The Order of the Arrow (OA) Innovation Award was created to recognize chapters and lodges for developing creative and innovative solutions to challenges faced during the implementation of their annual program plans. Since its inception in 2012, the award has encouraged lodges to be willing to take every opportunity they can to improve themselves. One recipient of this award is Shenandoah Lodge of the Stonewall Jackson Area Council, which has received the Innovation Award multiple times. Lodge Chief Mark Schoenstar is especially passionate about this award and believes that every lodge should make a conscious effort to work towards it.

As the name suggests, the key to this award truly is innovation. Lodges that receive it are the lodges that come up with that brand new, bold idea that truly make impacts in their lodge. This idea itself could be anything, as long as it’s given enough thought and development to blossom into an achievement. It is presented to two lodges per region per year.

“We definitely like to think we’re open to any idea, sometimes even the wacky and crazy ideas,” said Schoenstar. One example of this was the development of Shenandoah Lodge’s one-ceremonialist call-out ceremony. “We sort of smashed all of the four principals into one.” Schoenstar recalled. “At first it was a little bit weird and did not work out. We were able to fix the script and make it a cohesive and thought provoking ceremony that works with only one Principal.” What made this seemingly trivial change impactful though was its more flexible aspects. It allows a chapter to conduct ceremonies with fewer ceremonialists, and helps keep the ceremonies shorter for when a chapter has a large amount of candidates. Shenandoah Lodge actually won their first Innovation Award for this idea.

Shenandoah Lodge has not only won this award once, but numerous times since its inception in 2012. Another year was for their creation of an “extended elangomat” program, which enables elangomats to continue communications with their clan and encourage them to get more involved with the OA.

Following a theme of improving their induction procedures, they won the award again, this time for developing an election team binder that provided a step-by-step guide for how to communicate with troops conducting elections. They also contained pre-made ballots. This has helped make elections simple and quick – for not just the troops, but also the election teams.

Schoenstar offered plenty more advice for lodges looking to try and receive this award. His suggestion: find the not so obvious issues in your lodge, and look at it from every angle to find a solution, no matter how weird it may seem at first.

Find out more about the Innovation Award here.