On July 1, at the start of each new Rotary year, new club Presidents elected by the membership of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs worldwide take on the responsibility to lead their club for a year. New elected leaders are also in place, again for a year, at the level of Rotary Districts and even Rotary International.
Rotary has long called on clubs and districts to adopt strategic plans. This is good practice for any organization, but especially so for an organization with new leaders every year. It is not clear exactly how many clubs adopt such plans, given that many clubs are small and may not feel the need to put a strategy plan down on paper. Yet strategic plans can be helpful, especially when clubs or districts try new innovative approaches to strengthening their membership and achieving a larger impact on their community.
Starting this year, my club – the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, has adopted a number of important and hopefully innovative changes in the way it will function. The changes range from how many times the club will meet each month to the type of service work it will engage in, and how it will aim to strengthen its membership.
As this may be useful for other clubs, I thought I should share on this blog a strategic note that describes these changes and what the club hopes to achieve in the coming year. Maybe the note can help other clubs think about their own options.
Please do not hesitate to share feedback on the strategic note of my club available here. You can do so by commenting/leaving a reply to this blog post. Over the year I will report occasionally through the blog on the progress (or lack thereof!) made towards our objectives for the 2016-17 Rotary year.
Rotarians could have a larger postive impact on their community if they used their professional skills to the benefit of local nonprofits. I have mentioned the idea of the Pro Bono Rotarian on this blog in recent months. My club is launching a new pro bono pilot initiative on July 12 at the Hill Center in Washington, DC.
For readers of this blog living in the greater Washington, DC, area, I hope that you will be able to join us for the launch event. Our keynote speaker will be Eric Goldstein, the Founder and CEO of One World Education. Please spread the word about this event!
For those not living in the Washington, DC area who may be interested in the initiative, please don’t hesitate to post a comment on this blog or contact me if you would like to learn more about this initiative and how you could launch similar initiatives in your club.
The info on our launch event is provided here as well as below.
Launch of the Capitol Hill Pro Bono Initiative
Tuesday July 12, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Hill Center
Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003
What? Help local nonprofits to achieve higher impact. As a lawyer, marketer, social media expert, evaluation specialist, or other professional, volunteer your skills to help nonprofits improve/expand their services.
Why? Because you can often make a larger impact in the community when you volunteer your skills to help nonprofits excel and grow.
How? Join an initiative from the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in 2016-17 to provide pro bono advice to local nonprofits in Capitol Hill and beyond.
Who? This initiative is for Rotarians and others to engage in service work. Non-Rotarians are welcome to join teams advising participating nonprofits.
Keynote Speaker: Eric Goldstein, Founder of One World Education
One World Education is an innovative DC-based nonprofit running the largest writing program in DC public schools, reaching close to 6,000 students in 2015-16. A team from the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill and American University recently conducted an independent evaluation of One World Education, suggesting positive impacts and strong appreciation by teachers and students. Eric Goldstein will explain how the program works, why writing skills are essential for students to succeed in college and careers, and how nonprofits can benefit from professional pro bono advice.
Eric Goldstein is the founder of One World Education. Previously he was an educator in public, charter, and independent schools. He earned a US Department of the Interior Partners in Education Award while teaching in DC. Eric holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont and a Master’s of International Policy from George Washington University. His career in education started after a solo 5,000-mile bicycle trip across the US in 1999.
Rotary is about fellowship and service work. How do we increase the impact of our service work in order to achieve higher impact in our communities while also fostering fellowship among Rotarians and others committed to making a difference in the life of the less fortunate? One potential response is the concept of the pro bono Rotarian or Rotaractor.
In my (limited) experience, many clubs engage in service projects that do not really build on the professional expertise of their members. Beautifying a school before the start of the school year, serving food for the homeless, helping in the renovation of a house for a vulnerable family, distributing dictionaries to third graders, or even joining a polio vaccination drive for a short period of time are all worthwhile activities. Such activities should continue and they often enable many members in a club to be involved in the service projects of the club.
