Wearing their grey and white driver’s uniform and best smile, seven women received the keys to their brand new electric taxis at D 3190’s Rotary Karnataka CSR Conference at Bengaluru. Just before flagging off the taxis, TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel, walked up to each of them, shook hands and warmly wished them “all the best.”
Addressing the meet, he told DG Asha Prasanna Kumar, “What an innovative idea to introduce Rotary to corporates and other NGOs in your community. Congratulations to you and your team.” He reminded everyone in the room that “the issue and opportunity for each of us is not money. Rather it is the opportunity we have been given to explore how we can work with each other and how Rotary can help you.”
Ours is a simple organisation and we have proved our ability to be a partner, collaborator, advocate, but most of all, we have demonstrated that when we make a promise, we keep it.
TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel
RC Bangalore Orchards, partnering with transport logistics provider Bhagirathi Travels, have taken up a project to train women as professional drivers so as to help them get employment. Club member and co-founder of the service provider Neil Michael Joseph highlighted the uniqueness of the project — the focus on driving electric vehicles which helps check pollution. The club plans to train 500 women in car driving in the next three months.
Powered by STEM Learning and supported by TSMT Bengaluru, and with India CSR Network as a knowledge partner, “this conference is the first-of-its-kind in D 3190, and will be an annual event,” said DGN Sameer Hariani, adding that the conference had got 170 delegates.
While the event was organised to celebrate the contributions made by various stakeholders and corporate houses towards community service in Karnataka, DG Asha said some of the speakers had travelled from Delhi and Mumbai on their own expense “just to see how they can collaborate with Rotary and find solutions to India’s most challenging problems in the areas of education, healthcare, environment and skill development.”
Rotary, the umbrella organisation
Representatives from various foundations and companies like Philips, IDFC Bank, Azim Premji Foundation, Capgemini, Embassy, NALCO, Mindtree Foundation, JSW Foundation, Tesco Bengaluru, Bosch India Foundation, Adobe, Brillio, Cognizant and ANZ participated in various panel discussions related to education, skill development, health and sanitation, green Karnataka, and rural development. Collaboration, transparency and accountability were the keywords of every session.
PDG K S Nagendra who moderated the session on rural development stressed that “we need to move beyond the cheque and ensure that CSR partnerships engage in planning strategies and focus on the impact that we can collectively make.” Sumathi A Rao, Director, PR and Sustainability, Philips, said “Together we can create a larger impact. All we need is an umbrella organisation that can bring together individual foundations.” DGN Hariani quipped: “That umbrella organisation is in this room — Rotary.”
While Archana Sahay, Head of CSR, Thomson Reuters, recalled her “wonderful days as a Rotary exchange student”; Arun Nathan, Programmes Director, IDFC Bank, said, “As a Rotaractor, I learnt a lot and its time to give it back to Rotary and do good.” When asked if they were Rotarians, Archana replied “Not yet.”
Rotary Corporate Awards were given to Bosch India Foundation, Bhagirathi Travels, Cognizant Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Intel India, Jeep, Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation, Oracle India, TCS and Thomson Reuters for their contribution towards doing good in the world.
PRID Manoj Desai said “Today, I have learnt a lot about CSR and the expectations of the corporates.” He gave highlights of the TEACH and Asha Kiran initiative that have earned Rotary India a partnership with the Kailash Satyarthi Foundation. PRID Sushil Gupta emphasised on the need for ushering in behavioural change in the entire community and introduced the audience to Rotary’s WASH initiative.
No better partner than Rotary
Addressing corporate heads, Netzel said, “the CSR opportunities in India are great and the values of Rotary and CSR are compatible.” Without marginalising any of the other “wonderful foundations and humanitarian organisations in the world,” he described why Rotary is an exceptional organisation and a great partner. “Unlike any other organisation in the world, we have a global reach in 200 countries, with 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million Rotarians. In almost every community in the world, there is a Rotary club, which has great diversity by almost any definition you can come up with.” If any of the corporates present in the room joined hands with Rotary, they must know that “Rotary has the capacity to access and serve as a major connector with thousands of volunteers, civil and government leaders at the highest level. Ours is a simple organisation and we have proved our ability to be a partner, collaborator, advocate, but most of all, we have demonstrated that when we make a promise, we keep it.”
Defining TRF as a “sacred trust with 15 committed trustees from around the world,” he said the philanthropic arm of Rotary is responsible for raising funds, awarding scholarships and grants. “In the last 100 years, Rotary has raised and invested $4.3 billion. This is to tell you that we have well-defined goals and will be doing and supporting many humanitarian projects in the coming century.”
Netzel added, “Perhaps the biggest initiative that speaks so well about Rotary’s capacity to do things is the End Polio initiative.” Recalling the journey from 1985 when Rotarians launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative after raising $247 million in two years, he said that the impact of Rotary’s work in the End Polio drive was so powerful that in 2007 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said: “We want to join you.”
While this year may perhaps see the last polio case in the world, it will still take another 36 months for the world to be declared polio-free. “How are we going to keep the interest of Rotarians and stakeholders in this programme for 36 months is the question,” he said, urging Rotarians never to lose focus on this aspect. Netzel stressed on the need for world peace and said, “As we sit here this evening, 1,052 Rotary Peace Fellows are out there promoting peace in some of the most unstable parts of the world.” Pointing out that Rotarians have to choose their projects carefully, he concluded the conference by quoting Bill Gates Sr., who said “I have spent the last decade travelling around the globe thinking of monstrous problems. It boggles the mind to try and make sense of how dramatically you Rotarians have changed millions of lives. When the time comes to deciding on the next global programme, Rotary needs to think big, anything less will be a waste of Rotary’s potential.”
Pictures by Kiran Zehra