ArrowCorps5 in 2008, Tulpe Lodge developed and implemented ArrowCorps Yawgoog at their council camp, Yawgoog Scout Reservation. “ArrowCorps Yawgoog is a one week experience at Yawgoog Scout Reservation where the principles developed during the summer of 2008 at national ArrowCorps5 are being applied in our own camp setting.”
ArrowCorps Yawgoog is offered during one of the existing weeks of summer camp. The cost is much reduced from the regular summer camp fee. ArrowCorps Yawgoog participants form a provisional unit at a summer camp with Adult Advisers functioning as Scoutmasters for the week and a youth chairman who functions as the Senior Patrol Leader. Participants work alongside camp rangers Monday through Friday all morning. The rest of the day they participate in camp programming and advancement opportunities.
Projects have included the construction of Adirondack shelters and trail creation and/or trail improvements. According to lodge leaders, “The program has not only strengthened our lodge, but it has also provided expanded opportunities for youth leadership and service. It has increased camp attendance, developed current and future camp staff, and offers an affordable summer camp experience for the families of southern New England.”
Pee Dee Area Council’s Santee Lodge (South Carolina) was recognized with the Innovation Award for their “O.A. Week” program at Camp Coker. At the end of the summer camp season, the week-long program is open to all OA members and newly elected candidates. There is an Ordeal at the beginning of the week and a focused “Day of Service” for members. Merit badges are offered during the week, typically different merit badges than those offered during the regular summer camp program. A Native American-themed “pageant” – a full-length play – is practiced throughout the week and performed for families and guests at the end of the week. The week concludes with the lodge’s Summer Fellowship. Staff positions are volunteers, each staff member paying $50 to cover the cost of food. Participants pay a fee well below the normal summer camp fee. “Order of the Arrow Week increases membership retention of our Scouts, improves the quality of leader for Santee Lodge, and provides increased direct benefit to Camp Coker with additional service opportunities.”
Navajo Chapter of California Inland Empire Council’s Cahuilla Lodge was awarded an Innovation Award for its successful efforts to improve member communications and activate new members. They developed a weekly e-mail campaign to keep members informed of upcoming events and service opportunities. They also had two “big events” after both of their Ordeals to welcome new members. These “big events” were a summer barbeque and a fall luau. Each event included a chapter meeting, drum and dance, a patch auction, and other activities. “The costs of both events were offset by donations from members in a ‘tip jar’ and a silent/live patch auction with donated patches from one of our members.” Both the e-mail campaign and the “big events” targeting new members served to engage members effectively, resulting in improved participation and enthusiasm.
Other lodges recognized with the Innovation Award were Woapalanne Lodge, Patriots’ Path Council (New Jersey); Illini Lodge, Prairielands Council (Illinois); Ku-Ni-Eh Lodge, Dan Beard Council (Ohio); and Netopalis Sipo Schipinachk Lodge, Longhorn Council (Texas).
Consistent with the business plan of the National Order of the Arrow Committee, lodges and their leadership should be focused on election, induction, and activation rates. The Lodge Innovation Award is the perfect platform to share innovative techniques and programs that lead to or sustain a lodge thriving in these areas.
By seeking out those lodges that have been especially effective with unit elections, inductions and/or new member engagement, the National Order of the Arrow Lodge Innovation Award will provide a platform to enhance and promote the exchange of new ideas across our organization.