But these one-shot activities typically do not build on the expertise that Rotarians have developed over many years in their professional career. In addition to traditional (local) service projects, Rotarians should probably also engage in more extensive pro bono work, for example to provide advice to nonprofits as consultants would. While the term pro bono is often associated with free legal advise, pro bono work can be done in many other areas, building on a wide range of expertise that volunteers may have. The value of the volunteer time that Rotarians would allocate to pro bono consulting could be very high for local nonprofits, with potentially larger beneficial impacts for communities than is the case with traditional projects. Again, the idea is not to pitch one form of service work against another, but to expand on what clubs currently do in their service work.
Importantly, I believe that a pro bono consulting model may also be beneficial for fellowship among Rotarians. While for some issues faced by nonprofits pro bono consulting can be done effectively in a short period of time, for more complex issues analyzing the challenges faced by a nonprofit and suggesting a solution takes a few months. For these challenges, pro bono consulting is typically done by a small team of 3-5 volunteers who commit to dedicating a bit of their time for several months in order to provide in-depth professional and free advice to local nonprofits. As Rotarians work together on such pro bono projects, stronger fellowship and friendships will emerge, and the vitality of clubs will improve as well. The pro bono Rotarian concept can really be a win-win for local nonprofits, Rotary clubs, and the communities we serve.
This coming Rotary year, I will help my club explore in a systematic way pro bono consulting opportunities with local nonprofits in our area (Washington, DC). You will hear more about this in coming weeks and months through this blog. We will start small, and we will assess the value of our pro bono work along the way. But we hope that the idea will grow and strengthen our club, as well as other clubs that may adopt this model.
If you would like to move in this direction in your club as well or if you would like to discuss similar ideas you may have, don’t hesitate to comment on this blog or to send me if you prefer a private email through the Contact Me page. I will be happy to help if I can, and I look forward to learning from you if you have already adopted a pro bono consulting model in your own Rotary or Rotaract club.
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.
Christmas brings a message of peace against the violence of our time and all times. As a small piece of history, in order not to forget the violence of war, let me share a letter sent by my grandfather a century ago from the trenches of World War I. It is available here. The original hand-written letter in French is available here.
Conflict and violence have dramatic negative consequences for development and the ability of populations to emerge from poverty. At least 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and/or criminal violence. One fifth of the extreme poor worldwide live today in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS), but this proportion could double by 2030 if current trends continue.
Low-income FCS countries have not been able to achieve the targets set forth in the Millennium Development Goals in part because of conflict and violence. In recognition of the impact of conflict and violence on development, the Sustainable Development Goals recently approved by the international community include a goal on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.
Rotary’s Peace Conference
How do conflict and violence affect development, and what can be done to reduce the risks of conflict and violence and instead promote peace? These are some of the questions that will be discussed at the Rotary Presidential Conference on Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution or World Peace Conference to be held on January 15-16, 2016 in Ontario, California. The conference is one of five flagship conferences organized by Rotary International in 2015-16. The other conferences will be 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 in Manila.
The World Peace Conference will include more than 80 panel and facilitated sessions as well as plenary sessions. It is expected to attract a couple of thousand participants. You are encouraged to attend, as it promises to be a great experience!
Apart from Rotary International President K. R. Ravindran and Rotary Foundation Chair Ray Klinginsmith, keynote speakers will include Sal Khan (founder and CEO of Khan Academy), Sharon Stone (Actress), Father Greg Boyle (Executive Director of Homeboy Industries), Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Director of the Peace Corps), Dr. Bernd Wollschläger (author of A German Life: Against All Odds Change is Possible), Barbara Winton (the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton who organized the rescue of Jewish children from Czechoslovakia in 1939), Steve Killelea (Founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace), and Mary Peters (United States Ambassador).
Open Access Resources
Rotary is of course not the only organization emphasizing peace in its service and development work. Issues related to peace, fragility, conflict, and violence have been at the core of a substantial part of the work of development organizations for many years. This means that the World Bank as well as other organizations have substantial knowledge to share with researchers, practitioners, and policy makers in these areas.
