Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Drew Glassford Made Me Think Big About Innovation and Scouting


Drew Glassford, formerly Director of Strategic Initiatives for Boy Scouts of America, has been named the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Dundee. While he worked with Boy Scouts Drew he made me think big about innovation and Scouting and in some ways changed my life.

I first met Drew at the LaSalle Street After Hours Event several years ago. That event, which was once the LaSalle Street Dinner and now is the LaSalle Street Trading Tech Awards, is the financial district of Chicago's way of financially supporting the Boy Scouts in Chicago.

Joe Guinan and Christ Hehmeyer approached me to help promote the event, as Joe was the chairperson and Chris was on the organizing committee. Joe has formerly been a Scoutmaster in Chicago, I learned. He is also an Eagle Scout. He had some young men who had been in his Scout Troop that worked for him at Advantage Futures.

I suggested the John Lothian Productions do an interview with these young men and publish the video in the John Lothian Newsletter as a way to promote the event. Needless to say, this pro-bono gift to the Boy Scout event attracted the attention of the professional Scouters from the Chicago Area Council, including Glassford who had been assigned to the Chicago area to fundraise and develop strategic initiatives, especially around STEM.

Glassford and Scouter Michael LoPresti, the founder of the National Foundation Innovation Fund, were putting together a group of people from across several Boy Scout Councils from the Chicago and Northern Indiana area and asked me to participate.

I love Scouting and innovation, so Drew had me at mere mention of the word innovation. This group met at the home of Dennis Chookaszian in the North Shore suburbs. Dennis had been the chairman of the Chicago Area Council back in the 1980s and was on the national board for Boy Scouts.

What came out of this meeting was that the Scouts wanted a STEM basecamp in Chicago, on Northerly Island that would be a $30 million facility. This would give the Boy Scouts a premiere location not hid in the woods, but on the lakefront of Chicago, where they could teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics to Scouts and community members alike.

This $30 million price tag was a little above my pay grade, but it made me start to think big. How do you make something big happen I asked myself? You start small. I started to develop a plan of building commercial and civic support for STEM and Scouting in Chicago. Then something else happened.

I was asked by professional Scouters in the Chicago Area Council and the STEM coordinator for the Chicago area Councils to reinvent the LaSalle Street After Hours event. This request gave me the platform for starting my small project to building commercial and civic support for STEM.

The plan I presented to another meeting organized by Glassford at Dennis Chookaszian's home again, to the innovation group with some new additions, was the Trading Tech 300 program.

But it also had a bigger plan because after I first came up with the Trading Tech 300 program I sensed that it was not large scale enough to fight the problem we were seeking to address, namely gangs, guns and drugs in Chicago and their influence the youth of Chicago.

I needed to make the project bigger. So how do you make something bigger? You start by making a big goal. My goal was and is to make Chicago the STEM Capital of the World. Chicago once was the STEM Capital of the World when it held the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, or World's Fair. Chicago introduced electricity to the world and the Ferris Wheel.

That fair left Chicago with two big things, the Museum of Science and Industry building and the Field Museum collection, which later received its own building.

That was were I learned STEM as a kid outside of the classroom, going on field trips to those museums. What if we were to bring another World's Fair to Chicago, I thought. That could leave us with a facility to teach STEM in Scouting and more for another 50 or more years.

So that was my big plan. Bring a World's Fair to Chicago. At the next year's LaSalle Street After Hours event I gave a speech and outlined my grand vision, including the start of the Trading Tech 300 merit badge clinic program.

I had sensed how the demise of the trading floors and all the traders, and the consolidation of the brokerage firms supporting them had hurt the event as electronic trading grew in popularity. I saw how firms did not like to expose their non-trader talent to the industry and protect their privacy. And I saw how Scouting needed to reconnect with the financial community in Chicago, especially after divisive issues around membership standards were resolved.

The Trading Tech 300 program is right out of the Guide for Advancement. Merit badges should be taught two Scouts to one Merit Badge Counselor, except in a group setting where the subject matter of the badge is interactive as it is used in a business or organization. We would take Scouting right into the businesses in the financial district.

Joe Guinan's Advantage Futures kicked off the Trading Tech 300 program with the Public Speaking and Chess Merit badges and has held clinics every summer since it launched in 2015.

Each year the Pathway to Adventure Council has offered merit badge clinics in the offices of firms around the financial district. Some of the biggest names in the industry have hosted clinics, including CME Group, Cboe, DRW, Advantage Futures, Spot Trading, NFA, Glenstar Properties, Icap and even John J. Lothian & Company, Inc. Last summer we even held two classes in New York at Nasdaq in Times Square.

Drew Glassford's invitation to come talk about innovation in Scouting spurred this innovation. He had the good sense to believe me when he and Michael LoPresti approached me for a donation for the National Foundation Innovation Fund. I told both of them that the least valuable thing I have to offer is my money. My imagination and use of the good will I have developed in my career used for Scouting purposes, would be more valuable than money.

But having said this, I had to deliver. I think the success of Trading Tech 300, which has morphed into Scouting Tech, is a good indication I have. Scouting Tech now is made up of Trading Tech, Civic Tech, Medical Tech and Building Tech as other industries are being organized to use the same merit badge clinic formula as Trading Tech.

But there was still this World's Fair idea out there. I pivoted on how to accomplish this last year. Rather than have the World's Fair leave us with a venue to teach STEM, I sought a venue to teach STEM that might be a template for how to attract a World's Fair to Chicago.

And that venue is the current focus of my attention. A proposal has been made to a civic non-profit to partner on a building part of a larger project where the Scouts could have a facility to teach STEM to Scouts and for use by the community.

Think of a facility where Boeing sponsors a high tech area where the aviation merit badge is taught to Scouts, or local students who might use the STEM center during the weekdays. Union Pacific and the Railroading badge, or Google with Digital Technologies are other examples. We are only limited by our imaginations. A STEM center like this can help build the STEM-centered workforce Chicago needs.

Think of a facility where there is technology that a local school would never have, but that could be shared by school students, Scouts and even adult learners.

I have even suggested a way to help pay for this depending on how it was structured. If the Illinois Lottery designated some games to support the STEM center, it would attract new people to the lottery.

If we had enough large corporate entities supporting the STEM center and its technology driven learning environment, it could be a template for a bigger effort, maybe even a World's Fair.

It all started when Joe Guinan and Chris Hehmeyer came to my office and asked for some help. And that opened the door for Drew Glassford of the Boy Scouts to ask me to think big.

I wish Drew the best in his new endeavor with the Boys & Girls Club of Dundee. I appreciate his brining me into an environment where my skills, good will and love of Scouting could be put to good use.  Drew made a difference in my life and I am forever grateful for his help and support.



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