Managing large 4-H clubs through a cadre system

How to manage a large 4-H club and develop youth leadership through the cadre system.

What is the magic number of members in a 4-H club? There is no right answer to this question. Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development recommends that a 4-H club consist of a minimum of five members from at least two different families. When it comes to managing a large club, there are several different approaches, including utilizing the cadre system.

The cadre system is something for clubs with 35 or more members to explore. The purpose is to:

  1. Establish an effective communication system among members.
  2. Establish and encourage an environment that allows all members to contribute to the decision-making process in a small, safe setting.
  3. Provide leadership opportunities for teens to assume responsibility within the club, develop leadership skills and encourage participation by more families and members outside of the club leaders.

A cadre consist of eight to 12 club members that during a meeting functions as a mini club within a larger club setting. When setting up a cadre, an organizational leader should consider the following:

  1. Ratio of boys to girls.
  2. Variety of ages and experience.
  3. Accessibility to be in contact between meetings.
  4. Variety of interest, talents and abilities.

Each cadre needs to be assigned a teen leader and adult who will be responsible for the individuals involved within the cadre. The main function of the cadre leaders is to manage the communication within the cadre. They will be responsible for reminding members of meetings, taking attendance at meetings and handling discussions within their small group when a motion has been presented to the larger club membership. They also facilitate opinions and ideas of the group to share with the larger group. If the teen leader would like to take their leadership skills to another level, they may assist members in record keeping, assist with required registration forms, arrange additional educational programs or give demonstrations at meetings.

Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles says youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process and youth develop skills that help them succeed. The cadre system allows for more youth to actively engage in these guiding principles by being leaders within their club. Developing youth leaders at a local club will enhance their participation as well as offer an opportunity for youth to step up and develop their leadership skills. 

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