As a contribution to Rotary’s World Peace Conference, this blog is providing a guide to selected open access publications from the World Bank that could help conference participants think about conflict, violence, and development. The publications listed are made available through the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository. The focus on resources provided by the World Bank is driven by practicality as including other organizations would yield a rather unwieldy list of available resources. At the same time, focusing on the World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization. In order to keep the guide manageable, the focus is on open access books as opposed to other publications such as working papers, articles, and briefs.
Selected Recent Books and Reports
You can access 45 selected World Bank books and reports published since 2010 on conflict, violence, and adversity either by downloading the guide prepared for conference participants, or by going to the Promoting peace page of this blog. The selection of the books and reports was based on the topics to be considered at Rotary’s Peace Conference. The scope of the conference is broad, with 13 parallel tracks apart from plenary sessions. The 13 tracks of the conference have been “aggregated” into 9 topics for listing World Bank publications: (1) Conflict, Development, and Trade; (2) Fighting Crime, Violence, and Terrorism; (3) Proving Services in Contexts of Adversity; (4) Middle East Region; (5) Equity and Discrimination; (6) Social Norms and Violence Against Women; (7) Jobs and Employment; (8) Education and Health, Including Role of Faith-based Providers; and finally (9) Governance and Institutions.
The hope is that the publications selected, and more generally the World Bank’s open access knowledge resources, will be useful to conference participants and others dealing directly or indirectly with issues of conflict, violence, and adversity when implementing projects in developing and developed countries alike. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if these resources are useful, or not so much so!
This post is the first in a series on open access resources from the World Bank that could be useful to Rotarians as well as others involved in service work and development projects around the world. Probably more than any other development organization, the World Bank is making available a wealth of resources on topics related to development, including a large number of books and reports. The focus of most World Bank open access knowledge resources is on developing countries, but data and publications are also available for developed countries, and often lessons learned from the developing world have implications for service projects and social policy in developed countries as well.
In coming weeks, this blog will feature selections of recently published World Bank books and reports by topic, considering in priority the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation (TRF), namely promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies apart from eradicating polio. The hope is that the featured publications will be beneficial not only to researchers, but also to practitioners and policy makers.
Why a Focus on Open Access Resources?
The inspiration for this series of posts on open access resources came in part from the fact that Rotary is organizing between January and March 2016 five conferences on the core areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. The first will be the Rotary Presidential Conference on Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution or “World Peace Conference” to be held in January 2016 in Ontario, California. 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 in Manila. The dates of the five conferences are listed in the table below together with their websites.
The conferences are sponsored jointly by Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran and TRF Trustee Chair Ray Klinginsmith. Each conference will be led by local Rotary districts and are open to all, whether Rotarians or not. The conferences will feature plenary sessions with world class speakers as well as parallel sessions on topics of interest and hands-on workshops.
The hope for this series of posts on open access resources is that selecting relevant publications on the topics to be discussed at the above five conferences could be useful not only to conference participants, but also to many others working or implementing service projects in those fields.
Why Focusing on World Bank Resources?
Only resources available from the World Bank will be included in this series even though many other organizations provide highly valuable open access resources. Restricting the focus on resources provided by the World Bank is driven by practicality. Including other organizations would yield a rather unwieldy list of relevant publications due to the scope of what would need to be included. At the same time, focusing on the World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization, since the World Bank is engaged with the developing world as a whole. By contrast, many other organizations, including regional development banks, tend to have more of a regional focus.
In order to keep the list of publications and other resources highlighted through this series manageable, the focus in most cases will be on open access books and reports as opposed to other publications such as working papers, articles, and briefs. Even when restricting resources to books, a large number of World Bank publications directly relevant to the topics of the five Rotary conferences can be listed. In the case of the first conference on promoting peace for example, several dozen recent books and reports published since 2010 that relate closely to the topics of the conference can be listed.
Topics for Consideration
To keep things simple, the series of posts will consider in priority the six areas of focus of TRF, which also correspond to the topics selected for the five Rotary Presidential conferences (to a large extent, the conference on disease prevention and treatment also implicitly covers the area of focus of TRF devoted to saving mothers and children).
