Changeover Event: A time for reflection on the past year and visualizing the year to come

 

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PDG Ingrid Neitsch pins DG Tracey Vavrek during Changeover Event on June 27

For outgoing District Governor Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West), the District Changeover held on June 27 was an opportunity to reflect on the previous 12 months and highlight the many achievements of 2018-2019.

For incoming District Governor Tracey Vavrek (RC of Grande Prairie After Five), it was a chance to set the agenda for the next Rotary year.

Before passing the title of District Governor to Tracey, Ingrid described her “fabulous adventure” to approximately 200 Rotarians from across the District who were in attendance at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre in Edmonton.

“It has been my honour and privilege to lead and represent this District,” she said. “Our theme was ‘Be the Inspiration!’ I set out to inspire our members, and our members inspired me! The commitment and passion that I witnessed first-hand is unforgettable.”

Of her visits to the 57 clubs in our District, she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the many community tours and community events, some of which were unique.”

Ingrid recalled that a year earlier, at the June 2018 changeover event, she had presented her vision and plan for 2018-2019. “I explained our District planning process and the integrated Strategic Plan. I announced a new direction and initiative and outlined important goals I wanted our District to accomplish.”

Becoming a Peacebuilder District

IMG_7170The major goal for this past year was to be recognized as a Peacebuilder District by Rotary International, for which a donation of US$25,000 to support RI’s Peace Centres was a key criteria. The support for this initiative exceeded Ingrid’s expectations.

“I am absolutely thrilled by the support from our clubs, individuals and District. YES! We achieved Peacebuilder status — for TWO years!”

“Peace Centres provide an opportunity for individuals who have been sponsored and strenuously vetted by a Rotary District, to be chosen to attend a three-month peace certificate or a two-year master’s program in peace and conflict resolution, all paid for by Rotary.”

Menasha Nikhanj from Edmonton is currently enrolled in the three-month professional certificate program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Ingrid promises that achieving a Peacebuider District is just the beginning. “We will continue to develop peace building activities and sessions during this next year,” she says.

“As a result of our new collaborative work with our educational institutions, the University of Alberta and Concordia University hosted an open-to-the public peace building session which was well received. Another project is planned for next year.”

RI will also maintain its focus on peace building. “At the Peace Symposium in Hamburg (held in connection with 2019 RI Convention), senior Rotary leaders announced that steps are being taken to have Rotary become a world leader in peace building,” Ingrid said.

Goals set, goals achieved

Other 2018-2019 goals related to membership, creating awareness of The Rotary Foundation (TRF), enhancing Rotary’s public image, and celebrating our youth programs.

The year saw the establishment of several new clubs, including a new Interact Club at W.P. Wagner High School (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona); the Rotaract Club of Concordia University (sponsored by Edmonton Northeast); a satellite club of the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek) in Chetwynd, B.C.; and the YEG Passport Club (sponsored by Edmonton Whyte Avenue).

In addition, two existing clubs in Whitehorse, YT became part of our District on July 1. 

Ingrid congratulated the TRF team, led by chair Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), for its efforts to create awareness of the foundation’s good work.

“All the funds donated support projects by our clubs around the world, in the form of grants.”

Related to public image, Ingrid noted that the District “created a communications plan to develop and improve our public image in our District and the community.”

In part, this was achieved through Ingrid’s posts to the District Facebook page, increased social media engagement, articles on the District blog, Rotary International District 5370 News and a District newsletter.

Inspire, our District newsletter, went to each District member, not just the presidents, so everyone received the same information at the same time,” she said.

“We made a concentrated effort to expand community awareness of Rotary.  Presentations were made to several community groups and we began a collaborative project with the University of Alberta, which will expand next Rotary year.

“We had significant coverage of Rotary stories in the capital region newspapers in print and online, and in community papers around the District.”

Shifting to youth programs, Ingrid said, “We have outstanding opportunities for our youth to participate in many activities, such as the RYLA, RYLE, RYPEN programs.

“We did a lot of work to ensure that our youth exchange program is directly aligned and compliant with Rotary International guidelines, with everyone involved with our youth programs having a mandatory security check.”

DG Tracey lays out her plans for 2019-2020

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Following Ingrid’s summary of 2018-2019, it was Tracey’s turn to reveal her vision for 2019-2020.

“It is an honour to stand before you as your governor for 2019-20. I am humbled to step into the shoes of Ingrid and others, and also appreciate the support of each of you through this Rotary journey,” she said.

Throughout her presentation, Tracey emphasized that the world needs Rotary and Rotarians.

“People identify Rotary for our service, our dedication to make change for others, and for our commitment to eradicate polio,” she said. 

“You have stepped up to make your communities a better place. You tackle problems and find solutions for tough issues. You explore ideas and share a vision to make life better for others. Your passion, drive and desire to make a difference inspires me,” she said.

