Eve Conway likes her Paul Harris quotes. The tradition, ethos and values of Rotary International, which was founded by the American in 1905, hold dear for the London Rotarian, who will become the new RI Director for a region which includes Great Britain & Ireland from July.
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“As Paul Harris once said: ‘This is a changing world; we must be prepared to change with it’,” said Eve, who takes over from North Cotswold Rotarian, Nicki Scott, on July 1 – when Nicki’s term of office as RI Vice-President also finishes.
“I care passionately about our future, but we do need to adapt.
“Certainly, here in Great Britain & Ireland we are facing the challenge of an ageing demographic. We have got fabulous Rotarians who have, and are, doing some amazing things. But we have got to look to increase our membership because it’s really important for our legacy and the future of Rotary.”
With declining membership numbers in Europe and North America, Eve will be part of a Rotary International Board where this crucial issue remains the number one priority. Eve, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Redbridge in north-east London, also has Spain and Portugal as part of her RI Director’s brief where membership is also a key topic.
As an individual, you may have desires to change the world which you can’t do on your own, but be part of Rotary and you can change the world.”
It is a complex subject with a myriad of solutions, but Eve boils it down to what she describes as “the Rotary experience” and how Rotary needs to get this right to prosper in the future.
“Rotary has got such huge potential,” she said. “But what we need to do is engage people more with being people of action and getting involved in projects, having clubs which are really vibrant.
“Not all our clubs are like that.
“Clubs need to look at being attractive and they need to reflect their community as well. You need to be relevant in your community and people need to see faces like theirs in your club. That is not always the case now.
“We are moving forward with new style clubs, with cause-based clubs – we are just about to start a bipolar one.
“We can have passport clubs, e-clubs and in America they are very big on impact clubs.”
In January, while attending the Rotary International Assembly in Florida, Eve’s husband Robert became seriously ill and spent several weeks in hospital. The Rotary community rallied around Eve to serve as a reminder that the organisation is one big family, always there to support each other in times of need.
“The local Rotarians were fantastic and kept telling me: “We are family” and are here for you. I was home hosted by Past District Governor Ron Janssen, a member of Dr Phillips Rotary Club in Orlando where they have started an impact club,” she added.
“They bring in working people within their club just to do projects.
“They have brought in a dozen new members within the first couple of months, with more coming in. They are a club within a club, I suppose.
“If I was looking at Rotary from the outside, you would see how we have been helping to rid the world of polio and all the amazing projects which are going on.
“As an individual, you may have desires to change the world which you can’t do on your own, but be part of Rotary and you can change the world.
“Looking at what Rotary achieves, it is incredible, but we need to have vibrant clubs, which are doing things, that are people of action who are bringing people in.”
It is all a far cry for Eve who won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and will now be part of the RI Board sitting at Rotary Center overlooking the Chicago skyline.
Eve’s Rotary CV is formidable serving as President of Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland in 2016-17, leading a Purple4Polio campaign during her term of office, and being Vice-Chair of the RI End Polio Now: Countdown to History Campaign Committee.
Clubs need to look at being attractive and they need to reflect their community as well. You need to be relevant in your community and people need to see faces like theirs in your club. That is not always the case now.”
A BBC reporter and producer, one of Eve’s proudest achievements was starting the Rotary Young Citizen Awards in association with BBC News in 2007.
Eve is organising an Action Summit in Manchester from September 15-17th which will be attracting Rotarians from across Europe – and, in the absence of a national conference, she hopes many Rotarians from Great Britain & Ireland will attend. Among the speakers will be Stephanie Urchick, who will become Rotary International’s second female President in 12 months’ time, and Aidan O’Leary, the World Health Organization’s Polio Eradication Director.
“The Rotary Action Summit is all about people taking action,” added Eve.
“I think that is how I feel and many Rotarians feel that we have to continue to evolve. To take another Paul Harris quote ‘If Rotary is to realise its proper destiny, it must be evolutionary at all times, revolutionary on occasions’.
“So that’s really key to our survival.
“We cannot stand still. A lot of Rotarians are professional, business people who have had to be prepared to embrace change in their working life.
“Well in our Rotary world, we have to adapt as well because otherwise we will get left behind.”