By Chris Offer
I have had the opportunity to help design an imaginative Rotary event. The Rotary Day of Dialogue in Vancouver, British Columbia, on 21 November, will give voice to Rotary members’ ideas on how to transform Rotary.
John Anderson, governor of District 5040 (British Columbia) conceived the idea as an opportunity for Rotarians to exchange thoughts on what they want Rotary to look like now and in the future. It is a day to share ideas on how to mend broken Rotary clubs, grow membership, expand service, and invite young leaders into Rotary.
The day is built around a group of 10 initiators — not discussion leaders or presenters or lecturers. Each initiator will speak for only five minutes, to engage and challenge the audience on topics such as: characteristics of an effective Rotary club, Rotary’s new voice, ways to attract young professionals, and attributes of a good Rotarian. Each theme will be followed by 30 minutes of dialogue under the guidance of a moderator.
Vancouver has a unique venue for the Rotary Day of Dialogue. Simon Fraser University’s Wosk Centre is an inspiring space, designed for dialogue and interaction. Five concentric tiers provide desk seating for 154 participants, with microphones at every seat. Each Rotary participant will have an opportunity to discuss, listen, learn, and take action.
The venue selection is a key element in this approach to Rotary learning and discussion. Traditional conference sites and ballrooms will work if appropriately set up. But the use of a roaming or floor microphone will not encourage discussion; it is essential to have as many microphones as possible to foster dialogue.
The moderator needs the skills to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and that no one dominates the discussion. He or she must also be able to probe in order to nurture the discussion and help participants articulate their thoughts. In Vancouver, we have a Rotarian who has worked in radio and as a TV news anchor.
Each Rotary member will be asked to set personal and club goals. The lists of goals won’t be collected, but the moderator will ask that some of them be shared. And the district leaders are committed to reviewing the district strategic plan to ensure that it reflects the day’s discussion.
The success of the event will be gauged by what action is taken in the weeks and months after the event.
About the author: Chris Offer, a member of the Rotary Club of Ladner in British Columbia, is a past governor of District 5040 and serves on the Rotary International Membership Committee. He and his wife, Penny, are Major Donors and Arch Klumph Society members.