Friday, May 7, 2010

Musings, Miscellany n more... Part I

I have been fortunate to have the opportunities to meet and interact with various Rotary leaders at all levels - club, district and beyond. While this gives a broader perspective of the organisation and the varied perceptions and expectations, it also provides, very often, some food for thought. I intend to share such matters which have made me think and which might make others debate those issues.

The first of these posts is based on what RID Tom Thorfinson presented at Chicago. RID Tom, as those who have interacted with him know, is both a thinker and a motivator. In addition he can make others think! In the course of his presentation on Bigger, Better and Bolder clubs he asked a question - are our clubs 'Bold' or are they 'Old' ?

Though this might, on the face of it, sound like a catchy slogan, I felt there were many facets in it for us to think about. Are we bold enough to ensure diversity in membership, adapt our communication strategies to suit current trends and change our working to make it attractive for the next generation?

In particular, it made me think about our clubs' and our districts' public image strategy and actions. Given that, we are, in this part of the world, conditioned by our age old belief, that in service and charity, not talking about it, is a virtue, it is not surprising that public image building is an activity that is generally shunned. I have heard senior rotarians talk dismissively about publicity and public image building during the early days of my rotary career. Now the question is - is this a relevant strategy in this day and age or is it that we choose to be 'old'?

One of the concerns around the globe amongst Rotary leaders is regarding the static membership base over the last decade. If I were to look at the reasons for the same, lack of public awareness about the work we do ranks as one of the main reasons for that. The amount of good work clubs around the world do is phenomenal and mind boggling. Add to that, the unique opportunity this organisation provides for fellowship and networking - We have a winner on our hands. Except that many others are unaware of the same. In a lighter vein, let me quote what I heard cricketer Sidhu say once. He said ' not publicising good work done is equivalent to winking at a girl in the dark - you know what you are doing while the one who ought to know is blissfully unaware'.

We need to let potential beneficiaries know what we are capable of doing.
We need prospective members to know what this organisation can offer.
We need potential donors to know how their money can be leveraged using the manpower and resources that we can bring to the table.
We need governments to know that we have a credible base which they can partner with, to make a difference to the community we live in.

To ensure all these, I feel, we need not do anything that we are not already doing except to make sure the world knows what we are doing. This takes me back to the question that Tom asked. Do we have the guts to be bold or are we going to stick to the old ways?

A bold approach is the need of the hour and the sooner, the clubs realise it, the better it is for our organisation.

I welcome comments and responses from the readers/ followers of my blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

D 3230 PETS

The second PETS I attended over a single weekend, both in God's own country was outstanding. The first thing that struck me was the presence of almost 100% presidents elect and the enthusiasm that was in evidence.

The setting was Taj Residency at Thiruvanthapuram and the ambience this hotel provided perfectly complimented the hard work put in by the organising committee. TRF Trustee Ashok Mahajan set the tone for the sessions to follow with an insightful speech on the ways to be a successful president. PDG CSR followed with a talk on the roles and responsibilities of a president and in his own inimitable style challenged them to set high goals for themselves. The afternoon session saw RRIMC PDG Sam Moova speaking on Membership Development with emphasis on retention and education. I believe that proper education of new members about Rotary is an integral part of any retention strategy as the most vulnerable period is the initial 2-3 years after joing Rotary. If all clubs realise this and start addressing the same, I think we will be able to retain a greater percentage of our members. We should also keep in mind that a person who leaves this organisation is probably the worst advertisement for our organisation.

The second day started with my talk on service projects - the what, why & how of implementing the same. I chose to emphasize the relevance of RI's new strategic plan and its impact on how clubs can conceptualize bigger and better projects using strategic alliances with corporates and like minded organisations. The way forward, I firmly believe, hinges on our ability to forge strategic alliances and leveraging the same to make a bigger difference to our community. This plenary was followed by breakout sessions which emphasized the need for acquiring the necessary soft skills to be a successful president.

I must compliment DGE Oli for thinking of the same and going by the participants' feedback, it was a big hit. I was entrusted with the responsibility of handling the breakout session on Communication.

Though I have handled similar HR sessions outside Rotary, this was the first time I was handling this topic for Rotarians. It was indeed a challenge to devise a content which would be both interesting as well as useful to the Presidents elect. I chose to use some games and role-play to get my message across and was pleasantly surprised to see the enthusiasm of the participants who willingly volunteered to play those games and the parts in the 'role-play'. The other sessions were on team building and club administration handled by Mr.Sivakumar and PDG Subu.

The afternoon session on Public relations, a key component of our RIPE's 'bolder' theme, was handled by PDG Reghu of D3211 and he certainly brought home the need for PR and ways to successfully carry that out. His subtle sense of humour certainly kept the participants interested. Thereafter,the district chairs of various avenues answered questions from PEs.

The third and final day started with a talk on 'Joy of giving' by Rev Fr.Jegath Gasper. If there was one speech I have heard in recent times, which kept the audience spell bound and at the same time made them think , then this was it. His mastery over both english and tamil and the ease with which he switched from one to another was simply amazing. His profound knowledge was very much in evidence right through and he set the perfect platform for the seesion on TRF that followed.

Rtn T.K.Balakrishnan spoke on the resources available. It was extremely informative and am sure the PEs would have found it very useful. PDG Sunil Zachariah of D 3201 then spoke on 'Go forth to serve'. He brought forth his vast knowledge, combined it with his inimitable delivery style laced with humour, to make his point.
The entertainment on both evenings provided enough opportunities for the PEs to network and bond with each other. There was also plenty on offer to take care of both the hungry and the thirsty! The kerala theme evening on saturday was well received by the participants. The costume was ideal for that weather.
I must congratulate DGE Oli on many counts. One, for motivating all PEs to ensure near perfect attendance. Second for the way he had designed the program where plenary and break out sessions were judiciously mixed. It ensured the participants were given all necessary inputs and in addition, they had enough opportunities to get their doubhts clarified. Third, for the way he has moulded the entire team into one single unit where each one is ready to help another, so that the entire team can march forward in the coming year. It is often said that the strength of a chain is its weakest link and I dont see any weak link in this chain. Fourth, for the way he has demonstrated his commitment to continuity. Both the DGNs were there with their spouses for the entire duration of the event. This augurs well for the district. Congratulations to both DGN Sampath and DGN Raja. Fifth, for the two addresses he made, one on the first day and one on the last day, where he spoke about his thoughts on working together to make Rotary easy, effective and enjoyable.
I am sure a huge team must have worked to organise this event on such a scale. However I must specially compliment PETS leader Rtn.Mohan Raghavan, District secretary designate Rtn.Nagendra Babu and AG (admin) designate Rtn. Nazar for the way they handled everything with ease with always a smile on their lips!

Friday, April 16, 2010

D3211 - PETS

It has been a hectic weekend with two PETS to attend and address. I shall talk about my home district later. First D3211 PETS at Kovalam near Trivandrum.

DGE Scaria Jose should be complimented for having the vision and the courage to see it through. I understand this is the first occasion in recent times that a PETS of that district has been conducted with the funds collected through registration. RID Ravindran's bold initiatives in the last one year have started yielding results. I believe, D3211 PETS was, in the past, a sponsored affair funded by rotarians who intended to contest for elections to DG. Congratulations Scaria! You have succeeded in your mission. It was a well attended programme with earnest rotarians' participation.

I had an opportunity to address them on Bigger, Better and Bolder service projects. Eventhough many would have been hungry and some thirsty (!) when I took the mike, I was impressed with the number of people who chose to stay and listen to me. I had to convey my message quickly lest they lose interest. I decided to highlight the role of a club in ensuring the sustainability and workability of a service project and how it is necessary to implement a 'signature' project to keep the members motivated and instill in them a sense of pride and belonging.

I believe the future of our organisation depends to a large extent on the pride which members feel, which in turn would motivate them to invite their friends to join and to actively participate in the projects of their club.

Kudos to trainer PDG.Ramachandran Nair for putting together a series of meaningful sessions. The foremost challenge for DGE Scaria is to make the clubs bigger as the average size of a club is lower than in most Indian districts. His initiatives on 'enable the disabled' with PDG Dr.George at the helm of that, certainly deserves appreciation . I am planning to keep myself updated about the progress of this initiative.

