Saturday, 15 March 2014

Rotary Pic n Mix

Some months ago in was asked to prepare a speech on the topic of Pic n Mix.  This particular Club Charter celebration being held on world chocolate day. I thought that what I came up with was worthy of a sharing with a wider audience so here goes

As Rotarians we sometimes have to remind ourselves of the Areas of Focus we have within our community activities – on this occasion let me do that with a twist, or should that be a Curly Whirly or a Twirl?   We have 6 areas of focus to pick from and we often mix them together to provide all that a community needs

Peace is at the heart of what Rotary aims to bring to the world.
The founders of many of our well loved Chocolate brands were of course Quakers, Messrs Rowntree, Fry and Cadbury. And Chocolate can affect people in many different ways like this story from the Berlin Airlift  Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America. It took me a week to eat that candy bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn't the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that someday we would be free. Without hope the soul dies.” 

Our second area of focus is Health & Wellbeing
I’m told that good dark Chocolate is  packed full of good stuff like alkaloids, theobromine and phenethylamine. .  An April 2001 review of recent studies indicates that high dark chocolate consumption can decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke by as much as 30 percent.  
But you really have to be a fan of raw unrefined chocolate and not to forget that many of these studies were paid for by Mars….

I’m not sure what would be said about eating chocolate at the various Health Mela (Fairs) I have now attended. Rotary is taking part in these events not as a practitioner but as a catalyst for community activity and awareness raising.

Third is Water and Sanitation
If you had to name a crop that was absolutely essential to human survival you probably wouldn’t say cocoa. But the crop that’s the main raw ingredient in chocolate is one we should all be paying close attention to.  In September 2011 scientists produced a report on the likely impact of climate change on the cocoa plantations of Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – that’s where more than half the world’s cocoa comes from, produced mainly by smallholders with few alternatives for earning a living. - only dentists would be happy about the news that rising temperatures were going to take a big bite out of chocolate production. That’s unless, a new report makes clear, a series of measures is introduced. These range from the development of hardier cocoa varieties, to improved agronomy, to investments in irrigation infrastructure. 

So our Sand Dams projects may be critical to the future livelihood of many rural farmers, and we already know this  … but also critical to the availability and affordability of chocolate for future generations, well for some that may spur on some action.

Next is Maternal and Child Health
Chocolate as an aphrodisiac?  Probably not,  but to the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility.
To us in moderation OK, but how much of our children’s health is affected by chocolate and other sugary candies is open to question …

Our 5th area of focus is Basic Education and Literacy
One of our areas of focus is aimed at helping literacy and education, helping people read and understand the wrappers.  

Numeracy can be supported by Buttons and Smarties - we’ve all done the one for you two for me trick 
Adverts could of course be educational tools, any one care to discuss the following? 
Yorkie;   its not for girls
Cadburys Eat More Milk;   1.5 pts in every bar?
Kit Kat;   2 hours steady nourishment
Penguin;   P' P'  Pick up a penguin

And of course jokes
I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa."    Voted the best Joke at the Edinburgh Fringe 

And finally Community and Economic Development
Fair Trade is something that has been encouraged by consumers and of course seen as a good sales pitch.  It only started in earnest in the mid 90’s with Green and Blacks Mayan Gold.   But for us it is something that we almost take for granted – our 4-Way test doesn’t allow us to forget the need to make sure that everything we think do or say is beneficial to all.

The Divine brand is 45% owned by the growers themselves, something we are helping to develop with our microfinance support of the Coffee Growers in Ethiopia

So Pick & Mix – where did the idea, exemplified in Woollies come from?  

Who can forget standing in Woolies... plastic scoop in hand... wondering which of the colourful sweets to add to our paper bag? Or watching in horror as the urchin in front picked his nose and then proceeded to make his selections without the use of the scoop. You'd be amazed at some of the things that used to be seen in the clear perspex tubs (or maybe you wouldn't!)

So maybe it's just as well that this particular institution is pretty well a thing of the past... and that it has been replaced by the hygienic pick and mix of online sweetshops.

For me the best chocolate bar has to be Old Jamaica, apparently no longer supplied to UK stores.  What was yours?

I’ve taken us through a quick insight into the Pick & Mix of Rotary activity.  And I haven’t even mentioned POLIO’s something we have stuck at since 1985.  Just after the launch of Wispa, Boost Coconut has come and gone even Inspirations failed to make it past 1998.

