Each year, past, present and incoming district and senior leaders attend Rotary Institutes around the world to share information, build connections, and exchange ideas about Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation. The Institutes usually meet for three to five days, and the program includes:

·         An update on The Rotary Foundation and its programs

·         A report on our polio eradication efforts

·         A five-year forecast presented by a Director or other Board representative

·         An open forum where participants can make recommendations to the Board

·         Local and international speakers sharing information on relevant topics

·         A chance to network, reconnect with friends, and find inspiration for continuing your service and leadership in your community

·         Entertainment and social outings

This year December 1st – 3rd,, a multi-Zone Institute was held in Taipei, Taiwan. Countries represented included: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia, Taiwan, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.  The programs were conducted in English, as is the norm for the Zone Institutes in this region.

November 28th – 30th, District Governors Elect and District Governors Nominee training seminars were held ahead of the Institute.

During the December 1st – 3rd sessions attendees had the opportunity to meet old friends and to make new ones. We heard from our Rotary International President Elect (RIPE) Barry Rassin on the challenges he faced when he agreed to be considered as RIPE following the unexpected death of RIPE Sam Owori.

Rotary International President Elect (RIPE) Barry Rassin

Several discussion points struck us during the sessions.

·         This past Rotary Year Rotary International lost approximately 150,000 members. (we also gained members so that our total membership is flat, but why did we lose so many?)

·         The big area for growth in membership in Rotary globally is in Asia.

·         Only about 4% of Rotaract members become members of Rotary.

·         It is goal of RIPE Barry to proactively and creatively pursue the movement of Rotaract members into active roles as members of Rotary Clubs.

·         A program on polio eradication in Pakistan and Afghanistan brought a somber moment when hearing about women vaccination workers who were murdered by the Taliban. In one case the fourteen-year old sister of one of those killed insisted, even though too young to participate, that she wanted to help complete her sister’s efforts.

·         In small-group sessions attendees had the opportunity to see information on Rotary Foundation funding and present questions to Rotary International Directors and RI staff.

The Institute was a sell-out this year. The registration had to be shut down at 1500 people. The hotel main hall could handle a maximum of 1200 and had to set an overflow area in the entry hallway. Great entertainment was presented by Rotarians and special performers. The Institute was opened with a heartfelt talk from the President of the Republic of China and the next day the Mayor of Taipei spoke.  He is a familiar figure to the members of the 200 Rotary clubs in Taipei.  Yes 200 clubs in one city!  We asked one Taipei member how they can find enough service projects to stay busy and he pointed to the Mayor, saying “oh he finds many things for us to do”.

We have attended several Zone Institutes in the region and always found them valuable.  It’s a great way to learn what Rotary is doing internationally, to get ideas of ways to improve our club, to gain motivation and to stay in five star hotels at three star prices.  It’s a good idea to extend the visit by several days to take in local sight-seeing, too.  You don’t have to be a district or senior leader, or on the path to becoming one to attend a Rotary Zone Institute.  It’s a great experience for all Rotarians and their spouses.