But the series will also feature a few cross-sectoral topics that are highly relevant to multiple areas of focus of TRF. One example is that of early childhood development, for which interventions are needed from virtually all six areas of focus of TRF. The series could also cover some topics in more depth than others, for example allocating more than one post to a single area of focus of TRF if this appears to be warranted.
So please, do not hesitate to share your views as to what should be covered by providing a comment on this post, so that your views can inform the final selection of topics and open access resources to be provided.
This post is the last in a series of nine posts on partnerships, innovation, and evaluation in Rotary. The rationale for the series was my conviction that if Rotary is to have a larger impact globally, it must rely more than has been the case so far on partnerships, innovation, and evaluation (and in some areas advocacy, as has been the case with polio). Seven different projects or investments that have relied on partnerships, were innovative, and were evaluated at least in some way, were showcased. A compilation of the case studies together with a brief introduction is available here. Separate briefs are also available for each of the projects here.
As I mentioned it in the introduction to the series, partnerships help to implement larger projects and benefit from the expertise of organizations that are among the best in their field. Rotary’s Foundation was created almost 100 years ago (the Centennial is next year) and it has about $1 billion in assets. This is respectable, but in the world of development projects, which is in practice where Rotary is investing most of its funds, this remains small. Without innovation, the contribution of Rotary is an important drop, but still a drop in the development assistance bucket.
By contrast, if Rotary clubs and district innovate, successful pilots can then be scaled up by other organizations with deeper pockets, thereby potentially achieving much larger impact. However, for innovative projects to be recognized as such, proper evaluations are needed. We must be able to demonstrate the impact of pilot projects. Innovation and evaluation are like twins: they work best in pairs. Together, partnerships, innovation, and evaluation are the key to larger impact.
To encourage clubs and districts to think bigger and more strategically, stories of great projects were shared: an innovative financing mechanism for polio eradication; an award winning project fighting malaria and Ebola in Mali; a teacher training program that is transforming teaching and learning in Nepali classrooms; a project on obstetric fistula saving the lives of mothers and children in Nigeria; a program to invest in the writing skills of disadvantaged youth in the United States; a project to improve access to water and sanitation in Uganda; and a global network of Peace Centers and Peace Fellows to help promote peace.
Some of these programs and projects are large. Others are small. Most were implemented through global grants, but one was implemented through a district grant. All these projects have been in one way or another innovative. They have all leveraged partnerships not only to crowd in financial resources, but also – and even more importantly – to build on great expertise. And they have all relied on monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess their impact, at least partially.
Putting together great projects requires work. Fundraising is often time consuming in Rotary given the funding model of the Rotary Foundation that requires raising funds from many clubs and districts first before getting a match from the Foundation. Planning, implementing, and in addition evaluating projects also takes time, especially when one tries to do this in a professional way. Finally, in order to be innovative, Rotarians leading projects need to be aware of where the frontier is in their field, and what could be innovative. This also takes some time.
There is nothing wrong with clubs and districts funding and implementing traditional Rotary projects. Most projects will continue to be fairly simple, with funds provided to worthy charitable causes. These projects, as well as the volunteer time often contributed by Rotarians when implementing them, serve an important purpose. The beneficiaries of these projects are better off thanks to them. These projects help communities, and they also benefit Rotary through the goodwill that the projects create.
But if we want to raise the bar and achieve larger impact, we also need to do more innovative projects. Rotary needs to be bolder, more ambitious. It needs to better learn from its projects, both the great and not so great ones, and make sure that lessons learned are shared broadly, well beyond the Rotary family. The launch of the Future Vision model, despite some challenges, was a step in the right direction. As we celebrate the Centennial of the Rotary Foundation next year, let’s make sure that we have the right vision for what Rotary and its Foundation could accomplish in the next 100 years.
In terms of global grants, promoting peace is one of the smallest portfolios among the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. But this does not mean that examples of partnerships, innovation, and evaluation cannot be found in the peace portfolio of the Foundation. The largest program for promoting peace that Rotary invests in is actually managed outside of the global grant model. Rotary provides funding for six Peace Centers established in universities around the world as well as Peace Fellow scholarships for individuals to obtain Master’s degree or Certificate program at the Peace Centers.
