Promoting peace is one of six areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. In January 2016 Rotary International held a “World Peace Conference” in Ontario, California. This post summarizes the main results of an evaluation of the conference from the point of view of participants (a paper with more detailed results is available here). The conference appears to have been successful, in terms of both the satisfaction of participants and the promotion of work on peace and conflict prevention/resolution in Rotary.
The World Peace Conference was one of five flagship conferences organized by Rotary in 2015-16. The other conferences are on disease prevention and treatment in Cannes, economic development in Cape Town, literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) in schools in Kolkata, and WASH in schools near Manila.
The evaluation is based on a survey administered shortly after the conference. A single email was sent to participants to invite them to provide feedback on the conference. The web link was kept open for a week. Some 211 participants provide feedback. Nine in ten participants at the conference were members of the Rotary family, and most were Rotarians as opposed to Rotaractors and Interactors. The quality of the conference tracks and plenary sessions was deemed high. The conference was considered better than previous Rotary conference attended by participants.
Most respondents rated the various aspects of the conference highly. Slightly lower marks were however reported for the quality of the food, the cost of the conference (often an issue for district conferences as well), publicity prior to the conference, and entertainment.
Open ended questions were asked about what participants liked best and least. The quality of speakers came up as the best feature of the conference, with especially high marks for Fr. Boyle, Dr. Wollschlaeger, and Claes Nobel. The possibility for participants to choose among many different tracks and sessions was also mentioned.
As to areas for improvement, a few plenary speakers were rated poorly, as is often the case with multiple plenaries. The House of Friendship did not get high marks. Some thought that the conference was too packed. A few respondents suggested that the Peace concert was too long, and that the quality of the food could have been higher. Technical difficulties, such as a late start for some sessions, were also mentioned.
Questions were also asked about the types of speakers and sessions that participants would like to see more of, or less of in future conferences. Participants would like to see more sessions on the specific topic of the conference, whether this relates to information and debates on peace/conflict in general, information and debates on Rotary’s role in peace/conflict, or sessions on successful Rotary projects. In terms of the types of speakers to invite, there is a desire in such conferences to have more academic/research speakers, motivational speakers, and government/public sector speakers especially at the international level.
Finally, questions were asked about whether participants are engaged in peace related work currently and whether attending the conference is likely to lead them to be more engaged in such work in the future. About half of participants stated being engaged in Rotary or other volunteer work related to peace, and for one in five peace or conflict prevention/resolution are topics on which they are engaged at work and in a volunteer capacity. For a third of participants, peace/conflict work is not something they are currently working on.
Almost one in two participants stated that due in part to the conference they would be likely to be working much more on those topics in the future, and for a third, they would be likely to work a little more on those issues. Many participants are also considering in part thanks to the conference implementing Rotary peace projects or incorporating peace in their Rotary work in the future. A third stated they would definitely do so. Finally about two thirds of participants did not donate to Rotary in the past for peace related work, but half would now consider doing so, some definitely.
Responses suggest however that some of the projects participants would like to work on may not be specifically focused on peace or conflict as traditionally defined (the approach at the conference in terms of what constitutes peace/conflict related work was also fairly broad). It may also be the case that after a conference enthusiasm is high to be active in the area, while the ability to actually do so in the future may be more limited.
Still, overall the conference seems to have had a positive impact on the desire of participants to be more engaged in peace and conflict related work in the future.
To access the paper with the more detailed results of the evaluation, please click here.