TRF Trustee Calls for Radical Changes to Rotary Leadership Model

Editor’s Note: The following address was located in the record of the RI 2011 Conventions Proceedings, page 32.

By Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, 2010-2011 Trustee Chair

Now, ladies and gentleman, I would like to give my vision, my own private vision (emphasis of editor) on how I see The Rotary Foundation in its future and the impact it might have on RI.

In order to know where we want to go, we need to know where we come from. And I think we know where we come from. We come from 1917, when Arch Klumph started an endowment which became the seed of The Rotary Foundation.

It really didn’t catch on until 1947, when our founder, Paul Harris, died and Rotarians around the world wanted to remember him by donations to what then became the Foundation. In the beginning, it was only educational programs. Humanitarian programs did not come until the very beginning of the 1970s. And in the 1980s, of course, we have the polio eradication program. In the 1990s, we have the Permanent Fund, and in the beginning of the year 2000, we entered the peace scholar program.

So I think really we know where we come from and where we are. We know exactly where we are: We are “this close” to eradicating polio.

You all know that we have four endemic countries, which are India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. And we have some re-infected countries. But the secret to all of this success is to get the poliovirus out of the endemic countries. And take a listen to this: In 2011, including last Friday, in Afghanistan and in India, we have one case per country.

So we are “this close” from eradicating polio, but there is a long way to go. But we are “this close.” So where are we then going? Well, the Future Vision Plan is on. And the Future Vision Plan is a revolution to our award giving. We are now going to concentrate on two awards: global grants and district grants. But parallel to our Future Vision Plan, Rotary International has a strategic plan. And in my opinion, even though Rotary is a huge organization, I don’t think we can have two plans of that magnitude, and therefore they will have to merge eventually.

Actually, we are already there in a way, because the RI Strategic Plan has three legs, and the middle leg includes the six areas of focus from the Future Vision Plan. So we are already on our way to merge these two plans, whether we have thought of it or not. But we are. Now the organizations cannot merge, because RI is a trade organization and TRF is a charitable organization, and as long as we are registered in the state of Illinois, we have to follow the rules and regulations of the state of Illinois, and also the American constitution.

And if we were to merge these two, then we would probably lose the tax exemption and not be a charitable organization any longer. And this will not be a good step for us, because the American Rotarians are one-third of the Rotarians worldwide, but they donate almost 50 percent of the donations to The Rotary Foundation.

So we definitely can’t be without you. However, we can still have these two organizations strive towards the same common goals. Now, one of the issues with the Future Vision Plan is to find strategic partners, great strategic partners, big ones that we would like to cooperate with.

And there are three ways that we could cooperate. One is that we give them money to an expertise that that we do not have ourselves. This is really nothing that we want. The other way is that they give us money to an expertise that we do have. That’s really the way we want it. And the third issue is there is going to be a match, and that’s probably the way it’s going to be. It could be a match 1 to 1, 1 to 5, 10 to 1 — we really don’t know, but some sort of match is probably the way to go.

Now, if I was a chairman of a huge foundation outside of Rotary, and they came to me from Rotary and said we would like to have to you as a strategic partner, the first thing I would ask would be, “Who is your chairman and how long is his or her mandate?” And if I got the message that we change chairmen every single year, then I would probably be very reluctant to partner with such an organization because there is no continuity in it.

Now, you may argue and say, “OK, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has joined us, and we still have one chairman every year.” Now, the difference of this is that all of the negotiations with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have gone through our International PolioPlus Committee (IPPC), and IPPC has lived for 17 years, and during those 17 years we’ve had two chairmen, Bill Sergeant and Bob Scott. And during the same period of time, The Rotary Foundation has had 17 chairmen.

Partnerships need continuity, in my opinion. Therefore, again in my opinion, I think that The Rotary Foundation chair needs to sit for at least four years. And as the trustees today sit for four years, we think we will have them sit for six years.

And keep in mind something about the trustees: They are 15 people. All of them have been governors, nine of them have been RI directors, and four of them have been presidents of RI. It is a very experienced group of people, probably the most experienced group of people we have in the entire organization. They are worth thinking about.

Now, if we get a four-year chairman, there is, of course, a risk that we would get a lunatic running this place for four years. But I come from the business world, and I have always been calculating with risks. And when it happens, so what?

