You know, if there’s one thing that I really love to do, it is to travel. Whether it is by airplane, by train, by car and even by boat, I really do like to travel.
So much so that between the years 2013 and 2015 I had about 18 return trips per year, meaning that every 3 weeks or so I was up in the air. I travelled for work, for my Rotary responsibilities as RPIC, to the Rotary International Convention and for leisure. I’ve travelled to all of 27 countries.
I love to go to new places and meet new people from all walks of life, learn new things and gather new perspectives. One thing that Rotary offers me is the opportunity to make instant friends when I visit a city with Rotary clubs in it.
When I’m on a work trip I look for every opportunity to visit a Rotary Club. I remember once when I had to travel to Zambia on an executive mission, my boss called me before my departure to inform me that he couldn’t travel with me as planned due to a severe bout of malaria. He now wanted me to carry out his assignment, which really wasn’t in my remit and I must admit that I was a little intimidated.
He wanted me to convene a financial sector seminar with the top executives of the banking industry and then present the finding of a business study that our company had conducted in Zambia. On noticing my hesitation, he told me not to worry and assured me that our team in Zambia had already initiated the preparations for the special event. It was going to be a walk in the park, he said.
On the flight, I studied the brief for the event, and noted that we had to engage the Governor of the Central Bank of Zambia, the Managing Director Zambia National Commercial Bank, the Chief Executive Officers of Standard Chartered and other major banks in the country. I casually wondered whether our team in Lusaka had the capacity to bring these big wigs to the table.
When I got to our offices in Central Street, Lusaka, I was dumbfounded to discover that nothing had been done in preparation for the event and we only had 4 days to make it happen. When I asked for the guest list to find out how many executives had confirmed attendance, all I got from the team were vacant stares.
The company’s reputation was on the line and I didn’t have a clue where to begin. I didn’t live in Zambia and therefore didn’t have any contacts that could connect me to the high ranking officials. Failure was staring me right in the face.
After racking my brains for a bit, I recalled that on a previous trip to Lusaka, I had visited a Rotary Club every day of the week, and it so happened that I had collected a great number of business cards. I pulled them out of my briefcase and began to call the Rotarians one at a time to share my dilemma and seek any assistance that they could give.
My second call was to a Rotarian that run a manufacturing unit in the country. He asked me to go over to his offices to explain the issue in order to see if he could help. At the end of the meeting, he told me not to worry because he would take care of everything. And indeed he did. He introduced me to the Governor of the Central Bank and all the chief executives of the major banks, who all accepted the short notice invitation to the event because of his influence.
When my boss heard about this development, he was miraculously cured of his illness and booked the first flight out of Nairobi and made it just in time to moderate the event, which was successful beyond our imagination. And it was thanks to my Rotary connections.
This is just one example, but Rotary connects us in so many special ways.
As we look forward at the task ahead of us we are all required to provide inspired leadership, and leadership in your lives, your careers and in Rotary is not just about being the best that you can be but it about inspiring other to be the best that they can be.
And that is why I’m asking you to elevate your game. The elevate your game idiom originated from sports, and when you are asked to elevate your game, its not just about you bringing your best to the table. I mean, how many teams do we know of that have never won a championship but are full of high performing stars? I’m an Arsenal fan, and that’s the pain I bear every season.
But, elevate your game really means working with others so that the entire team is performing at its best. That’s when we are fulfilled, enjoy what we do and have greater impact in our society. As you work in your clubs, supporting your directors and overseeing major projects, remember to take initiative, exceed expectations and, most importantly, nurture relationships.
Rotary International President Mark Maloney defined a number of factors that we should focus on as we take the next great step in Rotary.
The first and most important emphasis is to grow Rotary. For too long we’ve relied on outdated methods of growing our clubs, such as pleading with our members to bring their friends. But what we really need to do is to use our unique classification system and get all clubs to form active and vibrant membership committees, that devise ways of growing Rotary, not just in places where there is no Rotary, but also in places where Rotary is thriving.
The second emphasis is to involve families. When you think about it, in Africa our membership is getting younger, and if we are to encourage younger service minded people to join Rotary, you will find that they have growing families. So it only makes sense to increase the number of opportunities to invite children to Rotary events including the District Conference as District Governor Jeff has done.
The third emphasis is to provide a viable path to Rotary leadership for people fully active in their careers. If indeed we are committed to attracting younger service minded people into our organization then we can’t be static. We can’t expect that to be a district governor you have to be retired from your career, or visit every club individually in your district, or that to be a club president you have to do everything yourself. It is when we recognize that the people who will come into our organization to grow Rotary have active lives, it is then that we will see the necessity for us to offer the flexibility that allows them to participate effectively.
