– Larry Stone
From its start, Rotary has served as a vector for “disruption,” a disturbance that interrupts a standard event or process. While we often think of disruption in negative terms, it has led to exciting and positive outcomes in the Rotary world, our community, and our club.
Starting with Paul Harris’s first meeting of Chicago businessmen, Rotary has provided unorthodox solutions that disrupt “the way we’ve always done it” and solve problems that plague people’s lives. A water well in rural India provides the key to a child’s education by freeing her from carrying the family’s water all day. A new factory in India opens using techniques learned through a GSE experience in the US and provides jobs to 300 people who would otherwise live in poverty. A son in Nigeria can complete his education and support his parents and siblings because Rotary ended the threat of Polio. Rotary exists to disrupt the status quo with a focus on building a stronger future.
We can see disruptive forces at work through our own Oklahoma City Rotary Club and the effect it has on our community. Our club has grown into the world’s largest Rotary Club. Our larger membership has increased our diversity, enabled our club to take on more significant projects, and created connections throughout the Oklahoma City area that didn’t exist before, but our size has also disrupted the social aspect of the club. Our members have recognized the issues our rapid growth has caused and responded by creating the Rotary After Hours program to increase social connections. A Thursday morning breakfast to facilitate makeups for our members has blossomed into a key connection point for regular attendees. As inevitable change disrupts our understanding of who we are as a club, members have stepped up to insure than the club stays true to its objectives.
Over the past year we have experienced significant disruption in our communications process. Our cost to produce the legacy paper newsletter kept increasing even as membership indicated their receptiveness to an electronic version. As production costs “disrupted” our normal newsletter production, members responded and expanded our communications options. Today, OKC Rotary has an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Members now respond to event notices via email and we have a website and electronic newsletter system that leverages other disruptive technologies – smartphones, tablets, and the internet – to make our communication faster, cheaper, and more effective. In the near future we will implement an electronic member directory and we can look forward to one day moving our election process to the internet. This disruption has opened up possibilities for coordination that we never had before.
Constant changes to the status quo in Rotary and our Club 29 community may seem unnecessary and irksome to some, but over the long run, these disruptions and our thoughtful reactions will keep our club functional, cohesive, and responsive. OKC Rotary has evolved to meet the challenges that our leadership role in the Rotary world requires of the us. We have laid a solid foundation to attract new members and have demonstrated how our Rotary values will continue to guide our club going forward. As you notice these disruptions, take time to thank our members who rise to the challenges they present. Those members are the force that guarantees that our club will continue to grow and thrive in a constantly changing world.