Now, how do we make this change? Well, I think we need to go to the Council on Legislation. The Council on Legislation is our parliament. It meets every three years, and there is a representative from each of the 530-plus districts around the world. And these clubs and districts can come to the Council with resolutions and with enactments. And I personally think that we are a victim of our own Council — not of the individuals who go there, but of the fact that 80 percent of the representatives in each Council are new. To me, that means that the Council has no memory.

I’ll give you a good example of what happened at the last Council: There was an enactment about putting our travel policy into our bylaws. First of all, I have never heard of any organization, whether it’s a corporation, whether it’s any kind of entity in industry that has its travel policy in the bylaws. But there was such an enactment that came around and that was adopted. And during the discussion about this, the presenter referred to the previous Council, when the same thing was discussed — but, of course that was new to 80 percent of the Council representatives. And he also referred to the one prior to that. It’s even more diluted to the discussion. People in the audience didn’t really know what they were talking about.

So this enactment was adopted, and we now have the travel policy in our bylaws. And there it says that some of our senior leaders, including myself, shall — not can, shall — travel the highest or first [class] in business. There are many occasions when I don’t need that. I don’t even want that. But now it’s an enactment. And people have come up to me and said, “Well, since you are the chairman, you can waive that, can’t you?” Now if I can waive for myself, why shouldn’t I be able to waive for all the others? And furthermore, there are several other bylaws that I don’t like. Shall I then be able to take those away as well?

I have a responsibility as chairman to follow our rules and regulations. Therefore, I just have to follow our bylaws. Now based on this, a rumour has been circling around that all trustees travel first class. And let me here, in front of all of you 20,000 people, say that no trustee travels first class, apart from me.

Now how could we have avoided this? We could have avoided this by lobbying. Lobbying is a dirty word in many countries, but to me as a businessman, lobbying is the way of doing business. We could have lobbied. And lobbying is nothing new to us in Rotary, because we do have a special task force of polio eradication — a polio advocacy task force for the United States, only headed by Past President Jim Lacy. And he works with the Senate in Washington, D.C., with a lobbying firm to help us get $100 million every year from the U.S. government to our polio eradication program. So lobbying is nothing new to us.

I think in order for us to get a four-year term for the chairman of the Foundation, we just have to lobby heavily on the next Council or a future Council. And when this has passed, I can see no possibility — and this is my mission on the impact that this would have to RI, since The Rotary Foundation is The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, they belong together and having a chairman for four years in the Foundation — that we could have a president for one year.

So, I see a golden opportunity here. This whole convention talks about the new generation, the Y generation, and with all due respect for all previous presidents of RI and present and myself, most of us have been over 70 years when we have been in office. And we are asking the younger generation to partner with me? I don’t tweet.

I’m not on Facebook. I don’t speak their language. So why should they partner with me? So this is an opportunity that maybe we should do: Make the presidency of Rotary International a paid position for four or eight or five years and go out in the world, go out in the industry, and find people in the age of 40, that look upon such a job as the next step in their own development in the future.

He or she may already be a Rotarian amongst us. Let’s go out and do this. This chairman would not replace the general secretary, because the chairman would be running the strategic decisions and future of the organization. The general secretary would remain with administration. Now if we do this, we cannot change our theme every year. And I’ve been against changing our theme for many, many years. So we will have to find one theme that will be forever.

Remember Henry Ford? When he developed in 1909 the Model-T Ford? He sold 50 million of those until 1927, but then he started to change the model. He was adjusting his car models to his future customers, their demand, and what they wanted from a car. And he adjusted every year, or every second year or every third year, until the model we have today. But there was one thing in common in all of this: It was still a Ford.

And I think Rotary is the same. It has the same principles and the same mission. We need to change with the times. And this will not happen all by itself.

This will not happen all by itself. It is like at ketchup bottle. You take off the lid, you turn it upside down, and nothing happens until you shake it. And when you do, you get the ketchup you want on your fries. And I think it’s time to take off the lid of the Rotary bottle, turn it upside down, and shake it. Start shaking it, and by doing that, we can capture those big organizations that we want to align with. And we can capture the Y generation to be members of our club, because we are changing ourselves according to the times we are living in, and for the future.

And we can enhance the thing that we should really do, which is good in the world through Service Above Self. Thank you very much.

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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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