The fourth emphasis is related to the external connections that Rotary has, with other organizations, with the community and in uniting people from diverse nations. This emphasis is about the historic and enduring relationship that Rotary has with the United Nations. As Rotary marks its 115th year in 2020, the United Nations will be celebrating its 75thbirthday and President Mark has planned several Presidential Conferences in collaboration with the United Nations to celebrate this relationship.
They will be similar to the highly successful Rotary Day at the United Nations event that was held in Nairobi last year that was chaired by Rotarian Dr. Sally Gitoho. And I might add that the Rotary Representative Network learned a lot from the local Rotarians and how we organized that incredible gathering.
When you elected me to serve as district governor for 2019-20, the first thing I did was to seek advice. I spoke to the PDGs, current and future DGs in our district and in our region. I listened to past and present club presidents to find out what they thought of their challenges and opportunities. I spoke to regional Rotary coordinators who I met at the Zone Institutes. I spoke to past and present International Directors, as well Rotary International Presidents, to find out what they thought was achievable.
I got several ideas for building on the strengths of our district that have been driven by our past district governors. I was also advised that the DGN year should be used to understand the inventory in the district, and the DGE year should be used for devising strategy. So at the appropriate time, we convened a strategic planning committee made up of Rotarians from different clubs that spent several months gathering data from various sources in all our countries.
In this day and age you cannot make decisions without data, and this data helped us to define the goals that would motivate and inspire our clubs. The goals are within our reach, because we have done some of them before, and they are also stretch goals that call for innovative thinking.
No. 1. We are going to deliver world class training to Rotarians. Within our training team, we have combined the most notable HR, training and project management minds in our district. They bring a wealth of high level experience from the corporate sector and with a focus on delivering the same kind of top notch training provided by Rotary International to senior leaders at the international assembly and at the coordinators institute. With world class training we will support the club presidents with the skills to elevate their game and offer greater influence to Rotarians so that they can have greater impact in the communities that they serve.
No. 2. We will grow Rotary by over 1,000 members meaning that we will have 50% growth. This will be done through an unprecedented number of new clubs formed with innovation and flexibility in mind. We will set up e-clubs, corporate clubs and satellite clubs. New clubs will be formed by community based Rotaract Clubs and we will continue to encourage the conversion of Rotaractors into Rotarians. We have identified a number of the clubs with under 20 members to support and strengthen, and we are also reviewing the opportunities for traditional club extension and membership recruitment.
No. 3. We shall raise $1 million for polio. As we move closer to the end of polio, there is a tendency to think that we can take our foot off the pedal and begin to focus on other global priorities. This is a mistake because if we stop funding the polio eradication efforts, all the work we have done for over 30 years could reverse very quickly. We also need to demonstrate that Africa is committed to the end of polio and that we as a district are putting our money where our mouth is.
No. 4. We often think of public relations as the function of getting our stories told in the media. However the best way to get influential organizations and groups to know about us and trust us, is when we sit across a table from them, plan community projects together and implement them successfully. That is why we have planned to sign 6 partnership agreements with corporates, development organizations and government agencies, with whom we can work with to increase the scale of our work and touch many more lives with our charity. These will be similar to the MoU that we signed with The Safaricom Foundation during Bimal Kantaria’s year as Governor.
No. 5. The District Conference is the place where Rotary is at its best, yet it is the event where we close out non-Rotarians, barring them from getting to know who we are and what we do. We have therefore planned a district conference with a value proposition that will energize Rotarians and attract high level members of our society. We are inviting internationally recognized speakers who we are currently reaching out to, and for 2 hours in the opening plenary session we will charge a premium for the participation of non-Rotarians. This gives them an opportunity to see Rotary at its best and will be an excellent tool for recruitment.
No. 6. We are used to reading newspapers and magazines from top to bottom, however with the rise of the internet and social media, the way we consume media is changing rapidly. We intend to leverage on these changes and using the latest technology for web applications and database management, we intend to serve you with Rotary news, how you want it and where you want it. It will be a customizable portal where you can state the type of news that you are interested in and the frequency that you receive it because it will be updated in real time; as and when the news comes in.
You see, with all these initiatives we intend to live out our vision statement that, ‘together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves.
And Rotary allows us to meet people who we never would have met. It helps us to build relationships with people from across the seas. We create strong connections and the outcomes are major projects in our communities, but these connections also have big impact in our lives and in our careers, in deep and meaningful ways.
Connection is what makes the experience of Rotary so special and none of us is an island. Whoever we are, whatever language we speak we are part of a global community which we all belong to. That connection lies at the heart of the Rotary experience and it is what brings us to Rotary, it is why we stay, it is how we will grow Rotary and it will be our theme in the 2019-20 Rotary year, ‘ROTARY CONNECTS THE WORLD’.