Rotarians in India seek to increase number of literate adults

By Kamal Sanghvi, Rotary Public Image coordinator, Zones 4 & 6A 

India has the highest number of illiterate adults at 287 million, which accounts for 37% of the world’s adult illiterate population (Source – Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 2013-14: UNESCO). Rotarians in India are tackling this illiteracy problem through two programs.

The first is the “Rotary India Global Dream Each One, Reach One, Teach One” Campaign, an initiative to educate 100,000 illiterate adults, under our Adult Literacy Program. Through the program, 60,000 school children in 17 states act as student volunteer teachers. They are currently spending 30-45 minutes per day teaching illiterate adult learners to read.  To do this, they use a specially designed set of books and other teaching aids, at the low cost of USD1.50 per adult learner.  The books and teaching process were initially developed by the Devi Sansthan of Lucknow (an Indian organization focused on dignity and education) in collaboration with Rotary and have been translated into all major Indian languages.


A student volunteer teacher works with an adult in the Adult Literacy Program.

After the completion of 3 months of learning, the adult neo-literates are ready to take the government aided National Institute of Open Schooling examination, which certifies them as literates or a similar evaluation.  This past August saw approximately 333 adult learners appear to take the examination in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, with the results expected to be shared in January 2016.

The second program is the Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM). This program is:

  • Training and recognising 5,000 outstanding teachers in primary schools.
  • Establishing 10,000 E-Learning Centers in schools.
  • Educating 100,000 adult non-literates.
  • Sending 100,000 children back to school.
  • Upgrading 1,000 elementary schools to Happy Schools to curtail student dropouts.

Adult literacy is only one component of the comprehensive program developed by RILM. This T-E-A-C-H program seeks to meet literacy and educational goals through teacher support, e-learning, child development, and happy schools.

As an RPIC and Vice-chair of the Rotary India Literacy Mission, I oversee the measures of external and internal public relations and communication channels with a view to establishing Rotary’s image in the field of literacy.  I also consider and approve all the important policy matters and general guidelines relating to the programs, fundraising activities and budget.


Adult learners sit for the examination certifying their literacy.

The reasonable measure of progress of any country is the level of literacy of its citizens.  If we want our children to be well educated and taken good care of, it is important that the parents or adults are educated first. Educating adults gives them the opportunity to make a mark for themselves and gives them a place of dignity in society.

For more information about Rotary India Literacy Mission, visit our website. If you have been involved in an educational and literacy project, please share below!

Making the most of GETS and Institute: Tips from Regional Leaders

The 2015-16 GETS and Institute season has begun! Many of you will be participating on GETS training teams. Even if you are not directly participating in training, these sessions are a great way to introduce yourself to a wide variety of Rotarians and communicate the value of your expertise.

As you prepare for your Zone GETS and Institute, consider the following selection of tips from Zone 30 RRFC Floyd Lancia, Zones 7B & Part of 8 RC Jessie Harman, and Zone 21A RPIC Leticia Parra Toledo.


Lancia: The most effective facilitation is not accidental – it’s the result of the facilitator spending hours familiarizing her/himself with the content and instructional materials, such as the GETS Leaders Guide. Make your own notes highlighting portions that are essential and need to be stressed and focused upon.  Your notes can be questions, in your own words, that will stimulate discussion in the event the session stalls.

Harman: Always focus on your adult learning principles – keep the learning material relevant, use examples which are meaningful, and ensure that governors have ample opportunities to share stories and learn from each other.  Also remember that adults learn in many different ways – so mix it up a bit – use case studies, small group discussion, large group discussion, individual reflection, even a role play.

Parra: Some months before GETS, I try to contact [district leadership] and introduce myself, explaining my role and the main points in the DG Manual.  I also tell them that there is a Rotary Public Image team with Rotarians who will be glad to attend and help them to achieve their goals.


RPIC Leticia Parra Toledo


Lancia: Don’t agree or disagree [yourself], ask for agreement or disagreement from others, or ask if anyone would like to add anything that can clarify the comment more fully. Don’t allow [one] participant to dominate. Stay on topic. Before adjourning ask for takeaways and or action plans.

Harman: Take time to plan and prepare the questions you will ask your governors elect.  Great questions prompt discussion, encourage individual and group reflection, and stimulate creative thinking.  Great questions are also empowering – they create a positive environment of mutual problem solving and respect.  Great questions also provide a useful roadmap – helping discussions to open up, change direction, even close down when required.

Parra: I try to keep the audience focused on what they will achieve: excellent goals.  I try to make a speech that is both meaningful and important to them, repeating key ideas and main points.  I invite DGEs to share their ideas on what they would like to work on in their districts.  Focus on friendly faces in the audience. Maintain eye contact with the listeners; I will find encouragement and support from their smiles and approving nods.

To see the full list of tips from these regional leaders, click here. Consider sharing your own tips in the comments section below!

