Free ebooks 4 and 5 – Rotary foundations and grants

Did you know that apart from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, there are close to 4,000 local Rotary foundations in the United States alone? Two new free ebooks on Rotary foundations and grants are now available in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series.  The first book provides an introduction to Rotary foundations and grants for applicants as well as Rotarians. The second book provides a directory of Rotary foundations in the United States by state and by city within each state. To download your free copy, please go here.

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Increasing the Impact of Rotary (Partnerships Series No. 9)

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.

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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.

Promoting Peace with Peace Centers and Fellows (Partnerships Series No. 5)

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.

Chulalongkorn University in Thailand
Chulalongkorn University in Thailand

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.

Tracer Studies

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.