In a recent evaluation of global grants (GGs) done by The Rotary Foundation to find if Rotarians were satisfied with the grants process “we found that over the last 10 years since global grants were introduced, 50 per cent of clubs have participated in one way or another in GGs. They have either given money, been hosts, or sponsored something. This is an impactful thing,” commented TRF vice-chair Bharat Pandya, at the Bengaluru zone institute, answering a question pertaining to the TRF impact in taking Rotary’s Action Plan forward.
He was participating in a panel discussion titled The Rotary Foundation: Today and Tomorrow, moderated by PRID C Basker.
The survey also found that “over 90 per cent Rotarians surveyed are satisfied with GGs and 92 per cent said that GGs form a very important part of their Rotary experience, and 95 per cent are interested in applying for a GG. So that counts for enhancing participant engagement,” he said answering a question from Basker on how TRF programmes take forward the core components of the Rotary Action Plan.
The four priorities of the action plan, Pandya said, were: “Increasing our impact, expanding our reach, enhancing participant engagement and increasing our ability to adapt. Adding environment as Rotary’s seventh area of focus is a perfect example of our ability to adapt. So TRF and our action plan are completely in sync.”
Over 90 per cent Rotarians surveyed are satisfied with GGs. 92 per cent said that GGs form a very important part of their Rotary experience; 95 per cent are interested in applying for a GG.
– Bharat Pandya, TRF Vice Chair
To prove that “TRF programmes are in sync with all these four priorities, let’s look at our Programs of Scale.” Under the first such programme, TRF gave a $2 million grant to Zambia to combat malaria, “which is one of the leading causes of death in many African countries, especially in Zambia’s children and pregnant women.” That was matched with a contribution of $2 million each from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and World Vision International.
“The initial results showed that in the provinces where this grant programme was implemented, the mortality from malaria has decreased significantly, so we are definitely increasing our impact.”
This impact is being further strengthened and its scope extended by subsequent developments. “The Gates Foundation is so happy with its execution that they have come forward to give another $13 million and World Vision added another $7 million. The TRF trustees said we will also give an additional $10 million; thus the original $2 million seed programme, as you may call it, has scaled up to a $30 million programme in four countries — Zambia, Nigeria, Congo and Mozambique for three diseases… malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases, especially in children. These are the biggest killers in that part of the world.”
This was the best example of how a TRF mega programme has increased impact, expanded its reach, engaged Rotarians and adapted to face a major challenge in Africa, Pandya said.
In his introductory comments, Basker said that both India and the world were changing and Rotary and Rotarians had to march along with the changing times. “When Arch Klumph set up TRF, little would he have imagined that this would become one of the world’s largest foundations. Paul Harris had said that this is a changing world and we must be prepared to change with it and the Rotary story must be written and written again.”
TRF had come a long way to become an important and integral part of the Rotary world. “Even though our membership has not gone up significantly, contributions to TRF have grown year after year, increasing to an annual contribution of over $350 million. We are happy that India has done well too and in the last three years Indian contributions to TRF have been significant.”
Basker next asked a question to former TRF trustee and PRID Ashok Mahajan about the “fatigue and some degree of lack of interest” creeping into Indian Rotarians when it came to contributing to the Polio Fund. What could be done to inspire and re-energise Rotary clubs in our zones to contribute for the polio eradication cause, he asked.
While conceding the need for standardisation, TRF trustees also should allow regionalisation, and make it convenient for these grants to benefit more people.
– Kamal Sanghvi, PRID and Rotary Foundation (India) Chair
Noting that polio “is very close to my heart,” and that fatigue is bound to creep in after four decades of fight against polio, Mahajan said, “I believe Rotarians need information, inspiration and motivation” to re-engage actively with the polio eradication cause. One of the reasons for their fatigue was that the last case of polio was registered in India in January 2011, even though we were certified polio-free by the WHO only in 2014. “It is almost 13 years since India became polio-free so most Rotarians in our zones feel that our job is done. But they should be told that TRF has spent $2.5 billion for this cause… and in India alone it has spent $275 million for polio eradication efforts. They should know that the support for this has largely come from outside India, and that polio anywhere is polio everywhere. If till yesterday we were exporters of the virus, tomorrow we can possibly become importers of this virus which lurks in our neighbourhood (Pakistan and Afghanistan).”
It has to be reiterated again and again that winning this war means the world has to be totally rid of this disease. As for Indian Rotarians’ contribution to the Polio Fund, “remember that even the mother does not feed the child till it cries. Unless we ask, they will not give. We all know that the Aditya Birla Foundation gives us $1 million every year for polio but that doesn’t just come on its own; we have to request and persuade them.”
Similarly, our Rotarians will have to be persuaded by senior leaders constantly to give for polio by reminding them that polio remains RI’s top priority till the entire world is rid of it.
Giving an update on the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan where the last cases of polio still remain, TRF trustee Aziz Memon said that after decades of very hard work, money and other resources put in by Rotarians “we are at this time much closer than we will ever be, for the simple reason the virus is contained in a very small geographic area. In Pakistan the challenge is in the seven districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where security and the killings of polio workers are big problems.”
Similarly, in Afghanistan, of the 34 provinces, the virus is contained in one eastern province. But there are a couple of challenges; one being immunity. “We are targeting children under five, but the last two cases that came up were wildpolio virus cases in two 11-year-old children. Also, we have a 2,400km of porous border with Afghanistan, and even adults who are not infected, could be carriers of the virus as they crossed the border frequently on either side.
