Embracing a new Rotary

Editor’s note: The pandemic has challenged the way our clubs operate, but it has also presented some opportunities. A Rotaract club shares lessons they have learned from virtual meetings.

Kennedy Gayah

By Kennedy Gayah, Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central, Kenya

Members of Rotary and Rotaract enjoy the comfort, love, and unity they experience during a club meeting, whether it be sharing a meal, enjoying a drink, or chatting with friends who have become like family. Our in-person meetings have been a principle means of connection. But COVID-19 has changed all that. We have been forced to be innovative, creative, and flexible to recreate the camaraderie of our clubs. This is a blessing in disguise.

As clubs embrace online meetings with excitement, we are establishing a new routine amid all this uncertainty. It is a time to think differently, act differently, and create a different impact.

For too long, members have had mixed feelings about club meetings. Good meetings were enjoyable and left us with a sense of accomplishment. Bad ones left us feeling we had wasted our time. Online meetings allow us a restart. They can provide an avenue to share and listen to the thoughts of all our members. They can avoid that troubling aspect of some in-person meetings where discussions were dominated by one person. (You’re probably thinking about that person as you read this, or, you may be that person.)

Lessons learned

A key lesson my club has learned after two months of virtual meetings is that it opens room for deliberate brainstorming and effective knowledge sharing. This is made possible within the meeting itself or on the chat side. Collaboration appears to be easier and more effective in this online setting. It allows different members to openly engage, improving member involvement.

Online meetings also provides flexibility in meeting schedules. We no longer have to just meet over lunch or after-work. We can try a mix of both. Our clubs can keep accommodating the members who are comfortable with our current guidelines while attracting new ones who previously were not able to join us at the fixed meeting times and places. If we can flex how we meet, we can flex time for new members to grow our numbers.

We can also further improve our fundraising by use of digitized social fundraising and crowdfunding tools. This approach will help reach people beyond our own Rotary circles. We will also save on the cost of in-person meetings and travel, money we can use elsewhere to support our projects.

Honestly, not everyone will jump at the transformation online. This is not a call for us to change what we do forever, but rather an encouragement to expand how we do it. This is an opportunity to improve our operations and significantly grow our impact. Let’s connect the world by opening opportunities.

About the author: Kennedy Gayah is the Rotaract Representative-elect for District 9212 (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan). He is a member of the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central and a past president of the Rotaract Club of University of Nairobi, Lower Kabete.

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