The Rotary Action Summit had a real international flavour, with more than 450 delegates from 15 countries flocking to Manchester for the three-day event in September.
Jointly organised by Rotary International directors, Lena Mjerskaug and Eve Conway, whose Rotary zones encompass much of northern Europe – notably Great Britain & Ireland, and Scandinavia – it featured a line-up of bighitting RI speakers including PresidentElect, Stephanie Urchick, her Presidential aide next year, Tom Gump, and Rotary Foundation trustee, Larry Lunsford.
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Urchick focused on Rotary’s fourpoint Action Plan which has been in operation for five years and which she plans to drive forward during her Presidential term of office from July 2024:
- Increase our impact
- Expand our reach
- Enhance participation engagement
- Increase our ability to adapt
She described the Action Plan as a call to action to Rotarians to build a stronger future. It was not about wiping out traditions, but adopting effective tactics to strengthen the organisation at all levels so that its values would last for years to come.
Seeking to dispense the public’s Rotary Romeo perception – Rich Old Men Eating Out – the goal, said Urchick, was to add 100,000 new members globally by the end of her term of office in 2025 – a seven per cent increase.
This was wrapped around a vision statement of: “Together, we see a world where people unite and take action, to create lasting change around the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.”
“Think about it, Rotary was started in 1905 and there aren’t many things which last over 100 years,” Urchick told delegates. “But we knew we had to do this evolution because for 110 years we have pretty much stayed the same with the meeting model and the way we did things.
“We recognise that the world is changing, so we have to adapt and change with it.”
In terms of “expanding our reach”, Urchick explained this goal was focused on making Rotary more accessible for more people to “realise the magic of Rotary”. Rotary’s Council on Legislation in 2016 had made flexible Rotary possible, allowing for the advent of e-clubs, satellite clubs, passport clubs, cause-based clubs and a whole variety of new initiatives.
“I’m not saying traditional clubs will go away. I belong to a traditional club in Pennsylvania, I love it and will never leave it. The traditional Rotary clubs are what made us the organisation we are today. But we also recognise there needs to be other models to enhance participant engagement.”
The RI President-Elect suggested that Rotary clubs should take each of the four points of the Action Plan and reflect how it could apply applies to them. “There is no point the Action Plan is left sitting on the shelf, it needs to get out to the clubs where Rotarians can discuss how it matters to them.”
As the torchbearers of service in the 21st century, Rotarians will continue to shape history and provide hope through their humanitarian efforts.”
Norway-based RI Director Mjerskaug told delegates the point of the Action Summit was to inspire Rotarians to take action. Besides the RI speakers, the event featured speakers exploring the environment, mental health, among a plethora of issues. “We hope these discussions will be breeding grounds for new ideas, projects and partnerships that will help elevate Rotary,” she said.
Earlier, on the Friday, as part of a day themed “The Power of Rotary”, one of the most engaging presentations of the weekend was delivered by Missouri-based Lunsford.
In a wide-ranging speech which looked at the role and relevance of 21st century Rotary, he quoted a piece by David Forward from the 2005 book “A Century of Service – the Story of Rotary International”: “A spirit of service is alive and well in the 21st century. Just look at Rotary International, a non-profit organisation of 1.2 million members in nearly 200 countries and geographical regions dedicated to improving the human condition.
“In an increasingly complex and impersonal world, Rotarians remain committed to helping their communities and the world beyond. Perhaps, more than any other organisation, Rotary is a testament to the power of the quiet heroes who work at the grassroots level to make a monumental difference, one project at a time.
“As the torchbearers of service in the 21st century, Rotarians will continue to shape history and provide hope through their humanitarian efforts.”
Lunsford honed in on the notion of “one project at a time” and the work of The Rotary Foundation, citing examples of Global Grant projects in Ukraine and South Africa. He pointed out how Rotary needs to be continually working on a range of projects since Rotary was a business which will never run out of customers who are in need.
The Power of Rotary sessions featured themed seminars combining public image, Foundation and membership, with delegates working on a range of table topics. That had been preceded by two days of District Governors Elect and District Governors Nominee training, all staged at the Midland Hotel in the heart of Manchester.