…and that’s all folks

I am sure it will come as a great relief to many that this Blogpost will be my last ever personal entry to RotaryBlogger.co.uk due to the fact that when the clock strikes midnight tonight and we move into a brand new Rotary year – I will not be making that journey with the other 45,000 Regular Rots in these islands.

My decision to resign from Rotary is one that will probably come as no surprise to many – as I have toiled long and hard to find a reason to stay in the organisation which continues to stand on many of the humanitarian principles I hold close.

However, for a number of reasons I find myself in a situation whereby I am continually struggling to align myself with an organisation which in my own anecdotal research is not viewed particularly positively by those with whom I have had the opportunity to enter into discussion. And contrary to being proud to be a member, I have found myself becoming less inclined to admit that I am a Rotarian; particularly in and around the modern business world.

This is not how it should be.

Of late, I have had personal experience of an individual Club member taking a frankly antiquated, belligerent, misogynistic and thoroughly inappropriate response when I outlined that I thought he had perhaps been a bit sexist to a young female Club member. And despite the substantial efforts of the Club President, Club Officers and fellow Regular Rots – the individual has yet to accept that that the comment was inappropriate and offence was caused. In effect, he carried on regardless.

I am sure my own experience is not isolated.

Around the same time, we were seeing the use of the word ‘Rotarian’ as a derogatory term in the national media. It was used alongside words such as ‘racist’, ‘right wing’ and ‘sexist’. Yet instead of taking a step back and asking why Rotarians were being viewed in this light; some Regular Rots thought the best defence was that of launching a social media attack on the well-respected author of the piece; ironically exacerbating and further enhancing the viewpoint expressed in his article.

Leading on from this, another of RotaryBloggger.co.uk’s ‘bonnet bees’ also raised its head.

It once again became clear that despite what was being presented in general, the organisation still has Clubs where members where proud they didn’t have ‘lady members‘. I understand that my own incoming District Governor (D1080) comes from an all-male Club which RotaryBlogger.co.uk is led to understand actively discourages females to join. Frankly this just should not be allowed in 2017 – yet despite all the promises and rhetoric of change, equality, diversity – these Clubs (and high Office holders) are allowed to continue to operate in this way.

Is this is not the kind of organisation to which I have an association?

Rotary is not about what you take from it – but what you can give; however when the organisation to which you were once proud to be a member starts to become a ‘dark secret‘ it has to be time to think about the divorce settlement. And so here we are…

When one ceases to admit to being a Rotarian within business and non-Rotarian friendship circles it is probably time to part company

The Blog…?

RotaryBlogger.co.uk started a few years ago when I attended the RotaryGBI Business Meeting in Birmingham and was frankly appalled at the way in which the meeting was usurped by what I felt to be ‘those in the know‘. I’ll never forget the wife of a Past RIBI President turning to a number of us as we walked out the conference hall saying, “Well, that showed them didn’t it?”

“Them”, being the Regular Rots I hasten to add – with me being one of those Regular Rots. I was both angry and disappointed – and I remember questioning myself even back then whether Rotary was an organisation to which I still wanted to be a part?

My get-out was the creation of RotaryBlogger.co.uk.

The blog became my Rotary Therapy. The couch on which I would lie every week (sometimes twice) and offload all the issues that I thought were impacting on the future direction of travel.

Who was I to do this? Well, nobody really – I was just a Regular Rot who had a passion for the organisation and wanted to see it move into the new century, not remain stuck in a 40 year time-warp with Wings’ “Mull of Kintyre” playing as a background musical accompaniment. And as I started to record my weekly counselling session – it seemed that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts.

Over the weeks and months the subscribers to RotaryBlogger.co.uk continued to increase; with more and more people commenting on the posts I was releasing – and not just from around these islands, but from all over the world.

I then started to receive emails and communications from people (some in very senior positions) commending the blog and the discussions that RotaryBlogger was encouraging. To be fair, I’m not sure that would be a view shared by everyone – as there must undoubtedly have been some Sunday mornings where the General Secretary, the RIBI President and other national Office Bearers just put their heads in the hands as the said in unison, “here he goes again.”

In addition, I would receive many communications about what was going on “out there” in terms of Clubs and Districts. Most of which I didn’t run – due to how damaging they could have been to the organisation. (Based on some of the previous blogposts over the years – some readers may find my adopting that position hard to believe. But trust me, there is some really bad and ugly stuff going on in the name of Rotary with which I don’t want to be associated but nor would I report.)