The Peace Fellows program is good an example of partnership (with universities), with components that are innovative (especially the Certificate program for professionals working in the area of peace), and for which at least some monitoring and evaluation data have been collected by Rotary through tracer studies of graduates of the program as well as assessments of the perceived quality of events organized for Rotary’s Peace Community of Practice.
Peace Centers and Peace Fellows
Up to 100 Peace Fellows are provided with a Rotary scholarship each year among a pool of applicants recommended by Rotary clubs and districts. Rotary provides funding for the scholarships given to the Peace Fellows as well as part of the operating costs of six Peace Centers at which the Peace Fellows undertake their training.
Five of the six Peace Centers and associated universities offer Master’s degrees, with up to 50 Peace Fellows selected each year. These Peace Centers are affiliated with Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the United States (joint Center), International Christian University in Japan, the University of Bradford in England, the University of Queensland in Australia, and Uppsala University in Sweden. The fellowships are for Master’s programs that take 15 to 24 months to complete and include a practical internship of two to three months during the summer break. The sixth Peace Center is affiliated with Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. It offers a three months Certificate program for up to 50 Fellows per year.
A Different Model for Scholarships
Rotary has a long tradition of providing scholarships for graduate students, but the Certificate program at Chulalongkorn University is different. It is cheaper per person than the master’s degree program, and probably better targeted to individuals committed to work on peace and conflict resolution since it serves practicing professionals. The certificate takes eleven weeks to complete including two to three weeks of field study. The program aims to provide Fellows with a comprehensive overview of peace and conflict studies with four modules of study: (1) Concepts and Values of Peace and Conflict Studies (introduction to the field); (2) Diagnosis and Analysis of Conflict (assessment of conflict and peace interventions); (3) Conflict Resolution Skills, Approaches, and Strategies (including negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and communication); and (4) Conflict Transformation and Building a Sustainable Peace (ways to move from conflict to peace with proper stakeholder participation in society). Two practical field studies experiences are included in the program, one after the third module in Thailand, and an international field study at the end of the fourth module. The program relies in part on guest lecturers with governmental, NGO, corporate, and security backgrounds.
In-depth evaluation of the Peace Fellows program have not yet been conducted, but results from tracer studies among graduates suggest a high level of satisfaction with the program among graduates. In addition, the tracer studies suggest that most graduates appear to be indeed working on peace and conflict resolution broadly defined.
Since the first class of peace fellows graduated in 2004, a total of 930 living alumni have graduated from the program, 603 with a Master’s degree and 333 with a Certificate (six have completed both). Virtually all Fellows (94 percent) have reported their post-graduation area of employment to Rotary through tracer studies at least once, and nearly two thirds (62 percent) have done so over the last 24 months.
Interesting findings emerge from the tracer studies. At least two thirds of graduates work as practitioners in peace, conflict resolution and development. This includes working for NGOs or other peace-related organizations (36 percent), a government agency or the military (15 percent), a United Nations agency (six percent), police or law enforcement agencies (three percent), and the World Bank (one percent). One fourth of the Fellows engage in research, teaching, or further study (eight percent each as teachers/professors, students, and researchers/academic support staff). The rest are working as lawyers (three percent), journalists (two percent), and as other professionals (seven percent). Four percent are looking for work.
Program alumni work and live all around the world, including in North America (30 percent), Asia (22 percent), Europe (15 percent), Africa (11 percent), Australia and Oceania (nine percent), South America (seven percent), the Middle East (four percent) and Central America and the Caribbean (two percent). This provides a potentially impactful worldwide network or community of practice of individuals committed to peace and conflict resolution. The question, then, is how to mobilize this network, including in collaboration with Rotary and Rotarians.
Building a Community of Practice
Rotary is investing in building a community of practice among Peace Fellows and Rotarians interested in promoting peace. One tool is the Rotarian Action Group (RAG) for Peace. Another is the Rotary Peace Symposia organized every three years. The last and fourth triennial Symposium was held just before the Rotary International convention in São Paulo in June 2015. This was an occasion for Rotarians and Peace Fellows to discuss collaborations and potential service projects together. Oscar Arias at the 2015 Peace Symposium in São Paulo. Photo: Rotary International.