“When people of all ages, cultures and demographics invest time and money into something, it is with organizations that do good in the world. People commit to a cause, not an organization.”

Rotary: 114 years-old and still strong

Tracey believes that there are reasons why Rotary continues to be relevant.

“Rotary is 114 years old and has stood the test of time due to its values, objectives and service, both locally and globally, plus for our dedication to eradicating polio.”

T1920EN_PMS-CShe noted that RI has adapted to changing times, which is in contrast to other organizations that have failed to do so. She cited Kodak as a company which resisted change and as result has lost the leadership position it once occupied.

“For Rotary to stay relevant, we at the club and District level must focus on our culture and adapting to the needs of our members,” Tracey said.

“Culture is how people feel when they are part of something that is important to them. Culture is created and is the base of moving from good to great. Culture is an environment of welcoming, inclusiveness, diversity; where people feel a sense of belonging, feel valued. And (it) is a place built on trust. We serve together in many ways with the common goal—to make a difference for others—and when we do this, we build relationships and connect with people of like interest.”

Tracey said that the 2019-2020 theme, “Rotary Connects the World,” means  that, “We share values and follow the four-way test, we collectively take action for a better world and we are doing this together,” she said.  

“Rotary provides us with the means and opportunities to connect with the world and each other. Rotary connects us to people who need our help, and through Rotary we are connected globally through countless projects and programs.”

People of Action together creating positive change

Tracey asked the Rotarians in the audience to image a world without Rotary: “Imagine what would happen to polio if we stopped now. Imagine the people who would go hungry in our own communities or around the world. Imagine the children who would not have the extra support to reach their dreams.  The children of today and of tomorrow need Rotary.

“RI has given us the tools to be successful and has provided flexibility to do things differently with meeting structure and attendance, and (it) encourages us to invite our families to be part of our journey.

“When you see the difference we have made for children, families and communities around the world by our commitment, we know we have changed lives. We have given others opportunities and most of all, we have given people hope. 

“And that’s Rotary. People of action who come together to make positive change in themselves and around the world.”  

Tracey concluded her presentation by encouraging Rotarians to register for the District 5370 People of Action Conference in Grande Prairie October 3-5, 2019.  

“This is your conference and a place to connect, grow and to be inspired.” 

Spring 2019 Leadership Assembly prepared incoming club leaders for the next Rotary year

This spring’s Leadership Assembly (March 8 and 9) was an opportunity to celebrate the successes of 2018-2019 and set the table for the next Rotary year, which begins on July 1.

Approximately 175 Rotarians attended this event, including District leaders and club presidents-elect and members of their leadership teams, including for the first time, the presidents-elect of Rotary Clubs of Whitehorse and Whitehorse Rendezvous. 

Effective July 1, these two Yukon clubs will become part of District 5370.

District Governor-Elect Tracey Vavrek used the assembly to introduce the 2019-2020 theme set by incoming Rotary International President Mark Maloney (RC of Decatur, Alabama): Rotary Connects the World.

Watch as Mark announces the theme to DGEs at the International Assembly in San Diego in January and read about the course he has mapped out for Rotary’s future in an interview in the March 2019 issue of The Rotarian.

“When you reflect on the theme, what comes to mind?” Tracey asked.

T1920EN_PMS-C“For me, it is that we share values and follow the Four-Way Test, we collectively take action for a better world, and we are doing this together,” she said.

“We connect with friends we would never otherwise have met. Rotary connects us to people who need our help and through Rotary we are connected globally through countless projects and programs.”

“The world needs Rotary. As you reflect on the unrest and challenges around the world, it is concerning. We know the work we do and our service do create peace within families, communities and around the world. By bringing fresh water to a community, we bring peace and economic wellbeing to the individuals living there.”

Tracey referred to being part of the Project Amigo work week in mid-February with past and future District Governors as “an example of how we connect with others. It’s life-changing—we are helping people reach their dreams.”

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DGE Tracey Vavrek introduced the 2019-2020 theme during Spring Leadership Assembly

She also asked participants in the assembly to imagine a world without Rotary. “Imagine what would happen with polio if we stopped now. Imagine the people who would go hungry in our own communities and around the world. Imagine the children who would not have extra support to reach their dreams. The children of today and of tomorrow need Rotary.”

Continue to grow Rotary

Tracey asked participants to think about how to grow Rotary.

“Membership is a critical topic,” she said, noting the importance of attracting younger people to Rotary. “Only five per cent of Rotary members are under the age of 40.”

“Few organizations span generations and professions and build personal connections the way Rotary does. We blend tradition with innovation and use trust and respect to close the generation gap.”

“Many of us have been able to get younger generations to visit a meeting or participate in a project but getting them to join our clubs has been more difficult,” Tracey said.