The blog was entitled “The good, the bad and the ugly of Rotary International” – and regretfully over the last year or so I have struggled to get anywhere outside of the bad and ugly categories of the organisation – and this in itself has probably helped catalyse my decision to resign from Rotary. I know there is good going on out there – but just because an all-male club raises £30k every year with their Santa Sleigh – still doesn’t make it right that they actively discourage females from joining their Club or would shun a female District Governor when she visited the Club. Does it?

So what happens to RotaryBlogger.co.uk now?

Well, it certainly won’t be receiving any blogs from me as a non-member, that simply would not be appropriate. However, it is not my intention to close the domain or the platform, and it will remain should any Regular Rots out there wish to use it to present a Guest Blog to encourage discussion or promote a particular agenda. So please feel free to get in touch if you would like to use the web-space to access the many subscribers; you’d be more than welcome.

Bowing out…

I have been a reasonably long standing Regular Rot – having held positions in the Club, the District, RIBI and even a short stint in RI and attributed to all, I am extremely proud.

However, while holding down each position was an extremely positive experience – I also think that sadly having some of those posts gave me an insight into a side of the organisation which is definitely not the positive face of Rotary.

That said, Rotary has brought me a number of great and wonderful experiences. I have met some amazing people – made many lifelong friends and it has given me a chance to travel around the country to places I may not otherwise have thought to go and to see.

I would love Rotary to succeed – but it really, really needs to reinvent itself and look outwards at what is happening in the world.

The world out there is changing in so many ways and maybe membership organisations are no longer de rigueur. Regardless, if Rotary is to continue it has to find which part of the jigsaw puzzle it is in this modern world. It needs to drop some of the old guard and listen to some of the comments coming from those described by an RIBI President as “Mavericks” – not write them off as another eye-rolling opportunity or a phone call to be avoided. There are many people out there on Social media who want to see a new Rotary and would be willing to assist – but not when they would then come up against individuals such as Past RIBI Presidents – actively canvassing against a changing RIBI around the world (this has happened).

I predict that by 2030 RotaryGBI (if it still exists in the world) will have around one third of its current membership if it is lucky. By this stage it will be far more diverse and have a much more gender balanced membership base. But in order for it to get to that position – Rotary needs to throw off the ‘less fun grandad‘ image, become more inclusive and have a much more balanced governance system in place that reflects the way of the world at that time.

Thank you…

I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this blog – and I would thank all the subscribers and contributors over the years to the blog and associated social media pages; you have certainly given me lots to think about – and at times have challenged my own thinking for which I am very grateful.

Thank you to Rotary – I have enjoyed being a small part of you during out time together – and who knows, once you have had a shower, brushed your teeth, combed your hair, put clean underwear on and sprayed on a little cologne – then, who knows we may very well be reunited one day. But until then I wish you and all your members all the very best of luck.

This is “RotaryBlogger” signing off for the very last time.

Images in order of appearance by Woodleywonderworks by CC

Was that the Presidential Q&A…?

It was promoted as a live Q&A on Facebook with RotaryGBI President Eve Conway but turned out to be a half hour of Rotary Presidential promotion followed by more of a situation where the President ‘Avoided the Question and answer what she liked’.

The Facebook Live session this evening was hosted by Rotarian Kaz Aston, a Rotarian and member of the RotaryGBI Marketing and Public Relations Committee who it would appear was clearly well-rehearsed and primed to offer the national President every opportunity to talk about all the things that she wanted to.

The session (from a room that looked like and had the acoustics of a small yellow broom cupboard) experienced a few technical issues in terms of sound. With one participant claiming that his sound dropped every time the interviewer moved her arms – so he must have missed most of the broadcast – as she did a lot of moving her arms all the way through the Live session. [To be fair the tech guys sorted the sound out after about 15 minutes.]

When the sound was working, the first half hour of the Facebook Live session witnessed the audience receiving a lot about polio; about the President’s visit to India; about national immunisation days; about National Women’s Day; about Youth competitions; about Young Citizens Awards (created by the President herself); about Rotary Foundation and about Conference (have to say Eve’s way of spinning this year’s Conference was excellent – with not even a single mention or question about a certain Welsh female singer star).

So almost 30 minutes into the Question and Answer session Kaz Aston presented the first question of the evening from a participant which focussed around the use of Facebook across RotaryGBI and Rotary International. This prompted a response from the President which basically talked around the importance of using social media in Rotary and receiving full affirmation and endorsement of the interviewer – but yet still not really answering the question.

