An interesting session at the Institute was one in which Past RI President Rajendra Saboo pitched questions regarding the classification system, flexibility, Rotary’s public image, weak clubs, etc to RI Director C Basker and incoming Directors Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi.
Asked by PRIP Saboo if Rotary should retain the classification system, as there is opinion in some circles that it should be done away with, RIDE Pandya said the one thing that clearly distinguishes Rotary from other organisations is classification. “It gives us diversity; as President Barry mentioned, of our five core values, the least strong is diversity.” Declaring classification as “absolutely necessary”, he added, “When we joined, probably this was a hindrance to getting new members, but now with an explosion of classifications and the way professions and vocations are developing, it isn’t so.” Rotarians should use the new professions to get more diversity in membership.
Coming to flexibility, he said perhaps “we have misunderstood the concept of flexibility. It doesn’t mean the club can do whatever it wants. Classification is linked to flexibility.” When the CoL allowed flexibility, Pandya said, “I believe the delegates had in mind giving the club an option to adopt systems and processes that meet its need. But what works in the US or Germany won’t work in India or New Zealand. Our classification is at the core but flexibility doesn’t mean the club can have two meetings in one day and be done with it. This is what senior leaders need to explain to the clubs.”
As a visiting Rotarian in the rest of the world, I feel energy inside the room. I am not left to fend for myself and ignored. The meeting starts on time; the speaker sticks to his time and we feel we’ve got value for our time. That club is doing well.
– RIDE Bharat Pandya
Saboo then asked the panellists what they planned to do at the 2019 CoL about the proposal to do away with the classification system. Pandya responded that though he and Sanghvi will attend only in the capacity of observers, “I’m sure the delegates at CoL, who are senior Rotary leaders, are wise enough to know that classification is at the core of Rotary and that we should not do away with it.”
Director Basker said that many suggestions were made even at the last CoL, “but the representatives applied their wisdom in approving a lot of matters. Classification of course in our part of the world is very important. We have to wait and see how the rest of the world looks at it; it is difficult to guess, but this will surely be an interesting debate!”
Saboo next asked Basker to evaluate the performance of Rotary clubs in our zones and if the hitherto criteria of judging a club’s performance on the basis of membership and TRF giving should continue.
Replied Basker: “I think 80 per cent of the clubs in our zones are doing quite well; the rest I consider rather weak. From last year, the criteria also include Presidential citation, the kind of projects the club is doing and the reporting of those projects. Even though both membership and TRF giving are important, those are not the only criteria now being used to evaluate a club’s performance.”
A mechanism has been put into place to evaluate club performance and this data is shared district-wise with the DGs “so they know both the strong and weak clubs in their districts. The DGs have been asked to concentrate on the weaker clubs.”
Giving his take on the matter, RIDE Pandya said that as a visiting Rotarian, when he goes to other parts of the world and enters the meeting room, there is a “feeling of energy inside. I am not left to fend for myself and ignored once I am let inside. The meeting starts on time; the president has shared the agenda with the secretary so there is no confusion about what is being done; a reasonable number of people attend the meeting; the speaker sticks to his time and we leave with a good feeling of getting value for our time. That club, I would say, is doing well.”
A club with 20 Rotarians has a net worth of at least Rs 20 crores. Please introspect… with such potential, are we still giving only books and pencils? We need to create those schools, not just take books and pencils to them.
– RIDE Kamal Sanghvi
Asked how to enhance public awareness of Rotary, RIDE Sanghvi said Rotarians would have to ask themselves that since they have joined Rotary to change the world, “are we doing enough?” While some clubs did “fantastic work”, many clubs didn’t do much work “simply because they don’t understand their potential.” Giving an example, he said that the average net worth of 20 Rotarians in a club, and that too on the lower side, would easily be Rs 20 crore. Such a club would have 20 CEOs or top professionals, such as industrialists, businessmen, doctors, chartered accountants, etc. “I want each of you to introspect. We have potential to do fantastic work, but I don’t think we are doing it. Please introspect… with such potential, are we still giving only books and pencils? We need to create those schools, not just take books and pencils to them. Let’s take up large service projects. Rotary needs to change the world and we need to take a much larger responsibility in order to do so,” he said, amidst thunderous applause.
Also, he added, the media should be invited not only at installation meetings or completion of projects. “Invite or alert them earlier; tell them we are going to operate on 10 children; come and join us. That sends a much better message and there are journalists who will join you.”
Added Pandya, “The other issue is that 70 per cent of Rotarians in our clubs are not aware what their clubs are doing; we have to involve them. Also, as leaders we have to project an image of integrity in both thoughts and deeds in all that we do, including elections.”
On the need to divide districts, some of which were geographically becoming too arduous for the DG to manage, affecting his/her performance, Saboo asked Basker for a solution to the resistance to such division. “This is because of emotional factors and even if a district has 130 to 140 clubs. My dream is that one day India will have 50-plus districts!”
Agreeing that such a need did exist, Basker said that in southern and western parts of India there is much larger membership compared to the north and the east. There was also the additional problem of different languages if a district had a large geographic area. “That is why we now need to realign our districts based on geographic and language parameters for administrative purposes.”
On the DG’s role in enhancing a club’s performance, Pandya said the weaker or developing clubs can enhance their performance only with the DG’s guidance. “It is the responsibility of district governors to identify and put a system and strategic plan in place to improve those clubs, and in this the DGs should work with the DGEs and DGNs.”
The incoming Director added that having studied membership data for seven years “I find that 25 per cent of our clubs have less than 20 members. While I don’t say that membership is the only criteria, it is an important one. Also, about 10–12 per cent of clubs have less than five members! All of us present here (at the Institute) know why they exist and we require support and commitment from senior leaders to tackle this problem. It is very difficult to close down those clubs because there is somebody behind them. But if we can support the district leadership to close down these clubs, it will be a big benefit for Rotary in our zones.”
Agreeing with Pandya’s observation, Basker added: “It’s very difficult for the DG or RID to shut down any club as long as it is paying the RI dues. The RI Board won’t approve such a shut down if dues are paid and most of these clubs, which have been created for other purposes, are very regular in payment of dues! So my DGs are helpless and it is very difficult for us to take this administrative decision.”
When PRIP Saboo quizzed Sanghvi on how to make a club younger in age, and if people “who are around 55 and very active should be considered a good entry point for Rotary, if they have good experience and time,” the latter responded: “I strongly believe we need a mix of both, if you bring in people with great experience and also time to spare, you will be moving the club in the right direction. With the vigour of the young… a proposal is being pushed in the CoL that Rotaract clubs can directly become Rotary clubs — and experience of those around 55 years, Rotary will benefit.”
Sanghvi added there was a simple solution to get younger members. “Recently at a club installation, I was floored to find that all the 40 members installed were children of Rotarians and were between 36–38 years in age! And then I realised if you can’t convince your own child to be a Rotarian, how will you convince someone else’s child to become one? This is an easy way to reduce our average age.”
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat