Future Vision: Foundation in a Time of Change

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of a speech given at the R.I. convention in New Orleans

Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair 2010-11

Around 2005, it became apparent that the Trustees would have no choice but to change the Foundation. The Matching Grants program had experienced astronomical growth, and the Foundation administration was no longer equipped to support it. Essentially, the Trustees had to decide whether to significantly increase staffing in Evanston, or whether it was time to take a look and see if this growing pain offered an opportunity. They chose the latter route, and an in-depth strategic planning process ensued. Two consulting firms — Grant Thornton and Jefferson Wells — examined The Rotary Foundation, and nearly 10,000 Rotarians answered a comprehensive questionnaire. Based on the results of this feedback, the Future Vision Committee and Foundation Trustees have worked very hard to come forward with the Future Vision Plan.

So let me fill you in on some of the basics.

Future Vision funds many popular activities through two grant models: district grants and global grants. District grants are incredibly flexible and fund both club and district activities using the District Designated Fund (DDF). Global grants are designed to fund larger humanitarian projects with sustainable, measurable outcomes, as well as scholarships and vocational training teams, in one or more of the six areas of focus.

Future Vision represents a philosophical shift in the way the Foundation funds Rotarians’ activities. In the classic Foundation model, when planning, Rotarians are asked to pick their favourite activities, learn the rules of the program that supports them, and carry them out.

Under Future Vision, the Foundation asks Rotarians to start their planning by identifying a pressing need and working with the community to determine the best activity or combination of activities through which to address it, and then carry them out. Of course, Rotarians have been identifying needs in the classic model all along, but now the Foundation is working in alignment with that process to better support it.

Future Vision also places a big emphasis on making activities sustainable. The idea is that the benefits of a particular activity will continue and that the community will have greater capacity to address future needs, even after the Rotary clubs have finished their work.

One hundred districts were selected for the Future Vision pilot, and they were specially trained here in San Diego last year. They began using the new grants model on 1 July. So how have they responded to this new plan? With some pretty exceptional projects. The Rotary Club of Kpalimé, Togo, in District 9100 and the Rotary Club of Paris-Porte d’Orléans, France, in District 1660 have partnered to provide equipment and materials to a pediatric center and to establish a training program on public health and nutrition in Kpalimé. The sponsors have made the project sustainable by training staff members at the center and by charging a small fee for services, thereby ensuring that the center has the necessary funds to stay open.

Where scholarships and vocational training teams are concerned, Future Vision offers tremendous freedom. I would argue that Future Vision improves upon the current scholarships program significantly. Future Vision district grants fund scholars either locally or abroad at any level, for any length of time, either for a degree or certificate program or simply for a period of study. The current timeline for Ambassadorial Scholarships is lengthy — 18 months. Scholarships under Future Vision offer maximum flexibility and a significantly shortened timeline. Your district can keep an 18-month timeline if it works for you, but it certainly is no longer necessary.

Under global grants, clubs and districts may use their cash or DDF to receive a World Fund match for graduate-level students studying abroad under one of the six areas of focus. Districts can opt to fund the student for a single year or for an entire degree program, up to four years in length. To date, we have mostly seen applications for students to receive a flat grant of US$30,000 — the global grants budget minimum — but this is not a requirement.

Awards can be higher than that, thereby enabling talented individuals to complete needed graduate-level degree programs that will make a difference in the world.

For example, the Rotary Club of La Jolla Golden Triangle [in California, USA] has worked closely with the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego to identify strong candidates within peace and conflict prevention/resolution for sponsorship. The result is two global grants, each for $30,000, to sponsor a student from Quito, Ecuador, and another from Kampala, Uganda, for study.

At this point, I’d like to move on to Group Study Exchange (GSE) and vocational training teams. Vocational training teams are not GSE, although there can be some similarities.

Goodwill exchanges, similar to GSE, are carried out under the auspices of district grants.

Team travel to another country to implement a project, provide training, or receive training is carried out under the auspices of vocational training teams funded by global grants. The latter bear minimal resemblance to GSE.

So what has changed? The biggest changes are the fact that a goodwill exchange is no longer funded entirely by World Fund but instead relies on DDF through district grants, a funding model similar to that used currently in Ambassadorial Scholarships. Another change is that the Foundation no longer pairs districts for goodwill exchanges. The third change is really exciting. Under Future Vision, you are freed from program rules. Exchanges no longer have to be four to six weeks in length. They last as long as you want, be that two weeks or six months, and they cost exactly what they cost. If you can do a goodwill exchange through district grants for $5,000, that’s all it’s going to cost.

If you are interested in global grants, we’ve seen some highly creative and effective proposals that bundle vocational training teams with projects and do not involve an exchange at all. For example, we had a team of heart specialists travel from District 6560 in Indiana [USA] to District 9200 [Uganda] to perform a series of heart surgeries on children while simultaneously training their Ugandan counterparts. The project is sustainable because now doctors in both countries are knowledgeable on the techniques needed to perform these surgeries.

These are impressive grants, and there are many others. The applications that the Foundation has received for both district grants and global grants are simply outstanding. And for the first time ever, the Foundation, with the assistance of the Rotarians, will be gathering data on the success of these grants and their impact on the beneficiaries. Over time, this information will be used to illustrate the impact that Rotarians, through The Rotary Foundation, are making in addressing world needs.

Feedback from the pilot districts will help us determine what works and what doesn’t.

Every time a Rotarian contacts the Future Vision staff, the Foundation records the inquiry.

The data collected will help ensure that the Trustees have the most accurate information possible to determine what changes are needed.

So what sort of questions will the Trustees review when it is time to evaluate the plan?

Well, we know that some Rotarians are extremely concerned about the future of GSE, the loss of a World Fund match for smaller Matching Grant-sized projects, and the provision of spending plans for district grants. We’ll have to look at whether those concerns are offset by the benefits of the new plan.

One governor-elect wrote me early last summer to say: “I get so tired, tired on this qualification process, which is a wonder of the highest level of bureaucracy. . . . I am trying to find out what is wrong, something is wrong — my signature on the memorandum of understanding was missing, it was long ago I signed it . . . something is missing in District Bank Account Information in spite of all the boxes being tagged. . . . In my childish mind, I thought we were to get extra help for this qualification.” I shall not tell you what country he is from, as I do not want to offend anyone should there be Swedes in the audience.

(Swedish flag appears on the screen.)

In the fall I met a governor who said to me: “I became so happy when I found out that our district had become a pilot. But with the complicated implementation of the plan, I wish we had not.” Again, I would not wish to tell you which country he was from. (Canadian flag appears on the screen.)

These frustrations have now been settled and these districts are following along fine, but as you can understand, with change there is often some pain involved initially. The Foundation is closely tracking these concerns. The successes, as evidenced by the applications, are so impressive, but we want to ensure that everyone’s experience is as positive as this Rotarian’s, who shared with me his delight with the speed at which his district’s first global grant scholarship was awarded. He said that “thanks to the online system, [he] was able to ‘sign off’ on the application even while traveling abroad.”

So, what about the 432 other districts that are Doing Good in the World with the current programs and supporting the Foundation while we test this new model? Well, the time has come to get ready, and I have some tips on how to get started.

To begin, I would encourage you to consider the model on its own merits. Among the pilot districts, the ones that have struggled the most are those that have attempted to push the existing Foundation model into Future Vision. Their efforts have been met with frustration, and they have often missed out on some of the incredible new opportunities available through Future Vision.

Second, take a look at the timelines established in your district. They are different under Future Vision.

Go ahead and give qualification a try. It is genuinely helpful in pointing out the types of records your club or district should maintain related to grants and in outlining best practices for managing grants.

Finally, I would encourage you to educate yourself on the new model. There is a wealth of resources available on the website, including e-learning modules and a qualification tool kit. However, your best source of information initially may be Future Vision Pilot News, an e-newsletter available to anyone. You can subscribe on the website.

As you have understood, change comes with some frustrations, but also with some great opportunities. It can sometimes be challenging to talk about the Future Vision Plan. I almost expected people to fall asleep during this presentation. But I have only seen one person do so and that was not my fault — he was already sound asleep when I started.

Thank you very much!

Other resources on this topic:

Stenhammar video (1 min.:54sec.) on Future Vision Plan

Overview Future Vision Plan video-powerpoint 





Future Vision Update July 19, 2011 webinar video 


About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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3 Responses to Future Vision: Foundation in a Time of Change

  1. Pingback: Rotary Fdn. rates high » Daybreak Rotary Club of Marble Falls

  2. Pingback: Program 2011/11/01: Wally Kronzer – RI’s Future Vision Pilot Program » Daybreak Rotary Club of Marble Falls

  3. Charles Mbuthia Kamangu says:

    I am in Kenya; East africa. Does the Future Vision programs support institution to train out of school youth vocational training. I founded Mount Kenya Center for Capacity Building to equip out of school youth with livelihood skills. I am looking for support to up training halls, halls of residence(dormitories), library and a dining hall.

    The project is aimed at developing a community which has no access to skills training around the slopes of mount Kenya.
    You could introduce us to institution who could support our course.

    Thank you.

    Charles Mbuthia
    Nairobi; Kenya

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