Committees – time for a blank sheet?


Is it time to take a ‘blank sheet’ look at the Committee structure at RotaryGBI?

So now it’s time to look at the Committee structures in Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland and decide whether such a structure is fit for a modern organisation – or is it as some perceive simply being kept in place to ensure ‘the boys’ have jobs to move to?

In this blog trilogy we’ve looked at the organisation that is Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland and the importance of modernising its ‘standalone’ position in the world of Rotary. We followed up with a look at the importance of the General Secretary and how the role should be enhanced to make it the continuum in the organisation. And in this final instalment we consider the various committees and what role they are playing in taking the organisation forward.

Now let me be clear for the offset; I have previously sat on a RotaryGBI Committee and thoroughly enjoyed my experience. In fact, it was one of the reasons that after seeing some of what I did I was prompted to start As during my three year stint I witnessed the shuffling and re-shuffling of the deckhands from one Committee to another with many of the same faces appearing and re-appearing in a different ‘department’ simply wearing a different tie and turning up on a different day.

Therefore on the week that saw the closing date for Regular Rots to put themselves forward to become a member (or even Chair) of a RotaryGBI Committee we start by looking at the committees based at Alcester.

The Membership and Chairmanships open to Regular Rots were on the following Committees (the numbers in brackets highlights the number of members on each Committee):

  • Constitutions: Governance and District Secretary Support
  • Finance: Budgeting and District Treasurer Support
  • Leadership Development and Training (10)
  • Membership Development and Retention (8)
  • Marketing, PR and Communications (9)
  • Rotaract (6)
  • Community Service (7)
  • International Service (6)
  • Vocational Service (7)
  • Youth Service (9)

In addition to the above Committees which have been opened up to Regular Rots, there is also:

  • Executive Committee: Chaired by the RotaryGBI President
  • Personnel Committee (this is a sub-committee of the Executive Committee)
  • Operations Review and Audit Committee
  • Conference Committee 
  • Rotary Foundation (9)

There is also the other positions and committees:

  • Council of Past Presidents
  • Premises Trustees
  • RIBI Donations Trust

Now assuming that each of the above are genuine bona-fide committees, this comes to a total 18 committees operating across these islands – pulling in a reasonable number committee members being pulled in from every corner of these islands.

It may not have been until this moment where the list is laid out as it is here where readers grasp the full impact as to the number of Committees being operated out of Alcester, And therefore surely questions must be asked as to whether each and every one of them are necessary in order to keep Rotary Clubs in these islands operating?

As outlined in the first blog of this series, RotaryGBI is the only territory to operate in the way it does. And it is clear that it is operating very differently to the other zones around the world.

RotaryGBI has all these committees as well as the General Council. Not forgetting every District has its own Council with the structure being completed by each Club having its respective Council/Board. So are all these committees and layers absolutely necessary? The reason I pose the question is due to the fact they don’t appear to be required anywhere else in the world…

Costs of operating committees

Now admittedly, RotaryGBI has made efforts to reduce the number of face-to-face meetings by replacing them with video/teleconferencing facilities; but ‘non-virtual’ meetings still take place with the members of each committee being called to attend on-site sessions at Alcester.

It would be interesting to find out exactly what costs are behind operating the various committees across a 12 months period to highlight the true ‘value for money‘ of such an exercise.

Now we hear the word CHANGE used a lot in terms of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland – with an acceptance from senior Rotarians that the change-agenda is happening but that it will take time. However, is anyone looking at changes in the committee structure? And by looking at it – this means really looking at…not just tinkering about at the edges.

We all know that there are many individuals who give of their time; their resources and finances in order to be part of RotaryGBI Committee. I even know of some Committee members who rarely (if ever) claim expenses. But all too often we will hear the ‘jobs for the boys’ comments made in relation to RotaryGBI Committees – in fact it has been made on a number of occasions in the comments section of But is that because this is how almost 20 committees and their respective positions are perceived by those who actually care about the future of the organisation?

Surely this brings us back to the points made in the previous blog in the series that the General Secretary and their team must be given more autonomy to manage and operate ‘the business‘. Let the professionals be professional and do what they are appointed to do – but support them by way of a smaller and more streamlined committee/board structure.

If someone was to be given a blank page and the opportunity to start all over again what structure would we end up with these islands?

Could I be so bold and suggest that we actually ask the General Secretary to create a structure using their strategic experience which would work in these islands. Give the General Secretary the clean sheet of paper and some basic guidelines to reduce the number of committees; reduce the cost of running the committees while creating an accountable structure that would monitor the work of the paid professionals.

Expertise from the Regular Rots

In creating the new structure and removing a substantial number of Committees – we would not necessarily throw the baby out with the bathwater as I am sure many will suggest in the blog comments at the end. No, instead of Committees of up to 10 people, the General Secretary and/or Executive Committee should have the right to call upon ad-hoc expertise from Regular Rots to work on projects alongside the Secretariat staff team.

But otherwise, perhaps let the Districts have a greater say in the operation of their own areas. Let’s be honest, there are many examples of best practice around these islands that work in a particular location but don’t work when tried in other areas of the country.

A one-size fits all is not always the right way to go – perhaps it’s actually more about devolution rather than revolution!