GRILLED: Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland President Eve Conway takes part in the first ever Facebook Live session on 28th February finding herself being interviewed by Rotarian and RotaryGBI Committee Member Kaz Aston

The second questioner asked the President what single major thing she would change in Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland?

The President said that change was important and then quoted Paul Harris the founder of Rotary. However, she answered that she felt Rotary needed more women and more diversity in the organisation – to a whoop, a cheer and a one-woman mexican-wave from Kaz Aston as she threw her hands in the air to celebrate the President’s response – sadly for one participant probably cutting of the signal again…

The next question was a follow-up by the same person and asked about the legacy Rotary will hand over to the next generation?

To be honest, I’m not sure the question was actually answered directly. The President did talk a lot about the new way to do Rotary, citing some new Clubs that seem to be doing things well and attracting members. But the interviewer then took the conversation away from the question and prompted the President to start answering questions about general Rotary clubs. And although not answering the question asked, Eve Conway did sum up as if she had by saying about Rotary in these islands,

We’re adjusting to the way that people live today and giving them options.”

A further question came from a participant who was watching the Live Cast asking why the dedicated President’s Facebook page is no longer being used. To which the incumbent effectively said, it was nothing to do with her – but a decision taken by the RotaryGBI Marketing and Publicity Committee. Outlining that the RotaryGBI online strategy is for all communications to go through the main Facebook page.

The President was then asked what should change about the Presidency? To which she responded that it should be outward facing – and then went on to outline a list of her achievements – and most definitely not answering the question at all. Probably the most body-swerved question of the night – with an occasional nod back to the question and reiterating her position that the President should be outward facing.

The final question came from another online participant asking for a definitive answer as to the definition of a satellite Club?

Kaz Aston again got quite excited about the fact her Club had a satellite Club but was then put firmly in her place by the President who told her that in fact what she thought was a Club was in fact a satellite group. However, the interviewer got her own back by firmly (albeit slightly excitedly) speaking over the President and demanding that she therefore explain the difference between the two.

I have to say that by this point in the question I had lost the will to live as the answer was once again in true-politician style the response that Eve Conway wanted to give and not really an answer to the question that was asked.

In amongst all the comments made throughout the hour-long session there was no real references to:

  • Membership initiatives;
  • The structure of RotaryGBI;
  • How the organisation may look in the future;
  • Involving Rotaract in the future of Rotary;
  • The finances of RotaryGB
  • And there was certainly no mention of ‘The Ten’ meeting in Alcester about the future of Rotary…?!?

The President was asked to finish (well kind of) the session by summing up Rotary using only one word which she described as ‘inspirational’. Which was kind of ironic in terms of the Live Cast.

…and that ladies and gentlemen was effectively it.

This was a great experiment – and there was a lot of information about Rotary given over in an hour. I’m not sure as a BBC Journalist Eve will be overly happy with the way in which the final interview will look when she plays it back. Yes, she got all her points across and answered the questions in the way she wanted – but it all got a bit messy at stages with the interviewer talking over the President throughout and not enough time allocated to ‘questions from the floor’.

Perhaps that was why there was a little bit of confusion as to who was going to take control at the end to wrap the interview up – who knows? But ultimately President Eve got the last word…

So in my humble opinion, or as the social media chaps say, IMHO this was not really a proper Q&A session. Far too much of it was about Rotary in general; the President; about her year in office; about her key topics and interests (such as polio) ergo insufficient time was given to the actual Question and Answer session.

You can watch and judge for yourself by watching the Live Cast here. Just a word of warning; try to ignore the interruptions, the increasingly annoying affirmation sounds and the signal-cutting hand-waving and fidgeting then you may enjoy it. However, I’m not sure you’ll learn anything or hear anything new.

Well done to those who organised this Facebook Live session. Great to see the technology being used in this way lets hope it’s not the last one we will see.

RotaryBlogger.co.uk ratings:

Information about Rotary in General = 8/10

Information about President Eve Conway = 9/10

Response to questions = 2/10

Enthusiasm of presenter = 10/10

Expectations met = 3/10

Use of social media/technology = 8/10

OVERALL EXPERIENCE = 4/10

Despite this, if the session was to be run again, I’d definitely tune in – it was a great starting point with improvements to be made and lessons to be learned.