But we’ll continue to close the gap on Polio won’t we ?     

The packaging may change from time to time but “Doing Good” in the world is what we have been doing for 100 years and let’s hope we have many more to come.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sustainable Communities – Rotary District 1190 Conference March 2014

The theme of our District Conference in March 2014 was sustainable communities

The following is a précis of the talk I gave, as District Governor, during the Conference in which I noted a number of key issues facing our communities and what we as Rotarians are, or could, or should be doing about them.

One of the nations to join Rotary in recent years is Kiribati with a Club on Kiritimati or “Christmas Island” as many of you may remember it.  I remember it well as my father was out there in the mid 50’s building airfields.  This country is no longer worrying about the effects of bomb testing but, along with many other low lying countries this series of Atolls is concerned about the sustainability of life on the island as sea levels rise.

Political Sustainability is challenging many of the countries which Clubs in our District have been supporting in recent years.  In recent months I have been particularly thinking of the Ukraine and Mali.

Closer to home  we are being challenged on issues of unemployment, particularly amongst young people, health issues, particularly in some of our more deprived areas and this year I suspect that the issue of Climate Change and the impact on our communities will really start to hit home across the whole country. 

Sustainable Communities - this concept will take on many different meanings for each of us and I want to take a little of your time to explore what this concept might mean for Rotarians like ourselves

We pride ourselves in being for our Communities and we provide that Community Service on a Global scale.  But do we really know what our communities expect or need from us?

When was the last time you asked your local Parish, Town or County Councillors what support they might like from you?

I was at a meeting with the Rt Hon Francis Maude recently as he met staff and students at Heathlands, a centre for those with disabilities, where we are considering developing Rotaract Club.  It is clear from the national Agenda that the government continues to pursue that, whilst the Big Society may have been re-badged, the concept of self help is still very much in the forefront of their thinking.   Whether you agree or not with the reasons behind the move to this more localised agenda, it is likely to be with us for a long time to come.

Matthew Fox a Catholic Priest noted in his book Creativity that
“We are not consumers.   For most of humanity’s existence, we were makers, not consumers: we made our clothes, shelter, and education, we hunted and gathered our food.

We are not addicts. “I propose that most addictions come from our surrendering our real powers, that is, our powers of creativity.”

We are not passive couch potatoes either. “It is not the essence of humans to be passive.
We are players.
We are actors on many stages….
We are curious, we are yearning to wonder, we are longing to be amazed… to be excited, to be enthusiastic, to be expressive.                      In short to be alive.”

We are also not cogs in a machine. To be so would be to give up our personal freedoms so as to not upset The Machine, whatever that machine is.

Creativity keeps us creating the life we wish to live and advancing humanity’s purpose as well.” 

This definition of who we are has much to offer active Rotarians as we both individually and as an organisation can 
·         Act as catalysts for change
·         Explore innovative ways of engaging with our communities
·         Support those communities who are in need practically and financially
·         Use our vocational and life skills to inform and advise

So what are we doing ?
There are a number of initiatives being considered at the moment at a national level.  One you might have hard of is the Prince of Wales’s “Step up to Serve” Programme, I’m pleased to be able to report that …..
“Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) pledges to support Step Up To Serve by generating hundreds of opportunities for young people to transform communities and their lives with the creation of 125 new Interact clubs and 300 new Rotakids clubs by 2020. This will be achieved by working with schools and community groups. RIBI will celebrate the inspirational successes of young people with the annual RIBI Young Citizen Awards, in association with the BBC News Channel. The five awards showcase and celebrate the positive citizenship and important responsibilities assumed by many young people under the age of 25 in these islands. “
This one of RIBI’s recently best kept secrets, - and we in District 1190 have already contributed well to this target with our wonderful Rotakids Clubs

Our Foundation Global Grant Bid to support First Responders with Defibrillators and training equipment also encourages the development of Health Melas or Fairs.  Encouraging people in our most disadvantaged areas to take more direct interest in their own Health & Well Being.

During and in the aftermath of the 2005 and 2009 floods we saw a great need, as our colleagues in the South of England have done this year, to support our communities through direct Community Emergency Support.  But whilst we will always lend a hand, it is best to be prepared in advance of any need occurring. 

As a result of taking active roles in these areas of activity & situations we prove that we really are For Communities.  In addition we continue to support our young people, promote community development and arrange fundraising activities

I know from travelling around the District in the last 8 months that Rotarians in District 1190 really are at the heart of our communities.  We are helping make them sustainable as ……
·         We see differently: Our multidisciplinary perspective helps us see challenges in unique ways.
·         We think differently: We apply leadership and expertise to social issues—and find unique solutions.
·         We act responsibly: Our passion and perseverance create lasting change.
·         We make a difference at home and around the world: Our members can be found in your community and across the globe.

There is still much we can do to develop even more positive relationships within our communities and I will continue to help you do just that in the months and years to come.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Nelson Mandela’s Legacy to us all

I spent the morning of the 10th December 2013 listening to the celebration of Nelson Mandela's life.  His family, friends and world leaders all praised his leadership and courage but, more importantly, invited the world to continue the fight for justice, tolerance and equality.

I can recall several Mandela moments over the years during which I have been inspired to work in my own small way to improve the lot of people across the world.   I guess I would have to say that Rotary has been a key vehicle to allow me to realise this work.   By focusing on Peace and World Understanding, Rotarians are following the ideals that Madiba encouraged in all of us.

As President Obama noted in his speech on the 10th December, "For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask:  how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?"

So what small legacy can each of us leave in remembrance of Mandela?   Our actions in relation to any of our 6 Areas of Focus will help influence the struggles for justice and peace.  Our giving to our Rotary Foundation will help future generations of Rotarians in their work.

More specifically we have our Rotary Peace Centers and the scholarships for present day activists.  This programme continues to support the many struggles across the world and provides a growing network of individuals who are "Doing Good in the World" and Rotarians who better understand many of the issues they are trying to tackle.

Our work on the eradication of Polio not only enables us to rid the world of only the second global disease in history, but ensures that every child on this globe has the opportunity to have some form of health care and attention.  Mandela was keen to help us Kick Polio out of Africa, we have an obligation to finish the job everywhere.

We need many more "activists" both locally and internationally.  I have come across many Rotarians who are doing their bit, quietly and without fuss in the past 6 months.  How much more could we do if we encourage more people in our communities to Engage with Rotary?  How many more Lives can we Change?

President Obama went on to say that "We, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard."

None of our world leaders are perfect and it is all too easy to be cynical about their words but it is true that we all, as citizens of the world, have a part to play.

How will you make your voice heard?  We can start locally by embracing diversity and change in our own Clubs; By encouraging the use of the ethical values embodied in our 4-Way Test; And by continuing our humanitarian work, wherever it is needed.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Uniqueness of Rotary

We are all part of the international organisation we call Rotary.  Whilst each club can decide on its own priorities dependent upon the skills, the time members have available and of course the needs of the communities that it serves, they also have to meet a number of obligations and standards.

What we do and how we do it is summarised well in the Objectives of Rotary and in the 4-Way Test, of what we think, say or do.  If we follow these principles we won't go far wrong and we should be able to easily follow the appropriate statutory and moral codes.

Our guiding principles also include the core values of Fellowship, Leadership, Integrity, Diversity and Service. We shouldn't isolate one or two of these and forget about the rest.  We have to have Leaders who act with integrity, clubs who provide service and welcome diversity and of course good fellowship from which comes friendship and a sense of purpose.

Recent work by consultants working on behalf of Rotary Internatinal suggested that Rotary was unique within the world of NGO's citing the following reasons.

  • We think differently because of multifaceted classifications
  • We act differently, because of the range of skills we have
  • We have passion and perseverance, but we don't demonstrate it
  • We join to make a difference and develop friendships.  

Community service on a global scale is what makes us stand out from the others , makes us unique.  So do you feel that we are a category of one?   An accolade we can be rightly proud of.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

We're for Communities - Some Examples

I could start this weeks blog by talking about gunpowder, plots and sub plots, but I have to say that it was a great pity that the rain came in torrents during the first weekend in November when so many Clubs had arranged Bonfires and Fireworks.  Fundraising will have been affected but I'm sure that fun and fellowship was had by all those that took part.  Those that had the events on 5th November had a better night of it.

It is important is that we all get a lot of fun, fellowship and personal development by being part of this great organisation.

As I travel the District I am continually amazed by the work that the vast majority of our Clubs do in their local and for their international communities.   Even those small Clubs that may not be very active will have several members who are dedicated to a particular good cause.