Making the Most of Membership Month

August is Membership and New Club Development Month. We are celebrating strong membership growth of nearly 25,000 members over the 2014-15 year. The hard work and support of our members has produced incredible results over the past year, most significantly with the recent polio eradication milestone on the African continent, which marked one year without a case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus. With your important efforts as Regional Leaders, we can continue attracting new members, engaging current members, and changing the world. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • 11828671_10154136027344552_1519046550404063775_nRotary’s social media channels, The Rotarian magazine, and are showcasing Membership Month promotions and activities all month long. We encourage you to share these features with your club and district leaders.
  • Remember to visit My Rotary or the Rotary Shop to find publications and resources to help you attract new members and engage your current members. Copies of many of these publications are also available through your Rotary workgroups.
  • Tell our colleagues in Membership Development why you joined Rotary—and why you continue to stay involved—on Facebook or at Sharing the positive experiences you have had as a Rotarian is an effective way to interest a potential new member!
  • Finally, take a moment to read a blog post by Zone 24 West E/MGA Chris Offer about why he stayed in Rotary.

What strategies for attraction and engagement are you using during Membership Month? Share them with us in the comments below!

Being a change agent – Part 2

This is Part Two of a two-part post. You can view the first part here.

Written by Colette Martin-Wilde and Megan Anderson, Strategy Development & Change Partners, Rotary International, with examples from Zone 26 RRFC Pam Russell

4. Resources: Give people a clearly defined point of contact for questions, requests for information, tools, or materials.

Pam Russell: Each district approaches this in different ways.  In some districts, leadership builds a team and assigns each person to a small set of clubs.  These individuals receive additional training or already have some skills specific to  Foundation grants.  They work with clubs to develop grants, and bring clubs together to support larger grants.  In some districts, these tasks are assigned to the assistant governor, but depending on the volume of activity, it may be more effective to identify an individual dedicated to grants.

  1. Action plan: The action plan details what will be done to provide needed skills, what incentives and messages will be used, what resources will be available, as well as who will provide support and information in order to realize the vision, i.e., successfully implemented change.

Pam Russell: The transition to the new funding model required careful planning and execution.  The success we had in Zone 26 can be measured by the rapid increase in global grants being implemented in the second year after the launch.  Each district took time to implement a full action plan, but the new model’s success is seen in the impact Rotarians are having with their service projects throughout the world.  Each successful grant tells a story.  Clubs and districts should use these stories and pictures as tools to strengthen clubs and share Rotary’s good work around the world.

Research shows the following, predictable consequences when any of the components outlined above are missing:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Gradual change
  • Frustration
  • False starts

change flowchart

The next time you see a change coming and are championing that change, remember this framework. Ensure that all of these pieces are a part of your plan and you will be on your way to being an effective change agent. You may just find that it does not really feel like change at all, but the most obvious path forward to a brighter future.

Being a change agent – Part 1

This is Part One of a two-part post about implementing a change planning framework. Part Two will post next week.

Written by Colette Martin-Wilde and Megan Anderson, Strategy Development & Change Partners, Rotary International, with examples from Zone 26 RRFC Pam Russell

We live in a rapidly changing world, and Rotary is changing along with it. Change is inevitable and can be difficult.

The role of a change agent is to articulate vision, provide information and resources, develop a plan and listen. As a regional leader, you are often called upon to serve as a change agent; but once you have decided to help guide others, where do you begin?

Change Management-1

Using a change planning framework can help you anticipate where resistance to change may occur and provide others with the resources they need to smoothly transition.

There are five key areas to consider when introducing a new process or program.

  1. Vision – What will the process or program look like, once the change is complete?

Pam Russell: Once the vision is defined by the district leadership, it should be articulated every chance you get, including presidents-elect training seminars, district  assemblies, grant management seminars, district Rotary Foundation seminars, and the district governor’s club visit.  Once your vision is understood, Rotarians can support it through global and district grants, strategies to strengthen their clubs, and service projects.

  1. Skills–Will the people you’re relying on to implement the change have the skills to do it right? If not, where will they get the needed skills?

Pam Russell: Since there were so many new things to learn with the new funding model, we had the opportunity to take advantage of the skills of Rotarians throughout Zone 26.  We had multiple training sessions with the districts.  The District Rotary Foundation Committee Chair (DRFCC) from one of the pilot districts served as a Future Vision Transition Coordinator and helped improve the skills of the district leaders. 

A good continuity plan is critical to success. Even though you may train a great team, you always have to be prepared in case someone has to step away from a position.  We have had a few folks step down early.  This led to individualized training of new leaders, generally with the regional Rotary Foundation coordinator, a neighboring DRFCC and others within the district.

3. Incentives–Tangible benefits can often help people adopt change more quickly. The intangible is the “what’s in it for me” factor.

Pam Russell: Rotarians who participate in global and district grants  immediately see the benefit of working through The Rotary Foundation. It is important to communicate these advantages to other Rotarians as well.  Each year, Rotarians in District 5170 host a number of beneficiaries from their global grants. These individuals travel around the district, visiting clubs and the district conference. Their stories truly inspire the Rotarians in the district to be more engaged with the  Foundation.

Come back here next week for the final two areas of the change planning framework and conclusion.

