Fly on the wall – Guest Blogger

Ron Duxbury was named as a Paul Harris Fellow at his club’s charter in 2007 and went on to become a District Governor in the Rotary year 2011-12

Ron is retired having spent a lifetime in financial services with NatWest, Britannic Assurance, Abbey National and Standard Life.

He joined the Rotary Club of Barrow-in-Furness in 1992 and took part in a variety of club activities and eventually became club secretary, a post he really enjoyed.

Ron became District Governor of D1190 (Cumbria and Lancashire) in 2011-12, a roll he threw himself into with enthusiasm. “Even though I was DG I was no different to any other Rotarian” says Ron “we all do great work in our own way to help others.”Asked what he gets out of Rotary he says it’s the fun, fellowship and banter at his club. “Unfortunately there are fewer of us now, and it’s a situation we have to acknowledge and resolve if we can, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Take a look at Ron’s hypothetical ‘water-cooler’ chat following a modern-day businessman’s visit to give a presentation to his local Rotary Club. Or, as he asks…is it hypothetical?

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it

Picture the scene: – it’s 2.30 in the afternoon and Jim has just returned to his office. He bumps into Alan.

“Hey Jim – what’s with the tie?  Bit overdressed aren’t you?”

“Hi Alan – just got back from making a presentation to the Rotary club and they all wear collars and ties.”

“That’s a bit much in these days ​isn’t it Jim? Even our MD doesn’t wear a tie any more unless he’s meeting the big wigs of course.”

“Well Alan it seems to be a bit of a tradition in some of the clubs according to the president. He was telling me that some of the members had tried to change the dress code to something a little bit more relaxed but still smart but it was voted down.”

“So how did the presentation go?”

“Pretty well I think  Alan – only two of them fell asleep.”

“That’s pretty good for you Jim, It’s normally more than that.”

“Hey​ watch it you​.”

“So did you manage to get any of the younger ones fired up to join our company?”

“There weren’t any Alan – according to the president the average age is 74.”

​”Thought they’d have some younger ones – Rotary clubs always used to be a good mix of ages.”

“They do have younger people along from time to time as guests and some as speakers but none of them seem to want to join. They did have a possible member along recently and before he came he seemed keen but afterwards he said he was too busy.” ​

“Perhaps one of the problems is that they meet at lunchtime – it would be difficult for us to get along if we were asked to join.”

“Yeah – that’s something they discuss from time to time as well, but according to the president if they switch to an evening some of the older ones would leave as they don’t go out at night and they don’t want to lose any more members because of the contribution they make.

“I know they do a great job locally and further afield – I’ve seen some of the publicity they get, although I haven’t seen much in the local paper lately.”

“Yeah that’s another problem they have as they say they send stuff in all the time but there’s not much of it gets published. It’s not just them but the other two clubs in town are finding it the same since the new editor took over.”

“Oh there’s a couple of other clubs in town then is there?”

“Yeah and they meet in the evening but even they are having trouble attracting new members.”

“Could be an image thing perhaps. I think some people think Rotary clubs are a bit dull and stuffy.”

“It’s a shame really as the guys who were there were certainly were very friendly and there seemed to be a great craic at the tables as well.

Could this really be how conversations go when a speaker at a Rotary Club returns to the office and chats with colleagues?

One of them was telling me about something they did recently where they brought together a load of local school kids and some teachers to take part in something they call a Technology Tournament, where the kids have to make a working model from materials they are given.” Apparently there was a great atmosphere amongst the kids and teachers, and there were a good number from the club there. One said it’s one of the highlights of the year.”

“You said ‘guys’ Jim – are there no women in the club? Doesn’t quite sound quite right that but you know what I mean.”

“I asked the president about that Alan and he said they had no objections to women joining but they haven’t found one who wants to yet. They have quite a few women along to give presentations and they always ask them if they’re interested but most of them say they’re too busy.”

“Seems like they’re between a rock and a hard place Jim, and the club may die out in the course of time.”

“Yeah apparently a lot of clubs up and down the country are having similar problems Alan, although the president said there might be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel if they establish a satellite club.”

“What’s that Jim?”

“They’re aimed at everyone, but particularly younger people who can’t get to the club meetings now, or find them a bit stuffy and formal. The people who join them are members of Rotary, but they have the freedom to meet wherever they want, and perhaps only twice a month instead of each week. Some meet in coffee shops and others in pubs – it’s really up to the members themselves.”

“Sounds interesting that Jim – perhaps we could look into it a bit further. You only have to read the papers or watch T.V. to see that a lot of people still need help from groups like Rotary.”

“That’s right Alan – I thought the same myself when I was told about all the great work they’re doing now, so I told the president we might get back to him to see how we could help.”

“Sounds like a plan that, and you said they could meet in a pub?”

“Thought you’d like that Alan, especially with that new boozer in town.”

“Well you must be one of the oldest boozers in town now Jim – well into your thirties now!”

“Watch it pal. Anyway are you up for it?”

“Yeah – let’s have a chat with that president feller you keep talking about. You up for a pint or two tonight and we can talk about it a bit more?”

“I’ll drink to that Alan!”

Please note any similarity to a Rotary Club is purely coincidental.

Or is it?

 

Images in order of appearance by Dukas Ju by CC

New Rotary Year…Comedy or Tragedy?

It’s been a while…

May I open this blogpost by thanking the many readers and subscribers of RotaryBlogger.co.uk who have been in touch directly asking what has happened to the regular blog posts.

The answer my friends…the blog has never physically disappeared – and probably never will. However, the content management part of the blog seems to have petered out – either that or my desire to write about the good, the bad and the ugly or the comedies and tragedies of Rotary International has perhaps diminished.

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RotaryBlogger.co.uk posting on the comedy and tragedy of what is going on in and around Rotary International

You see, when RotaryBlogger.co.uk started back in 2014 – it was on the back of what I determined to be an appallingly conducted annual business meeting at the RotaryGBI Conference. That day in my humble opinion we didn’t see much of the good in Rotary – moreso witnessing a substantial portion of the bad and even a drizzle of the ugly.

I therefore decided that I would start RotaryBlogger.co.uk, using the online blog platform in the hope that it attracted Regular Rots to think a little more about the wonderful organisation that is Rotary International (in terms of it’s actions locally, nationally and internationally). And it would seem that in the main, the blog appears to have achieved its objective with each post uploaded receiving many comments both publicly and privately.

Readers should be aware that RotaryBlogger.co.uk regularly receives information about what was going on in the name of Rotary, particularly around the British Isles from Regular Rots – who are perhaps unhappy about the way in which their Club, District or even RotaryGBI is conducting its business.

In general, RotaryBlogger.co.uk has chosen not to pick up these type of stories and directed the individual(s) back to their respective District; to RotaryGBI headquarters in Alcester or in some cases to the worldwide tower or power in Evanston. But despite the progress that some have attempted to make and continue to do so – there remains some really, really ugly stuff going on in the Rotary fraternity that is very contradictory to an organisation that presents itself as ‘modernising’. However, hopefully people will understand and respect my reasoning for not picking up some of these stories and publishing them through RotaryBlogger.co.uk.

The future

So as we move into week two of Rotary year 2016/17 will we see any difference? Will some of the ugliness be moped up and washed down the drain in favour of a new, clean and fresh environment? Will we see a new style of leadership? Are the new team of District Governors already looking at ways in which they can ‘make their mark’? Will this be the year the decline in membership ceases? Will the average age of a Rotarian drop? Will ‘septuagenarians’ become a default classification?

Well in the new Rotary year, RotaryGBI has it’s second female President in Eve Conway from the Rotary Club of Redbridge and the worldwide parent organisation gears up for its first ever female President in a few years time when Jennifer E. Jones from the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland in Canada takes up post. So this has to be progress – albeit long-overdue in a world-wide organisation.

Interestingly, in the publicity piece announcing her appointment, President Eve has chosen to ditch the ‘bling’ not being photographed with the chain of office round her neck. Or are we giving her too much credit and was the photo taken before she had her hands on the golden necklace?

And despite what is claimed in the RotaryGBI website, having “spent over 20 years working for BBC News working across the organisation in both television and radio” we definitely can’t give her credit for taking any lessons from the BBC’s trendsetting and world-leading use of social media. As a quick check on her twitter account shows that since taking up the RotaryGBI Presidency she has made no tweets and only retweeted two other tweets.

As for RI Vice President Jennifer E. Jones and surely a future President – while being very active on Facebook, doesn’t seem to be active on Twitter at all – which is a shame. Although not as much of a shame as the fact that despite a willingness from Rotary’s PR Team Jones’ invite to be interviewed by RotaryBlogger.co.uk many, many months ago has now been all but forgotten…but probably not unexpected.

So as we move seamlessly into another Rotary year – will we all sit back and let the world of Rotary trundle on by? With an ever increasing age-average; with an ever-decreasing membership; with Clubs continuing to operate in direct breach of equal opportunities legislation; with sexist and LGBT-phobic members operating in clubs – and the list goes on…

Unfortunately the answer to most of these question is…probably!

Flashback to #HodgeGate earlier in 2016 where RotaryGBI was faced with another farce in terms of the election of the President – despite assurances and even constitutional measures put in place to guarantee that what actually happened in previous years didn’t happen again….and hey presto, it did! Leaving not only a sour taste in the mouths of the small number who show an interest in these matters – but also leaving the future President elected with the label of being “that President from the 2016 election shenanigans”. Shame really…

So on the basis of writing this blog for the last two years – I have slowly (and perhaps reluctantly) come to the conclusion that in terms of Rotary; the vast, vast majority of Regular Rots really only care about what is happening in their own Clubs/communities. The [in comparison] tiny percentage of those involved in the actual governance of the organisation may genuinely believe and hope they are there to make a difference – but the burning question is will they be allowed to?

Ultimately, that remains to be seen.

So for the last few months – I have personally enjoyed my time as a Regular Rot attending my e-Club when I can and contributing personally where I feel I have something to offer. But leaving RotaryBlogger.co.uk sitting quietly and waiting on something to comment upon.

There is great work going on out there in the name of Rotary – so please feel free to get in touch with details of any information of great events taking place. Let’s really make a push this year to show much more of the good of what the extraordinary people in the Clubs around the world are doing and take the focus off some of the other less appealing aspects.

 

The blog is still very much here and waiting. There are still openings for Guest Bloggers if anyone out there would like to get in touch via this blog, Facebook or Twitter.

In the meantime, thanks to each and every person who has been in touch asking about the Blog – we’ll be back on a regular basis from hereon.

 

Images in order of appearance by Phil Shirley by CC