She stated that Rotary can offer younger people what they want. “They crave connections—a network of more experienced professionals, mentors with insight, with clout. They also crave experiences. They want to do good.” 

PDG and Zone Membership Coordinator Jim Adamson from Washington State (District 5060) followed up Tracey’s presentation by reminding participants of the importance of inviting the right people to join Rotary.

“None of us would have joined Rotary if someone hadn’t asked us. We need to ask them,” he said.

“We aren’t just looking for bodies. We are looking for quality people.”

DG Ingrid highlights 2018-2019 successes

Current DG Ingrid used her time on the stage to “share some highlights of our Rotary year to-date and emphasize the need to follow through on current plans.

“My District Governor journey has been amazing, engaging and rewarding—confirming the true value of Rotary and why we are doing this service work. I am immensely proud to be a Rotarian and the District Governor of this District.”

Ingrid’s favourite experiences so far this year?

“Absolutely, it has been visiting our clubs, engaging in our community projects, and connecting with our members.”

She has visited all 57 clubs, making repeat visits to some.

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DG Ingrid Neitsch highlighted successes during 2018-2019 during Spring Leadership Assembly

“Each area of our District is unique and the range of projects is astounding. Some clubs shine with their welcoming atmosphere and signature projects. Some clubs are passionate about international projects and concentrate on fundraising. Some clubs focus mainly on keeping current members engaged in fellowship and attracting new members. Some clubs have chosen to focus on aligning Rotary projects with peace-building activities. Some clubs collaborate, support other clubs’ projects and focus on hands-on projects.”

She emphasized that the culture and value base established in the club is what keeps members engaged.

Highlights Ingrid identified were:

“The District Conference 2018 was fabulous! Some clubs are still following-up with some of our amazing speakers. Thanks to all who participated as volunteers, conference committee members or attendees.”

She reminded her audience of the 2019 District Conference that will be held in Grande Prairie October 3-5.

A second highlight was the relocation of the District office to the Orange Hub in west Edmonton. “It’s a bright, cheerful space accessible to all, with security and maintenance in place.”

Ingrid also referred to the goals in the District strategic plan. “Many goals are completed, some are in progress and some are ongoing.”

She encouraged clubs to create their own plans. “To be change-makers, your club needs a plan of action.”

“One of the main goals this year is to reverse the declining membership trends these past several years. I mentioned that in every single one of my club visits. Every club was asked to retain the current membership and attract three new members,” she said.

“I want to regain the minus 110 members lost last year, plus make a net gain of 50 members by the end of June.”

She urged club leaders to “treat your membership list like a gift. Just because you haven’t seen someone for a while, do not take them off your list. Reach out. Find out what is happening in their world. They are Rotarians and at one time were passionate about Rotary.”

The District membership plan includes establishing new clubs, including the Passport club which is being formed in Edmonton. “We are launching a new Passport club for new and former Rotarians and plan to charter it before June 1.”

5370 reached goal to become a Peacebuilder District

IMG_8851A key District initiative for 2018-2019 was for the District to become a Peacebuilder District, which Ingrid announced during the District changeover event on June 11, 2018, and to sponsor a peace scholar.

“We achieved the peace scholar, as was announced at the District Conference. Out of 1,100 applicants from around the world, only 50 master’s and 30 certificate applicants were chosen, including our applicant, Menasha Nikhanji.

The goal of becoming a Peacebuilder District was also reached.

“We needed to donate $US 25,000 to the Rotary Peace Centres to receive Peacebuilder status within Rotary International. “We have had tremendous support. Clubs and individuals donated close to $24,000, which along with $20,000 in District Designated Funds brings us close to $50,000,” Ingrid says.

“We have reached the goal for this year and are very close to two years of support for the Peace Centres.”

Ingrid closed with words of encouragement for the rest of 2018-2019:  “Let’s finish strong! Keep the positive momentum going, finish blazing our trail and we will continue to flourish as we inspire each other as ‘Rotary Connects the World!’ ”

Becoming a Rotary Peacebuilder District during 2018-19 tops list of goals for Incoming District Governor

 

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2018-19 DG Ingrid Neitsch describes her Peacebuilding District goal during the Changeover Event on June 11

During of her year as District Governor, Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West) hopes to see our District designated as a Peacebuilder District by Rotary International.

“One of my most important goals that inspires me is to establish a new incentive and direction in our District to become a recognized Rotary Peacebuilder District by March 31, 2019,” Ingrid told 120 Rotarians who attended the District Changeover Event on June 11, at the Chateau Louis Hotel and Convention Centre in Edmonton.

“One of Rotary International’s objectives pertains to peace and conflict resolution. This resonates with me and I believe that Rotarians have the infrastructure, the influence and the capabilities to lead the world in peace building initiatives,” she said.

