Posted by Fred Daniels
 
Ripples on the Water
 
In the first few days of June the District Conference was held in Schenectady, also known as the birthplace of General Electric.  Albert Einstein, who vacationed in Saranac Lake and knew both of the founders of GE (Edison and Steinmetz… what did they all talk about?), once said:
 
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.  It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  Albert Einstein
 
The District Conference theme, Sparking Action in the Capital Region, included the notion that change can serve as a spark to action, and the Conference focused in part on change and change leadership.  Whether we are considering ways to attract young professionals to Rotary, or be more relevant to our communities, or engage the highly complex issue of opioid addiction, we recognize that our clubs must change, that the ways Rotarians think about serving our communities must be more radical, and that we must focus on impacting outcomes – moving the needle – if in fact we want to change the world.
 
When we think about change, we sometimes focus on problem solving rather than creating the desired outcomes.  We say: our clubs are getting smaller.  What must we change to stop that from happening?  We say: our service projects are great, but they only seem to have limited impact.  How can we change the project so that our impact is more significant?
 
And there’s nothing wrong with approaching things in this way.  The answers can return our clubs to the sizes they used to be, and make our service projects more successful by many measures.
 
But we don’t spend much time thinking about the most desirable outcome – the actual result.  What would we want our clubs to be like?  What are the fundamental issues underlying the usefulness of our service project, and what is the plan that solves those root issues?

 

 
Rather than getting our club to be the size is was ten years ago, a different approach would be to agree that our club should look like the community it is serving.  Does this mean more diversity – racial, age, gender?  Does this mean that if our community is filled with youth who have significant needs, then the club should demonstrate capabilities to engage youth?  If so, then what’s the plan to start an Interact Club, Early Act club, and attract youth workers into the membership?  If the club today had ten members, but seven of them were directly connected to the youth in the community, would that club be more relevant to the community and produce greater impact?  If so, it barely matters how many members there are in the club.
 
In the same way if the opioid crisis is gripping the community, then what is the desired outcome?  It could be to rid the community of opioids.  Or, it could be to provide better education about avoiding addiction.  Or bringing folks out from the shadow of addiction into the sunlight of treatment.  Each of those is a great service project, but the plans would be dramatically different depending on the best anticipated outcome.
 
There is a constant in any of these scenarios, and it is that the members of the club and the community work together to identify the community needs, strategize on the plan to achieve the best outcome, and work together to implement the plan for success.  In Rotary it is not about the ideas or actions of one person, no matter how astoundingly great that Rotarian is.  Mother Teresa said it best:
 
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”  Mother Teresa
 
Rotary is changing the world, one person and one community at a time.  Whether you know it or not, you are a change agent, and each of us has a unique opportunity to cast a stone across the water.  When we join together and cast many stones the ripples are stronger and affect the shoreline more significantly.  They can be seen further away, so that others know it is time to cast their stone. 
 
See that stone over there?  Bend down and pick it up.  Better yet, find another Rotarian and bend down together and pick up the larger stone right next to it.  Now, make some ripples!
 
DG Fred