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

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Further thoughts on the Need for Change

Over recent weeks I have been regularly talking to Rotarians about the need for change as we explore Engage Rotary - Change Lives and the alternative phrase Engage Change -  Rotary Lives.

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.

We can very easily get in a rut, become to comfortable, complacent and think that nothing could be better than what we have now.  But so often as Kathleen Norris suggests disconnecting  from change and trying to hark back to the past does not work, "It loses the future".   What might be, what could be, the development process that takes us into the strangeness.

Some may ask why we need to consider change?  Take a look around, do we really want to carry on damaging each other, our planet and perhaps our futures?   Do we want the number of Rotary members to continue to dwindle away as our communities demands increase? As Prof Irwin Carey says " If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going ..."  

The world around us is changing, technology, communications, peoples increased expectations are all part of the change processes going on. 

So how do we give change a hand?
We can take a look at where we are now and ask where we want to be in the future and then do something about it.
We could wait for natural evolution to take its course, but do we have the time? Some form of active revolution may be required.
We need to listen to those with a vision of how a future might be and grasp their ideas.  Some may work, others not but to do nothing is not an option.

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

So perhaps Apple was right and the quote below, shown in the video, needs to be taken even more seriously now than ever.

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them. Disagree with them. Glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world Are the ones who do. "   

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. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Travels in our District - Part 1

Motorways are now seen as the arteries of the country.  In Cumbria & Lancashire we are lucky have the relatively quiet section of the M6 together with its links to the Fylde and the Ribble valley.

Talking to a number of  Past Rotary District Governors it would seem that before the motorways travelling through our district before was a great adventure or perhaps, occasionally,  a nightmare.   Whilst traffic was less the times taken to travel North to South would be that much longer.

Reflecting on the road network in the district I recalled some of the changes I have been involved in over the years.  Making sure that the A590 went to the M6 rather than being hidden away at the end of the Levens diversion.  Being told off for taking an A6**  road across the wrong side of the naming divide.

In this time of sat navs many of you may not know the rule of thumb of road numbering.  If you’re between the A6 and the A5 numbers will be A5**, if between the A1 and A6 we have the A6**.  So allowing the Carlisle Northern Development Route to be called the A689 is probably a no-no for the purist.   If you want to find out more about this rather unusual topic take a look at

Here’s a thought;  could the map be the basis of a redistricting exercise for Rotary with roads as the defining boundary feature rather than political or geographical boundaries.   Adding in some of the key east-west and north-south routes might result in some interesting areas…… 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Nature of Change

Reflecting on the first month as DG I am excited that clubs seem to be up for the challenges we face as an organisation membership retention and growth and the development of the use of our Rotary Foundation

These challenges will require strong leadership to manage the changes that are needed.

We already have many of the tools we need at our disposal and more are on the way.  We just need the will to succeed, the trust to take action and to overcome the fear of change.

Our successful membership seminar held on the 9th July has already acted as a catalyst for some clubs to start the process of taking a look at how and what they do.  Others are telling us that they are determined to get closer to their own communities.  The process of Engaging Rotary has started.

The leadership seminar being planned for October needs to provide yet another boost to those individual Rotarians who realise that if we Engage Change Rotary Lives.

All of this activity led me to think about Johari’s Window – that tool for self disclosure and personal development that can often be used in an organisational context

It works by encouraging us to ask others about what might be holding us back and telling colleagues what we feel about the need for change

 So in the Rotary context, for self replace Club Rotarians for others why not try the new or prospective Rotarian. The area of shared discovery can be scary but ultimately fulfilling.   It is where the future of Rotary lies – in the unknown.


Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Sense of Belonging

Over recent weeks I have been a little surprised to hear people taking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in relation to Rotary activity.   But I guess when we look at it the concept covers everything we do and how we do it.

So what do Rotarians do?  We provide "Community needs on a global scale" and we do this by undertaking Service above Self.

So taking a look at the simplest of hierarchies, in many cases our activities provide for peoples basic needs, safety and security.   Our Areas of Focus, Peace and conflict prevention/resolution,  Disease prevention and treatment and Water and sanitation concentrate on the basic needs.  Our others, Maternal and child health, Basic education and literacy and Economic and community development start to build on the requirements for love and belonging and self esteem.

As I start my District Governor visits to Clubs I realise that for many Rotarians there is a real sense of belonging to a Club, perhaps over and above Rotary International itself.  That regular weekly meeting is a place of friendship and fun and can be a regular outing in what could be difficult personal circumstances.   The Club meeting can therefore be a real anchor in someone’s life.

For others, who are perhaps more involved in our project work, the sense of achievement from a job well done and the provision of service for others gives a sense of personal esteem, occasionally reinforced by thanks from those that receive our service.

Every now and then a project will provide us with a special Rotary Moment, that spine tingling event that really gets to the heart of what we do and why we do it.  It’s these moments that help us move on to more innovative and creative thinking about what it is really possible to do as a member of Rotary. 

So, yes, Maslow’s Hierarchy makes a lot of sense of what we do.  

In this internet age the diagram on the right is an interesting take on the issue provided by blogger Erica Glaiser.  Where would you put LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Wordpress?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Sense of Place

Having started a few weeks of intense travelling around the District I have been considering what a sense of place means.

