Free ebook 2 – Partner, Innovate, Evaluate: Increasing Rotary’s Impact

The second ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books Series has been published. Partnerships, innovation, and evaluation can increase the quality, scope, and reach of Rotary’s service work in communities. The book suggests with case studies how this can be done. All books in the series are free and available here in multiple formats.  Please share this link widely with others for them to be able to benefit from this resource. And if you like the books in the series, please consider writing a quick review at Smashwords!


Open Access Publications from the World Bank: Introduction (Resources Series No. 1)

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.

Dates Topic Location Website
15-16 January Peace and conflict prevention/resolution Ontario, California, USA Click here
19-20 February Disease prevention & treatment Cannes, France Click here
27 February Economic development Cape Town, South Africa Click here
12-13 March Literacy & WASH in Schools Kolkata, India Click here
18-19 March WASH in Schools Pasay City, Philippines Click here

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.

Rotary Foundation Basics, Part 2: Where Does the Money Go?

by Quentin Wodon

This second post in a series of three looks at how funding provided by The Rotary Foundation (TRF) is allocated. TRF disbursed $232 million in program expenses last year. More than half ($131 million) was allocated PolioPlus, with the rest allocated to Rotary grants ($92 million) and other programs ($ 8 million). This post briefly describes and discusses those investments.

TRF Polio Vaccine


TRF gave $131 million in 2013-14 for polio. While the report does not state explicitly where the funding came from, simple calculations suggest that two thirds may have come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), with the rest provided by Rotarians. This is because from 2013 to 2018, for every dollar raised by Rotary for PolioPlus, BMGF provides a 2 to 1 match up to a maximum of $70 million per year, as shown in the Figure below. In addition, TRF’s annual report mentions a previous $20 million match by BMGF for polio on the revenue side. If the $90 million in revenues provided by BMGF for polio were allocated the same year to TRF program expenses (this is not stated explicitly in the report), then Rotarians would have contributed in 2013-14 about a third of total TRF program expenses for polio. If my assumption is erroneous, please let me know!

TRF Polio

As mentioned in my first post for this blog, Polio used to be a devastating disease worldwide, affecting 30,000 children per year in the US alone in the mid-1950s. Thanks to vaccines and mass immunization, the number of polio cases has dropped to close to zero. This has been a great success built on public-private partnerships. While many governments have funded polio eradication campaigns, after the United States (with $2.2 billion in contributions and pledges) the two largest donors from 1985 to 2014 have been private foundations – BMGF ($1.9 billion) and Rotary International ($1.3 billion). Apart from financial donations, hundreds of thousands of volunteers – including many Rotarians – have participated in polio vaccination campaigns.

Today, it seems to me from informal conversations with fellow Rotarians that some wonder whether it still makes sense to spend that much money on a disease that now affects few children. Is this the best investment that TRF can make? This is a difficult question to answer, but there is evidence that at the very least, this is a good investment, simply because the cost of a spreading virus could be much higher than the cost of the polio eradication campaigns. A report prepared last year for BMGF suggests that previous investments of $9 billion since the creation in 1984 of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) may have generated $27 billion in net benefits out of $40-50 billion in potential benefits estimated by researchers in an economic analysis of GPEI. Investments in polio eradication campaigns do have higher initial costs than routine immunization, but they may also have greater long term payoffs.

At the same time, we need to be careful in what we promise. It is important to reach the last mile towards polio eradication, but this will not be easy. Vaccination remains difficult in conflict affected areas, and the risk of exportation of the virus from those areas to other countries is real. As the TRF report highlights, only three countries remain polio-endemic today (Pakistan, Afganisthan, and Nigeria). But reports documented polio outbreaks last year in Central Asia, the Middle East, and Central Africa, leading the World Health Organization to declare in May 2014 that the spread of the virus constituted an “extraordinary event”. In terms of costs and funding as well, there seem to be some challenges. In a February 2014 report, UNICEF and WHO estimated the price tag for polio eradication for the period 2013-18 at $5.5 billion. At the time, available and confirmed contributions amounted to $1.8 billion, so that there was a funding gap of $3.7 billion.

Rotary Grants and Other Programs

TRF’s annual report provides great stories of impact in other areas of interventions apart from polio, but relatively limited details on how funds are allocated by thematic area. The information provided focuses on the allocation of funds for global grants in each of six areas of focus of TRF apart from polio. A total of $47.3 million was disbursed for global grants in 2013-14. As shown in the Figure below, disease prevention and treatment received the largest allocation (265 grants for a total value of $14.2 million), followed by water and sanitation (198 grants and $11.2 million), economic and community development (148 grants and $7.8 million), basic education and literacy (121 grants and $6.5 million), maternal and child health (69 grants and $5.1 million), and finally peace and conflict prevention/resolution (67 grants and $2.7 million, excluding allocations to Rotary peace centers in a handful of universities).

TRF Global Grants

Information is also available in the TRF annual report on which regions benefit from the largest amount of funding all programs combined. Sub-Saharan Africa came first, with $104 million in funding provided, followed by South Asia ($56 million), East Asia and the Pacific ($24 million), North America ($19 million), the Middle East and North Africa as well as Europe (each $9 million), Central America and the Caribbean ($6 million), Latin America ($5 million), and finally Russia, Georgia, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (less than $1 million).

That’s it for the basics of how TRF program expenses are allocated. While a majority of funds allocated by TRF go to polio, quite a bit of this investment comes from matching funds provided by BMGF, so that a large share of the funds donated by Rotarians or earned by the foundation from its assets go to other priority areas. In the last post in this series, I will discuss the foundation’s performance.

Note: This post is part of a series of three on TRF: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.