Regionalizing Rotary’s brand for maximum impact

This month’s Rotary Leader featured RPIC Christina Bredin in the “Ask the Expert” column.  Christina wrote about her region’s efforts on the Strengthening Rotary initiative and shared some tips for regionalizing our brand.  What are some ways you have regionalized the Strengthening Rotary initiative in your Zones?  Have you seen any strong examples from others?

There is an old Latin saying: “Constant dropping wears away the stone.” Implementing Rotary’s brand in the Nordic countries has been like that. It has required constant communication with Rotary members in every district and club. To motivate people to adopt changes, you have to give them good background information about why the changes are necessary.

In our part of the world, Strengthening Rotary is very much about changing the concept of Rotary from a closed, invisible organization to an open, visible one. The new generation does not mind promoting Rotary, but we have had to advise more-established members that it is good to wear shirts, jackets, or vests with the Rotary logo when out on the street, and to address the public.


In Sweden, we felt it was imperative that we update the Swedish website to communicate that something new and fresh was happening in Rotary. That way, members in all parts of Sweden were informed at the same time about Rotary’s facelift.

Rotary’s Brand Center has made it easier for coordinators and Rotary leaders at both the club and district level to motivate clubs to use the new look. Some district public relations chairs even used the Brand Center to make logos for all of their clubs so the logos were consistent throughout the district. We plan soon to implement a Swedish version of the Brand Center that will have material translated into Swedish.

The reaction of Rotary members has been very positive since it was made clear that the lapel pin would stay the “old way” — another example of the importance of clear communication.

Here are some other tips for regionalizing Rotary’s brand:


  • Hold PR seminars regularly in your district
  • Include the Strengthening Rotary presentation at every district event.
  • Include an item about the brand in the governor’s monthly newsletter.
  • Train members to share their Rotary moment.


  • Public relations is best in the native tongue, so translate PR materials from Rotary International.
  • Hold webinars to reach a wide audience in a cost-effective way.
  • Keep your newsletters short and to the point.
  • Use Facebook and other social media often.


  • Form PR teams made up of representatives from clubs in a given area to cooperate in events and other PR activities.
  • Create forums for the exchange of ideas and sharing of material.
  • Involve Rotarians who are PR professionals

How celebrity ambassadors help end polio

By Gabriela Simionato Klein, communications consultant at Rotary International

We are now “This Close” to achieving a polio-free world, and many public figures and celebrities have agreed to help Rotary spread the word.  More than 40 world figures including Bill Gates, Archie Panjabi, Ziggy Marley, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Jane Goodall are taking part in Rotary’s “This Close” campaign. Many organizations seek celebrity ambassadors and many notables see the benefit – professional and personal – in this kind of relationship. This is not a strategy unique to Rotary but how do those celebrities make a difference?

At the beginning of April, I accompanied our Brazilian ambassador, supermodel and mother Isabeli Fontana, on her press trip with Rotary. It was a great experience to see our organization’s impact on the country’s polio eradication process firsthand and to get a better understanding of how much our ambassadors can help.

(Right to left) Isabeli Fontana, Gabriela Klein and Monica Lages, the model’s manager.

(Right to left) Isabeli Fontana, Gabriela Klein and Monica Lages, the model’s manager.

This was not my first time working with Isabeli. The launch of her partnership with Rotary, at a party donated by a Brazilian fashion house, generated impressive press coverage in fashion and entertainment outlets, a niche in which our stories don’t usually receive space. Rotary and its battle for polio eradication graced the pages of Vogue, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Bazaar.

The event created a fundraising opportunity in partnership with the model and with fashion label TUFI DUEK.  An End Polio Now t-shirt customized by the house designer, Edu Pombal, was auctioned off for almost $90,000 in support of polio eradication efforts. To date, the communications support we have received from Isabeli and her partners has presented Rotary’s work to millions of followers, and informing new audiences of Rotary’s role.

This effect was also seen in India, where Isabeli energized health workers at a regional meeting and, during a school visit, informed kids, teachers and parents of the importance of vaccination and healthy habits for a better life. More than that, the experience made her more knowledgeable and committed. She came back looking for even more possibilities to help in an impactful way.

But Isabeli’s chosen path is not the only one. Personal preferences, different reasons for involvement and work schedules determine how each ambassador makes his or her mark. Several musician ambassadors donated their songs and performed for a special CD, with proceeds raised being donated to Rotary International’s End Polio Now campaign.   Others donated their time for our organization, using their fame or leveraging their talent to promote our message when talking at high-level events or with the press.

How can you help? Research ambassadors who are relevant in your area and learn their preferences for possible supporting activities.Find ways to leverage their influence and consider their roles in your plans.  Identify potential national or international ambassadors with whom you have a personal connection, and suggest their name to the communications team or your staff liaison in Evanston. Ideal ambassadors have strong social media channels; they are popular, very active and have a positive impact in the community. They are willing to work with Rotary – not just by posing for a picture, but by truly embracing the cause as their own. With wide-ranging support, they can help Rotary raise awareness in the final push to end polio.