Let us embrace the digital age: Holger Knaack

RI President Holger Knaack
RI President Holger Knaack

The Covid pandemic, while bringing so much suffering to the entire globe, has also enabled Rotary to open opportunities in many different ways, such as this institute and the virtual meetings we hold. These are so important as they bring leaders together to brainstorm on how to take on the challenges ahead. We are now in a time of rapid change and we have to keep working together to ensure Rotary comes out of this difficult time in a much stronger position,” said RI President Holger Knaack, while delivering the convocation address at the GETS event for RI zones 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Striking a pensive note, he said, “Rotary was founded in a world that doesn’t exist any longer, it is a different world now, which moves faster and is harder to comprehend. And it is filled with crises to manage. And yet it gives us new opportunities.”

He said even before this crisis, people were meeting and keeping connected to different friends in different ways. “Social media and online connections were already there but they have now become more important. We are all now used to working virtually. Most important, the younger generation that has grown up in this world, has a stronger desire for service and connections.”

But they didn’t want to wait for their time to lead. “They want to play meaningful roles today. And if Rotary cannot provide them a platform, they will form their own types of connections and find opportunities. The world will not slow down for us, let us capture this moment to grow Rotary, make it stronger, more adaptable and more aligned to our world as it is today.”

Let us make a concerted effort to reach out to people who feel left out and find ways to make them feel a part of the Rotary family.
Holger Knaack, RI President

Calling upon the incoming governors to embrace the challenges the post-Covid world is going to throw up, Knaack said that crucial values of Rotary, such as fellowship, integrity, leadership, service and diversity “will remain constant. But Rotary has to change and will change and even if some fellow Rotarians complain that it doesn’t feel like the old Rotary, we will change.”

Congratulating the DGEs for getting the unique opportunity to lead their districts and urging them to make the most of it, he said: “it is up to all of us to remake Rotary for these new times, and to wholeheartedly embrace the ideals and commitments of younger people eager to find an outlet for their idealism. We must become an organisation that embraces the digital age, and make it a part of all that we do. It is important that we create a new Rotary for the new age. Rotary is not just a club that you join, it is an invitation for endless opportunities in both big and historic projects such as ending polio as well as small community projects at the club level.”

 

Ideas for change

Putting forth a bunch of ideas on how Rotary would change, he said one of the ways would be “by creating new and different club models. Young people can be the architects of these new clubs. We have to be open to new approaches. Some new clubs can be formed around a Rotary area of focus. Or maybe each district could have a club of its alumni. Or new clubs could be associated or affiliated with corporates or some organisations. The possibilities and opportunities are limitless. I am challenging Rotaractors, young Rotarians and DGEs to become architects of this change. I would like them to unleash this creativity and seek new ways to invite new Rotarians to clubs in a way that suits their interests and needs.”

Also, underlining the need to embrace diversity, the RI president said an “international approach to diversity” was very essential and district leaders would have to ensure that every club “embraces diversity in ways that are meaningful for members and cultures. The key part of that is the number of women in Rotary everywhere. I am very proud that Jennifer Jones has been elected as RIPN, and in President Shekhar’s term, nine positions on the RI Board will be held by women. This is great progress and we need to see this across our clubs.”

It is important to ensure that Rotary makes progress along with more women members. “Let us make a concerted effort to reach out to people who feel left out and find ways to make them feel a part of the Rotary family.” In building leadership within the organisation people should be selected for leadership positions at every level based on their talent and inclination to lead, “regardless of their background. We should not forget that ours is a wonderful organisation that has done so much to bring people together from all parts of the globe. Our vision statement is for a world where people unite and take action to bring lasting change in our communities and ourselves,” he added.

From L: RID Kamal Sanghvi, Amita and RIDE Mahesh Kotbagi
From L: RID Kamal Sanghvi, Amita and RIDE Mahesh Kotbagi

Knaack also urged every Rotary club to set up its plan and vision. “I would like every Rotary club to have a strategic meeting at least once a year, and ask where its members want to be in five years and define what value they bring to their members.” Rotarians know what makes Rotary so unique but people in the communities need to know the value of Rotary and the kind of opportunities members who join Rotary get. This was a challenge all Rotarians needed to take up.

RI director Kamal Sanghvi thanked GETS and GNTS chair Mahesh Kotbagi and said he had chosen him to lead the training seminars “well before he became RIDE! I thank him for the fantastic job he has done in organising this training programme so thoroughly and meticulously.”

Addressing the incoming governors, he said, “Each of you have got a great opportunity before you to make a difference in your district and communities. As RI President Elect Shekhar Mehta advised you, go where the eagles dare, walk your talk. Rotary gives each of us the opportunity to live our dreams, opportunity to think big and make a difference to the world by doing good.”

Urging them to make the most of the one valuable year given to them, Sanghvi said, “You are the chosen ones from your districts and the community, you are future leaders of not only Rotary but your community and the onus lies on your shoulders that the confidence invested in you is justified. Take the leadership within you to a higher platform. Evolve, grow and make sure you justify the confidence placed in you.”

The governors, who had all turned up for the virtual GETS, along with their spouses in their traditional finery, were all given graduation certificates online by President Knaack.

Addressing the graduates, RIDE Kotbagi asked them to make the best of the opportunity they had as governors elect, as this one year would not return.

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