Here are just a few examples of the Service activities some Clubs are undertaking and a few of my ideas of how they might be developed

  • Funding a Breakfast Club - why not go and do some of the cooking or waiting on and introduce the school to Rotakids or Interact?
  • Talking Newspaper - do you include snippets about Rotary activities?
  • Cycling Proficiency, testing and training - could you help provide helmets, yellow jackets or introduce Rotakids?
  • Community Gardens - develop the idea with the "incredible edible" concept and provide both food and activity to the local community
  • Mentoring in schools - could this be extended to local young entrepreneurs?

As for Fundraising / Community activities the sky's the limit, again here are some examples

  • Open Clay Pigeon Shoots - could we set up a regional competition?
  • Community Quizes - we already have the questions from our own internal quiz competition
  • U3A - a busy group in many areas, a source of speakers and potential members
  • Parish & Town Councils - invite them to speak, as them what the priorities are in their community and what Rotary can help with

And finally a word of warning.  It would seem that it is possible to pick up bugs, including e-coli, from 10 pin bowling balls, so perhaps take hand gels next time you take part in the District competition.

I'm encouraged by the way that many clubs are working  together not just on international projects but activities in their own communities.  There are synergies to be had in many ways when we work together and I would encourage this approach in everything we do.

PS some relevant photos to come soon

Monday, 14 October 2013

Myths and Legends

As with any organisation Rotary has built up a number of cultural norms over the last 100 years.  I thought I might take a look at some of these and perhaps discuss what relevance they have in the 21st Century.  In addition there are a number of misunderstandings that I have heard in recent weeks that could readily be fixed.
So where to start ……..

The Rotary Theme
We have an annual Rotary theme – this years being “Engage Rotary – Change Lives.   Whilst some of these particularly last years “Peace through Service” do lend themselves to external use these themes are aimed at our internal audience being designed to inspire and motivate Rotarians.   We should not use them on letter heads and such that are aimed at an external audience.  This only confuses people with regular changes of emphasis.

The whole aspect of our brand image is being developed by RI at the moment and we are being encourage to look more closely at how we promote ourselves externally in the future

To quote the guidance document “We are Rotary, and we have a great story to tell. It’s up to all of us to protect, promote, and deliver on that story in all our interactions.”

More details of how we should do this are available here and guidance will increasingly become available to us all.

Regular involvement in Club activities is critical to making sure that people fully engage with Rotary.  Unfortunately some people still seem to think that our attendance rules mean that a Rotarian needs to attend 60% of meetings.  The percentage was changed to 50% over 3 years ago and does not have to be weekly meetings.  The key issue is that someone gets involved in Rotary, be it service projects, visiting other Clubs, governance or learning and development.  All of these enhance an individual’s involvement in Rotary and quite rightly should count towards their Rotary activity.

I am aware of a number of Clubs who are considering converting weekly attendance into service hours.  An interesting approach and perhaps worth considering.

The Meal

Tradition has it that Rotary Clubs meet for a meal and their service activity stems from the fellowship around the table.  However in the beginning the meetings were more networking events followed eventually by service activity.  It is all too easy to become a diners club if service is not at the forefront of what we do.

As for all the other trappings of a semi-formal meal how many of us say grace and toast our head of state around our dining tables at home or in a restaurant or pub in the 21st Century?   I suspect very few, so why do we continue with this tradition at all?

In fact why do we insist on having a meal at all?   Many people complain about the cost of Rotary.  Our subs are around £100 a year but we may spend over £600 on having a meal and a drink each week.   Only a fraction of this £600 could go a long way to improving our annual giving to Foundation.

Dress Code
A couple of years ago my Club had a vote on the wearing of ties – between May and October we needn’t wear them!   But what do most people wear at work, if indeed they are still in work.  Surely smart casual, or whatever you are comfortable in is more appropriate in the 21st C

Change is one of the constants in our lives, it's a natural part of the cycle of life.  It was Longfellow that said "All things must change to something new, to something strange".  It's this strangeness, the uncertainty, the unknown, that sometimes means we need to give change a hand.

Andy Warhol said that "They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."

Rotarians are changing the world; ending polio, providing clean water and sanitation, educating young women, and much much more.   We have to be able to continue this work for many years to come.   So what are you going to?   Can you start by challenging some of the Myths and Cultural norms we have built up over the years?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Engaging Change - Fellowship, Community & Kaizen

I wrote the first version of this paper in 1998 whilst trying to assess how Cumbria County Council might better involve communities in decision making.