Symbiosis from Pune, and two more universities, one in Bengaluru and another in Odisha, are eager to setting up their expression of interest in putting up a peace centre in India.
– Bharat Pandya, TRF Vice Chair
The other major challenge in Afghanistan was that the Taliban faction which rules the southern region does not allow home-to-home immunisation. “Home-to-home vaccination is the key factor by which we have eradicated polio in the world, but here religious leaders have not yet allowed this type of vaccination. So the children have to be brought to the mosque or community halls. The result is that 300,000 children are being missed and these children are vulnerable.”
But some progress has been made here; last week the UNICEF regional director had met the deputy prime minister in Afghanistan requesting the introduction of home vaccination and he has been assured this would be done. “Looking at all these factors, I would say we are much closer to a polio-free world. Thanks to the high level of mapping, we are able to track the families moving around the vulnerable regions. We hope this time we will succeed.”
Answering a question on GGs, Rotary Foundation (India) chair and PRID Kamal Sanghvi appealed to the TRF trustees to look at the possibility of processing grant applications and applying various parameters in grant approval “on a regional basis. As the RFI chair, I keep getting questions that as Rotary is strongly advocating and moving towards regionalisation, why can’t the process involved in approving GGs be made regional. Because what is relevant in the US or Europe may not be relevant to India and vice versa.”
Giving an example, he said that when Indian Rotarians apply for a GG for providing e-learning facilities such as smart boards to 20 schools, the grant officer asks them to take up only one school instead of 20. “I’d like to tell the trustees that in the US or Europe, schools have reached a certain level to warrant such micro management, and concentrate on one school. But in a country like India or one in Africa, or South America, schools need such projects done at a macro level. We want to use TRF funds through GGs for extending maximum benefits to the students in schools or patients in hospitals. In such countries we need to provide educational facilities not for 300 or 500 children but a much larger number.”
TRF has spent $2.5 billion… and in India alone it has spent $275 million for polio eradication efforts.
Sanghvi appealed to the TRF board of trustees “to look at these countries with a different lens. For example, 20 per cent of the grants are used in India. I assume 80 per cent of GGs are used in developing countries. While conceding the need for standardisation, TRF trustees also should allow regionalisation, and make it convenient for these grants to benefit more people.”
Coming to deployment of CSR funds for Rotary projects, Sanghvi said that the CSR money that Rotarians in India had hitherto managed to rope in was rather small and mostly from companies owned or headed by Rotarians. “But there is a huge pool of CSR money in India, and we need to go out into the jungle and tap bigger corporates, just like RI/TRF have done with the Gates Foundation. We need partners like that. There are so many huge foundations and corporations in/outside India that we need to tap.”
He added that RFI was exploring various methods of doing this, particularly how to make standardised presentations to large corporates, keeping in mind what excites them and how we can convince them to make Rotary their partner of choice for their CSR grants.
Pandya shared positive news on how “along with our growing membership, we find in the last three years the per capita of giving to TRF by Rotarians in our zones is also growing consistently and that is a wonderful change.”
While only till recently a major concern was contribution to the Annual Fund going down, he was happy to report that this trend had now reversed and Annual Fund collections have increased in our zones. “More and more districts are now going up several notches in Foundation contribution, last year nine districts in India contributed over $1 million to TRF.”
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat
After Turkey, will the next peace centre come up in India?
At a TRF panel discussion, moderator PRID C Basker asked TRF trustee Larry Lunsford to shed some light on the TRF decision to set up the next peace centre in Istanbul, Turkey, despite the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation giving a gift of $15.5 million to TRF for starting a peace centre in the Middle East. What was the reasoning of the trustees for doing so, he asked.
Lunsford responded that “across the world we might have differing definitions of the ‘Middle East’. I recall that in this selection process, we used a couple of filters or thresholds to decide on this, and one was Rotary’s internal regional definition, and Turkey does fit that definition.”
One important criterion used for selecting Turkey, or for that matter, any country, was the issue of safety and security and “whether it is generally safe for the students at the university as they walk around the community where the centre will be located. And English is not only the chosen language for the curriculum itself but it is also used in the resident and eating halls. Another criterion is if there is a strong Rotary and Rotaract presence in the region, and that is a filter, because this provides the ability to host families. All these criteria the Rotarians in Turkey fulfilled.”
In addition, added Lunsford, the trustees also look for universities which already have a presence in the area of peace and conflict resolution. “And finally, the most important thing pertains to the ability to enter the country rather easily, equal access regardless of gender, region and easy obtainment of the visa. As the TRF task force went through the criteria, Turkey met these requirements.”
Finally, he added, the university chosen also met the criteria of the donor; “this is the second most significant gift that TRF has ever received so the feelings and desires of the donors mattered.” Similar criteria are likely to be applied while choosing the next peace centre to come up “in your part of the world,” Lunsford added.
Shedding some light on the next peace centre to be set up by TRF in Asia, vice-chair Pandya said, “I am happy to share that India is one of the contenders, and Symbiosis from Pune has put up an expression of interest in putting up such a peace centre. Two more universities, one in Bengaluru and another in Odisha, are also eager to setting up their expression of interest and if all of us work together, I am optimistic that probably the next Rotary peace centre will come up in India!”