Town Hall, Barrow-in-Furness
Many of the places I will visit during the year will have personal memories whether related to my family, school, working or Rotary life.   A good example from this first week on the road was the Town Hall in Barrow where I started my working career all those years ago.  The Rothay Manor Hotel, Ambleside that I helped put in the middle of a one way system and the A590 which I helped improve in the 1980’s.

Cumbria & Lancashire

The journey around the district will highlight the varied landscapes, towns and cities in which we provide our service.  The lakes and mountains of the Lake District, the rivers and valleys of the Eden, Lune and Ribble, the hills of Bowland and Pendle the coastal plains of the Solway, Morecambe Bay and the Fylde; It’s a great area to live, work and play.

We also have a wide range of communities in the district from small picturesque villages to run down housing estates in areas of deprivation.  A challenge for all of us as we determine what we should do in our communities and how we manage the growth in membership we know we need.

A final thought this week about the sense of place relates to where we meet.  It will be interesting as I travel the district to get a sense of what meeting venues mean to Rotarians and the communities which they serve.   Are there situations where our meeting place is inappropriate as we struggle with the challenge to bring more people into our organisation.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Managing time ....

This week has been about consolidating my diary, as I write I have all but 3 Club Visits in the diary together with around 50 charter dinners.  So that’s half the year gone.  Add to this District meetings, Competitions and Events, Community meetings, General Council, RIBI Committees and Conferences the year is almost complete.

I do have a 3 week gap around Xmas – what do I do?  Get away or wait to see if and when it fills up?  There is also a small window in May, but I guess not for long.

So two weeks away in Autumn 2014 now need to be booked – done!

Time will fly by, and I guess the trick is to enjoy every minute of it.  When I asked PDG Hubert Pierce for his one tip for the year he said always have your camera with you, because you will not remember everything you have done. 

The Rotary day is an unusual one in that when visiting it revolves around mainly lunchtime and evening meetings so mornings and afternoons are free(ish).  But as I noted last week we seem to have plenty of Admin work to contend with.
So perhaps the best advice on this whirlwind year ahead might come from Spencer Johnson in his book “The Precious Present”

“My past as the present
and my future will be the present.
The present moment is the only reality I ever experience.

As long as I continue to stay in the present.
I am happy for ever:
because forever is always the present.

The present is simply who I am
just the way I am ……
right now.

And it is precious

I am precious

I am the precious present !”

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Journey Begins

After an enjoyable weekend in Windermere when I took on the reins of District 1190 the initial thoughts that come to mind are just  how much I am going to have to write and comment about.

Reports for Executive and Council, monthly newsletters, welcome letters, thank you messages, Charter dinner speeches, district events, off the cuff, presentations and press items.

All of this will quickly help hone my thoughts on the task we have in front of us.  I will be using these random thoughts to help with this process and hope that those that read them enjoy the journey with me.

Engage Rotary Change Lives and all the various permutations of these words are a good starting point, but by Christmas we need to have engaged and moved on to taking action.

What then are the steps to be taken to move from engagement to action?

How about encourage, inspire, inform, motivate - the roles that I, our district team and club leaders have in the process of gearing up for action.

My first week has been used to work on encouragement and inspiration.  My own club were the guinea pigs followed closely by Carlisle Castle, Wendy's club, and if their reaction was anything to go by then I have an exciting few months ahead as we develop a dialogue for change within the District.

There won't be many more stunning drives than that we had when travelling to the first of my many Charter dinners.  The northern Lake District mountains in all their glory contrasted with the Irish Sea when we arrived at St Bees.  The 90th Charter anniversary of Whitehaven Rotary Club had to be hurriedly rearranged but was a great night of fellowship.

As for the speech critical feedback was good, but as ever I know I could have done better. Every one if these speeches needs to be personalised to the club and that is a challenge to be met.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Reflections on 42 Years - The parallels kept on appearing

Reflections on 42 years - The parallels kept on appearing
Having just retired after 42 years working for local government in the Cumbria area I have been reflecting on my career.   In doing so I identified some unexpected parallels between what I am about to embark on and what I have just left behind.

Starting in 1970 on £618 per year I worked for the Engineers Department of Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council.  A local Council very much immersed in its local community which even then was still servicing the world with the ships built by 14,000 in the yard.

Overground or underground, roads or sewers, at the time no contest but what if …..

A590 at Greenodd
Moving to the County Council in the late 70’s community involvement even more to the fore.    Balancing the needs of local businesses and farmers against the pressures of tourists in the Lake District, saving lives by investigating road traffic accidents and improving roads, building by-passes for disturbed communities.

The parallels kept on appearing …..

In the late 80’s a change of career with 10 years spent supporting young people at the start of their careers, helping managers and their teams in times of radical change and supporting communities as they asked for change.  And also becoming a competent manager myself with experience in both the public and private sectors.

Bridging the River Eden in Carlisle
The parallels kept on appearing …..

The final part of my career, back in Highways, but with a more Project Management remit.   Large scale contracts to develop and manage, pubic inquiries to support, politicians to work with but all with a people focus, whether my staff or the local communities they serve.

The parallels kept on appearing …..

Bringing "Water from Eden" in Dinfara, Mali
So now as I take on the role of District Governor for District 1190 here in Cumbria & Lancashire and we  “Engage Rotary to Change Lives”.  We will be connecting with our local and international communities, providing leadership when requested, exchanging ideas and of course taking action.

I wish everyone reading this a great Rotary year ahead as we continue to put “Service above Self”