At the time the key issues were seen as the need to;
Ø  develop the Communities of Cumbria
Ø  invite Citizens to inform decision making and support the development of their neighbourhoods
Ø  develop fellowships of members, staff and citizens
Ø  use the principles of continuous improvement (Kaizen)
All of these being underpinned by the need to show that the authority was providing "Best Value" to all.
The parallels with where Rotary finds itself now are uncanny.   We need to;
  • enable our Clubs to (re)engage with their communities
  • support Rotarians as they identify community needs and the needs of their own Clubs
  • bring RI (RIBI), Districts and Clubs closer together
  • encourage each other to Engage Rotary to Change Lives
and enable of all this in times of austerity, falling membership and increasing pressure on peoples time.

The original version of this paper took a look at some of the ideas behind Community Building, Fellowship and Kaizen.

One question that was asked was, "Are Fellowship and Community one in the same? ".  We could add to this by asking if a Rotary Club is a Community in its own right, or just a fellowship of like minded people.?

The following definition of Community helps us understand why they probably are the same ….

"A Group of two or more people who, regardless of the diversity of their personal backgrounds or ideology, age, race, gender, sexuality or politics, have been able to accept, transcend and celebrate their differences.  This enables them to communicate openly and to work and play together in a generous and rewarding way"[1]

Does this definition resonate with you?   After all Rotary unites people from all continents, cultures, and occupations—it's truly one of our greatest strengths. Our members are leaders in their fields and communities. Our diverse perspectives help us to see problems differently—and help us solve them in communities throughout the world.

So why is it important to be talking about Fellowship & Community in this way?

If we are to get closer to the communities we purport to serve and, as a result, show that we are able to change the way engage with them.  Perhaps we are going to have to remove some of the "baggage" that we are often accused of having.  "We've always done it this way", "When am I going to have the time to change", "We've heard all of this before but nothing changes".  We are going to have to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to enable the (Re)Engagement of Rotary with the communities in which we live work and play.

There are many Rotarians that state that they don't their Rotary to be like business, however we have to be business like and this is where the link to Kaizen comes in.   The Kaizen philosophy assumes that our way of life, our culture, deserves to be constantly improved.

“Continuous improvement in personal life, home life, social life and working life as a whole.  As related to the workplace, Kaizen means continuing improvement involving managers and workers, customers and suppliers alike.  Quality is anything that can be improved.  “[2]

If we agree that we have to change the way we do things or do different things (Re-Engineer to Re-Engage) then Kaizen based ideas can provide some of the tools to help.  But Kaizen is a philosophy; it has a culture of its own.  Is this the culture that Rotary needs?
In order to Re-Engineer in a way that ensures we keep people with us and motivate them along the way then we should use Kaizen techniques.   Kaizen can be seen as having a culture of partnership very similar to the ideas of Fellowship and Community highlighted earlier. 

It is clear that we have to enable everyone to cope with the need to “Engage Change to allow Rotary to Live”  Our internal and external communities who are being invited to give their constructive view of our services and how we provide them, perhaps having to think about what they want from Rotary for the first time.  The Rotarian who has been aching to have their say for so long and is now being invited to contribute to developments.  Or even the "We've always done it this way" group who need to be inspired to see over the horizon.

We have a wide range of people who need to be able to grasp this culture of continual change and improvement quickly.
Kaizen philosophy encourages people to…
Ø  Discard conventional fixed ideas
Ø  Think of how to do it, not why it can’t be done
Ø  Not to make excuses.  Start by questioning current practices
Ø  Not to seek perfection.  Do it right even if for **[3]% of the target
Ø  Correct it right away, if you make a mistake
Ø  Not to spend money on Kaizen, use your wisdom
Ø  Realise that Wisdom is brought out when faced with hardship
Ø  Ask “WHY ?” five times and seek root causes
Ø  Seek the wisdom of ten people rather than the knowledge of one
Ø  Accept that Kaizen ideas are infinite

The inclusive nature of this philosophy is typically promoted through the use of such tools as Quality Circles, Focus Groups etc.  In order for these developmental groups to work successfully they need to be a "Community" in their own right.  Rotary already has many appropriate tools available and is developing more.  Many Clubs are already taking a look at what they are doing and we should encourage many more to do so.  

[1] From Community Building Insights, produced by Community Building in Britain
[2] NASA Langley Research Centre
[3] What ever agreed % is appropriate to the service being provided