As in any organisational structure – assistance that has a ‘cost’ attached to it (as the Committee structure does) has to be questioned in terms of its value for money and what it adds to the organisation?

Much of the current committee structure was set up many, many years ago in terms of the way RotaryGBI was being operated then. There has not be a big enough shift-change in terms of the way the organisation is operating now in a modern e-world.

Yes – inviting applications from Regular Rots to the Committees is admirable, but is it really doing anything more than tampering about at the edges? It will be interesting to see how many Regulars are actually interested in standing for the committees. And if  insufficient expressions of interest are received in ratio to the number of committee vacancies, what will happen? Will it be back to the old system of appointments being made by the President?

But just one final point – if this does prove to be the case that applicants volunteer to fill the posts; instead of taking this as people not being interested, why not look to question the system and take that as an opportunity to create a smaller committee structure, with direct expertise in the field an individual wishes to serve.

It’s about quality not quantity remember…so a smaller committee structure with less of the apparent Rotary ‘nepotism’ could and should create a clearer, more refined and streamlined structure – which may actually focus the strategy of the organisation in a direction that re-engages more of the Regular Rots who unfortunately see the current structure as out-of-date, expensive, self-fulfilling and possibly even self-rewarding…but only if you get into the inner-sanctum.

Images by Quinn Dombrowski by CC

Let’s do that…in three years

Yet another really interesting conversation has been taking place on social media regarding the Rotary tradition that is the Council on Legislation otherwise known as CoL.

But before we start, let’s begin by establishing what exactly is the Council on Legislation?

Well, according to CoL is ‘the voice’ of Regular Rots, where they meet to review and vote on proposed Rotary legislation and how the organisation is governed…oh, and did I mention that it meets every three years?

Now before regular readers think I’m going to go ‘off on one’ about this fact and start to give the powers-that-be a bit of a hard time about this – please be assured I’m not. Because in this instance – it is the Regular Rots who actually hold the cards for this one and therefore ultimately it is them who can ultimately change things.

Remember – CoL is your voice as to how the organisation is governed, is it not? We’ll be revisiting this point before the end of the post – fear not.


Is the appropriate in a modern, über-communicative world that Rotary’s Council on Legislation meets face-to-face every three years?

The process of making a proposal to CoL is relatively easy – on paper. Again, referring to it states that, “Proposed enactments and resolutions may be submitted by clubs and districts, though club items must be endorsed by the club’s district.”

Simple really, so any Regular Rot – with the support of their Club and District can put a proposal to the ‘big meeting’ every three years. And as a bonus addition to Clubs in Great Britain and Ireland – the territorial organisation that is RotaryGBI can also put proposals forward, as can Rotary International Board and the Council itself.

However, back to the CoL discussions on social media. Well, it focussed on two key modernising points – namely, should Clubs and Districts have to wait three years to change the way the organisation is operated and whether new technology could be brought into CoL to save amongst other things time, cost and the environment.

Taking the first point – well of course back in the day meeting every three years would most likely have been entirely acceptable. The organisation would have been at a time where all communication was undertaken by post and travel would have taken much longer than it does today. But regardless, does giving Regular Rots a voice every three years still really fit with the modern and developing world that Rotary finds itself operating within? I would say a very firm ‘no’ to that one.

Which nicely segways into the second point – that being making use of new technology to undertake the discussions and decision-making process.

Now we all know that this isn’t an overnight fix – but there is technology out there that could be developed which would allow an individual to remain at home and conduct the business from the comfort of their own sofa – much in the same way as I am ‘penning’ this blog post. My goodness, they wouldn’t even need to put a tie on to attend if this were the case!

The cost of developing bespoke software systems to create ‘CoL @ Home’ could be classed as a spend-to-save in terms of the money it would save in the long-run on the basis representatives would not be flying all over the world to attend.

So questions have to be asked whether CoL is yet another tradition that the organisation itself is reluctant to look at revamping or changing. If that’s the case – then surely based on what was said earlier in the post – this is only the fault of the Regular Rots who haven’t proposed the changes to adjust the way the Council operates.

Well, yes – in theory…but…

Did you know that in order to be a Council on Legislation representative that you will have to have served a full term as District Governor. So in order to put forward any ‘proposed enactments’ this would not only need the support of the sitting District Council – but would technically also require the support of the [Past District Governor] CoL Representative to vote for the proposal when they get to that ‘big meeting’. But hold on as I type this and think of the modernising proposals…I’m seeing turkeys running around a christmas tree for some reason…dunno why?

So, I guess the key question being posed by the blog this weekend is whether our organisation can afford to wait three years to make amendments to the way it is governed in a world of 24-hour news, instantaneous online communications, social media, video conferencing and online voting systems. And that’s just what we have today – what ‘new’ things will we have tomorrow, far less three years hence?

Would it be possible for an annual CoL which would take place online using conferencing and voting systems meaning that changes to the organisation could take place much more swiftly and appropriately? Instead of being potentially old and out-dated when they are finally considered by the CoL-collective?

I guess that is up to the Regular Rots to start the ball rolling a little further than just a discussion on the social media or on a little old blog…only time will tell. But let’s not have to wait another three years!

Next week guest blogger Luke Addison, Rotaractor makes his RotaryBlogger debut


Image by Brett Sayer by CC