Wow. 6 months into the Rotaract year and I can honestly say that I’ve been thoroughly exhausted by the demands of the position as Chairman. Some incredible highs have been followed by some steep “learning curves”. As far as a leadership journey, I’ve learnt far more than I could’ve ever imagined, and I know exactly what I would do differently if I have a similar chance again. Luckily within these last 6-12 months some significant forward strides have been taken but being ambitious, we’ve still got a lot to do with the remaining 6 months and beyond too!

From the point I first got actively involved with Rotaract in Great Britain & Ireland (RGBI), I said to myself (and a few close friends) that I’ll treat it as a 3 year project, and if I didn’t see us turning around the corner, growing, and supported by Rotary, then I’d walk away. That was August 2011 and the scale of the challenge was daunting. We decided to be honest when looking at the challenges knowing otherwise we’d never overcome them. We are certainly now moving in the right direction and that was highlighted with our recent national conference. I’d still like to see a more pragmatic approach, but I think that is a mind-set that is being overcome with time. Importantly the desire is there and I see it happening now throughout Rotary from all of its members.

I remember the 28th April 2012 very clearly for a number of reasons as it was at a Rotary district assembly where I first heard (now Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) President Nominee) Peter Davey talk about the need to put the right foundations in place today for the growth of future years. A proactive approach. We’ve recently seen massive growth in our youth programmes and competitions so much so we now know we have to get it right in RGBI to benefit from when these individuals become young adults at 18. We’ve learnt that many don’t want to leave us, but jumping to Rotary membership can be impractical. We might then keep some for the next 12 years, some might only need 6, but the second part of the challenge is to make sure they join Rotary when they feel ready for it, partially by lowering some of the barriers that make it hard to do so currently.

So now we’re working on getting RGBI right. We’ve had our first national conference in 4 years and we’ve got support from Rotary in a way that I’ve never seen it before. A positive way! The challenge is always firstly to balance the commitments against the day job, but secondly to make it easier to create the clubs where they don’t currently exist. To do this, we need to take down some of our own barriers. We need to work together and we need to understand the end game. Those will be part of our foundations and 2014 offers us a fresh start to do this.

Join me and our team in making this happen. Be a part of the change, and maybe consider throwing some of the old ways of doing things out the window. My one key goal for the next 6 months is to create a long term strategy for Rotaract, linking us with others throughout Rotary. It’s not my strategy though, and that’s where I need you! In the next 3 weeks a clear timetable will be set out and I’ll be asking again for you to get involved through webinars, online discussions or any means suitable. In the meantime I’m always contactable through james@rotaract.org.uk.

The ultimate goal? Let’s increase awareness and make the public understand that Rotaract (and Rotary) is a fantastic organisation, with a modern outlook, which creates so much positive community change that the question is “why aren’t you a part of it?”

2014. A fresh start. Happy New Year!

James Lovatt
2013/14 RGBI Chairman

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