The event was held for two days. It was attended by 354 participants, including 72 Peace Fellows, Rotarians (some of whom are members of the RAG for Peace), representatives of the six Peace Centers, and leaders of NGOs working on peace and conflict resolution. Oscar Arias, the former President of Costa Rica and a Nobel Peace Laureate, was a keynote speaker. Nine in ten attendees surveyed after the Symposium were satisfied or very satisfied with the event, suggesting potential for the community of practice.
This post is the first in a series on increasing the impact of Rotary. The series will feature case studies of great service projects that have achieved larger impact through partnerships, innovation, and evaluation. The hope is that the case studies will encourage clubs and districts to think bigger in their service work. The series will cover each of the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation, as well as polio.
Service work through volunteering or projects is at the heart of what Rotary is all about. Membership surveys suggest that the main reason why members join and remain in Rotary is the opportunity to serve (see my recent book on Rotary). Fellowship and networking are also very important, but service is first.
Rotary is a fairly decentralized organization with at its core the Rotary club. Rotarians come in many shapes and forms, beliefs and passions. There is amazing diversity in the types of service work that Rotarians engage in. This is a strength as members choose to contribute to the causes they are most passionate about.
Most of the service work that Rotarians engage in is done through volunteering, not through service projects that benefit from financial support from the Rotary Foundation (TRF). In adition, many projects implemented with TRF support are small and based on local opportunities identified by clubs. These projects may not rely on partnerships, they may not be especially innovative, and they may not be evaluated in depth. As long as it is clear to clubs and local communities that the projects are helpful, a lack of partnership, innovation or evaluation is not necessarily a major drawback. One straitjacket does not fit all in Rotary.
At the same time however, if Rotary is to have a larger impact globally, there is also a need to put together more and larger projects that do rely on partnerships, are innovative, and are monitored and evaluated properly.
Partnerships help to implement larger projects and benefit from the expertise of organizations that are among the best in their field. Partnerships may also generate visibility and media coverage for Rotary (polio is the best example). Partnerships have a cost since effort is required for collaborations to work. But if partnerships deliver scale, expertise, or visibility, gains outweigh the costs.
Innovation is even more important than partnerships to achieve larger impact and discover better ways to serve communities. Without innovation, the contribution of TRF is a drop in the development assistance bucket. TRF does have a respectable size, but in comparison to development funding, it is very small.
Total annual giving by the foundation represents less than half a percent of what the World Bank provides in development assistance every year, and this is just one of a number of development agencies. But if Rotary experiments and innovates, pilots that prove successful can be scaled up by other organizations with deeper pockets, thereby achieving larger impact.
Without serious monitoring and evaluation, innovation does not help much because impact on the ground must first be demonstrated at the pilot stage for a promising intervention to be scaled up. Innovation and evaluation are like twins: they work best as a pair. Evaluation is also needed for Rotary to learn internally from both successes and mistakes.
All three ingredients ̶ partnerships, innovation, and evaluation, can help increase the impact of Rotary’s service work. In order to encourage clubs and districts to move in that direction, this series will show how partnerships, innovation, and evaluation can be harnessed to serve Rotary’s mission of service above self.
The series will tell the story of projects in each of the areas of focus of TRF: promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and eradicating polio.
You will learn about an innovative financing mechanism for polio eradication; an award winning project reducing under five mortality in Mali; a program that is transforming teaching and learning in Nepali classrooms; a project to save the life of mothers and children in Nigeria; a program to invest in the writing skills of disadvantaged youth in the United States; projects and initiatives to improve access to water and sanitation in Uganda; and the work done by Rotary with Peace Centers.
All these projects are in one way or another innovative. They all leverage partnerships. And virtually all build on solid monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Hopefully, the series will give you additional insights into some of the great projects that clubs and districts are implementing around the world.
Please do not hesitate to send me an email through the Contact Me page of this blog if you believe other projects should be featured (perhaps in another series), and feel free to post comments on the projects that you find particularly inspiring.