Members across Great Britain and Ireland have been challenged that it’s time to change.
In a wide-ranging speech delivered in Stratford-upon-Avon at the Rotary Institute, Rotary International President, Barry Rassin, described the organisation as being at a crossroads.
“It’s a time when we need to step back and re-think, as Rotary clubs, what are we doing today to be relevant in today’s world?” he asked the audience.
Barry was speaking at the Rotary Institute ‘Be The Inspiration’ weekend when he revealed how 300,000 members had left the global movement over the past two years.
Meanwhile, in the last year, just four percent of Rotaractors had gone on to join a Rotary club.
“We are a 1.2 million member organisation,” he pointed out.
“When 300,000 members left over the last two years and our young people who know Rotary didn’t want to join us, the question is: are we doing something wrong?
“Can we change?”
The RI President said it was time for members and clubs to be brave and to look at how they were doing Rotary.
He lamented the lack of women in Rotary, and even took a swipe at Rotary GBI, pointing out how few females were involved in the these isles compared to what was happening around the world.
He said: “We need to look around and ask ourselves, do young professionals want to be in my Rotary club?
“Do we have the right gender balance as yet?
“I understand in Rotary GBI you are 19% female. Internationally we are at over 22%, but we have countries such as Taiwan, which is 38% female and Uganda which is 49%.
“We have countries which are moving much faster than Rotary GBI. I am asking you to think.
“There are female leaders out there, we need to go and bring them in.
“There are young professionals out there who want to do service.
“We have to keep in mind that these young professionals want to do service, they want to do it less expensively than many Rotary clubs, they want their families involved and they want to have fun.”
And he urged Rotary clubs to forge closer links with Rotaract clubs, which are aimed at those between 18 and 30-years-old, and which first became part of a Rotary International youth programme 50 years ago.
It was important to bridge that gap between Rotaract and Rotary, giving young people an opportunity to give back and make the world a better place, Barry told the gathering of members in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Picking up the theme of his Presidential year, ‘Be The Inspiration’, Barry Rassin drew on a quote from the French writer and poet, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
He told the audience: “That is what we need to do. We need to inspire our Rotarians so we can awaken in the soul of every Rotarian.
“A longing for a better world, a longing for a world where our children have food to eat, a longing for where our women are educated so they can educate their families, a longing that every citizen has water to drink and good sanitation. A longing for peace in our world.
“If we have an awakening in our souls, a longing for a better world, then we are going to change the world better and faster than we ever did before. We need to be the inspiration.”
Barry Rassin challenged members to go back to their clubs to think about change and how they could make their group more relevant to their community today.
“How many clubs here are ready to change?” he asked.
“I want you to step back from your club and ask yourself what do we have to do to be more relevant?
“Change is not easy. If we want our organisation to grow, we need strong clubs. We need to take that responsibility.
“We need to think about what we can do differently.
“That’s not change for the sake of change, but change that is good to make sure we are relevant today.
“That we are relevant for our world and we are relevant for our young people.”