Rotary International (R.I.) is defined, not by what senior leaders say it is or by what it does, but by who existing and potential Rotarians are and the wants and needs they satisfy by connecting with Rotary!
The prime reason R.I. and its member clubs exist is to create Rotarians. Therefore, the question of what defines R.I. and the business it is in can only be answered by looking at R.I. from the outside; from the points of view of its member clubs, its existing and potential Rotarians, and regional conditions. Every human being in the world lives within their own personal reality. For this reason, and this reason alone, any serious attempt to identify the business R.I. is in must start with Rotarians' realities and values.
Rotary leaders should have asked and come to unanimous agreement on the question, "What business are we in?" when membership was growing; when it kicked off its polio eradication campaign. This is when R.I. was at its pinnacle; when it was most successful. But success almost always makes obsolete the very behavior that achieved it, so to change R.I.'s membership fortunes, it must seriously examine not only the business it is in but the business it wants to be in. To do so, it must look outside of itself and examine changes in the structure and demographics of the populations from which it wishes to create Rotarians. In today's marketplace, this begins with being innovative in leading the way to help its member clubs retain and attract members. This includes creating and sustaining a holistic marketing program that includes re-educating staff and leaders, assisting member clubs, and developing new clubs. These actions alone will reveal many yet-to-be-discovered opportunities for R.I. to deliver value to its member clubs and Rotarians.
Is R.I. capable of preventing itself from being buried by commonplace in 20??. It is, but only if it takes a critical look at itself from outside of itself and commits to making what will be some very difficult decisions and changes.