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.
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.
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?