Becoming a Peacebuilder District requires a minimum donation of US$25,000 to support Rotary Peace Centers, which are located at universities in six different countries, including Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, where John Lamming, the most recent Rotary Peace Fellow from District 5370, completed a professional development certificate in 2013.

Another Rotary Peace Fellowship application endorsed by District 5370 is awaiting approval by The Rotary Foundation.

TRF also recently supported two other students with Rotary Global Grant Scholarships. Meghan Casey completed a master’s degree in human rights and international migration at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies, and Amy Smith is currently studying at the University of Queensland, in Australia, towards a master’s degree in development practices.

Ingrid will officially become District Governor on July 1, succeeding Frank Reitz (RC of Fort McMurray) who had an opportunity on June 11 to reflect on the past year.

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Frank Reitz reflects on his year as District Governor during June 11 Changeover Event

He compared the last three years, which included two years preparing to step into the role as District Governor, to being on a roller-coaster.

“It has been an awesome ride,” he said. “It’s a long way up there. Then you get to the top of the roller-coaster and it seems that two and a half seconds later, you’re at the bottom and some guy says, ‘It’s over. Get out!’

“Throughout the year, I was reminded that we must change to remain relevant, but our values as Rotarians will never change. We are people of action,” Frank said.

While the number of Rotarians in District 5370 didn’t increase over the past year, Frank pointed to improved member retention as a measure of success. He also noted the growth of youth programs, concluding that, “We are meeting the needs of the youth.”

As they travelled throughout the District, Frank and his spouse, Barbara, learned about the programs and projects of the 57 clubs they visited. “These are impressive and relevant to their communities,” he said.

He noted that support for The Rotary Foundation is strong within the District. All clubs supported the Foundation and donations from District 5370 Rotarians are the second highest in the zone, on a per-capita basis. Nearly all clubs also contributed to Polio Plus.

In her presentation, Ingrid suggested that peace building may become as relevant to young Rotarians as eradicating polio was to previous generations of Rotarians. 

“Many [younger members] do not even know what polio represented, nor the fact that Rotary and its partners are on the brink of eliminating this disease globally,” she said. “However, these millennials are bombarded each day with news of turmoil and unrest across the world. We need to focus on peace building.”

In addition to sharing her peace building message during her travels throughout the District, Ingrid will also talk about other goals related to membership, the Foundation and Rotary’s public image, which are included in the District’s Strategic Plan. 

“Rotary is facing a membership challenge around the world, but particularly in North America. Our own District has seen a steady, overall decline in the last several years,” she said.

“I believe we can reverse that trend. We have neighbouring districts in our zone that have seen steady growth in the last five years. So can we!”

She described The Rotary Foundation as “the backbone of all the grants that fund our many projects,” noting the efforts of Foundation chair Wayne Kaufman (RC of Edmonton Riverview) and his committee to raise awareness about the importance and impact of Foundation giving.

“Our plan is to continue the club visits to educate members about the Foundation and to share success stories of successful Rotary grants throughout the year, so that members and the public are more aware of the work of the Foundation,” she said.

Shifting her focus to Rotary’s public image, Ingrid said, “We need a strong communication plan, to raise awareness in our community about the amazing work of Rotary Clubs. This is particularly relevant in the urban corridor, where there are many service clubs vying for attention and support.”

The strategic plan also expresses commitments to support the District’s youth programs and to prepare club officers to lead their clubs.

Ingrid described her final two goals as, “both connected to fun. We plan to incorporate the arts into Rotary events and to celebrate Rotary and life balance.

“The arts add the colour and texture to our lives, whether it is beautiful music, an intriguing theatre performance, or a stunning visual masterpiece. We have many talented individuals in our clubs, and I want to promote and support the arts in our Rotary events,” she said.

“As for celebrating, as I visit each club, I plan to acknowledge and share with our membership the important work Rotarians do each day across our District, as positive change-makers in our communities.”

She concluded with a brief preview of the District Conference, including the attendance of two women who have become leaders of Rotary worldwide. 

“Rotary International has had only three female vice-presidents in its 113-year history, including current vice-president Dean Rohrs and former vice-president Jennifer Jones. Both are confirmed for our conference.”

Ingrid also promised an 18-piece orchestra for the 1920’s themed Governor’s Ball, “that pays homage to the era of Rotary’s founder Paul Harris and his boys of Chicago and the early glory days of Rotary.”

Ingrid will begin her visits to all 57 clubs by mid-July.

“I am looking forward to visiting all the clubs in our District to see first-hand all the important work that makes an impact in our communities. We have so many talented and experienced individuals in our District, who possess vast knowledge and skills in leading companies, excelling in their professions and providing leadership in their own communities.

“I am confident that our District is ready to be a leader in the areas of peace and conflict resolution in the Rotary world, adapting new ideas for membership engagement and attraction, and continuing to have positive impact in our communities!”

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