In all, a vibrant district with a bold leader waiting to take charge!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

RIPE Ray in Madurai

Closely following Kalyan's visit came RIPE Ray's visit to Madurai (D3000) alongwith RID Ravindran and Rotarian Coordinator Duanne Sterling on 29th and 30th of March. It was indeed thoughtful of Ravi to request the world leader to visit and address rotarians in cities and towns which have never before witnessed such a high profile visitor.

Ray addressed an intercity meeting in the evening wherein he laid emphasis on the need to revisit some of our age old customs and practices, look at its relevance in today's world and to have the courage to change those that need to be changed. This was a refreshingly new thinking and which should re energise our organisation. For long, many rotarians have bemoaned that RI is becoming increasingly bureaucratic with its forces of inertia being too strong to permit any meaningful change in its working. RID Ravi spoke briefly and in his own inimitable style touched upon the need to get rid of the politics so often prevalent in our region. Ravi's 'no nonsense' approach has found a lot of takers and it augurs well for our organisation.

The evening dinner at Hotel Heritance was a classy affair and the organisers had left no stone unturned to make it a memorable evening with the lavish spread and unique ambience.

The following morning, Ray addressed the pres elects of D3000. It was a well attended program and those present certainly gained from listening to Ray's vision. He stressed on the fact that in the coming year, the emphasis is going to be on strengthening the clubs to make them Bigger, Better and Bolder. His 3B slogan has really caught on and I expect to hear this on many more occasions in the coming months.

I used this opportunity to discuss with Duanne and Ravi about my new assignment as RC and got a lot of inputs from both, that should hold hold me in good stead. Hopefully before July 1 we will have a region specific action plan and a set of deliverables and I am looking forward to meeting with Ravi later this month.

In all it was a memorable event, notwithstanding the extremely hot conditions at Madurai. a special word of appreciation to DGE Valliappan for looking into every minute detail of organising such a big event. His presentation on his district's action plan for the coming year was excellent and amply demonstrated that he has the vision to dream big and the ability to make those dreams come true. I will be one of those wishing and hoping he does well.

Visit of RIPN Kalyan

A hectic week that was. RIPN Kalyan chose to visit Tiruvannamalai in our district alongwith Binota. This man continues to amaze me with his simplicity and humility, everytime I meet him. There was a press meet prior to the intercity meeting. This was one of the well attended press meets I have seen in recent times. What also set this one apart was the quality of the questions posed by the reporters. They were precise and pertinent. Kalyan fielded them all with his customary ease and disarming smile. I had the pleasure of being the translator during the press meet. His statements regarding the end of our war against polio was widely reported the following day. There was also an exclusive interview with a journo from 'Vikatan' group.

Later that evening, Kalyan addressed the gathering at a huge marriage hall which was packed with rotarians and their families who had come in large numbers. His call to all Indian rotarians to rise above their self imposed limitations to demonstrate to the world that 'we are a force to reckon with', was received well amidst thunderous applause. He exhorted rotarians not to ask what RI would do for their district but to ask what we can do to make a difference.

Another significant feature of this program was the presence of many RI officers from the neighbouring districts. Kudos to DGE Sampath and his team for putting up a great show.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

D3060 PETS

Had been to PETS of D3060 at Surendra nagar near Ahmedabad. An invitation I had accepted as it gave me a chance to visit the city of my Alma mater after almost 20 years.

An extremely focussed programme. Kudos to DGE Devang for having the guts to experiment with methodology by increasing the interactive sessions and making them result oriented. Had the chance to interact with most club presidents of 2010-11 and found them all to be motivated and raring to go. Devang's efforts at making the outcome in all the focus areas measurable should be complimented. Over the years I have noticed that clubs perform better if the Governor makes their actions measurable at the end of the year. Maybe this a fallout of our corporate lifestyle and quite alien to the functioning of a service organisation. Yet this is most effective and the sooner we accept this and integrate it in our systems, the better it is for our organisation.

And that Saurashtra dinner is something I am gonna remember for a long time!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

D2980 PETS

Had been to PETS of D2980 over the weekend. Stressed on the need for a signature project for a club to make it more visible in the community. Here, I thought, the need was to emphasize 'Bolder' of our 3B formula!