Born to British parents in Sweden, Barry Matheson currently lives in Norway and has an internationality that is not uncommon within our organization. In terms of languages, he always says his thoughts are in Norwegian first, than English. While he was in Evanston in January, we discussed what Rotary means to him and what he’s most excited about for the upcoming 2015 Regional Leaders Training Institute.
Barry, what is your occupation?
I am in musical performing arts management. I currently own one of the oldest Norwegian performing arts companies, Continental Artist Management, representing a diverse group of clients from recording artists to composers and songwriters.
When was the first time you realized you were a Rotarian?
I joined Rotary twenty seven years ago for the professional network it provided me. But, it wasn’t until I participated in a Rotary event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 10 years after I joined Rotary, that I truly “got” what Rotary is. All of a sudden, I could see the needs of others with my own eyes, which was an incredible experience. I witnessed what Rotary was doing and accomplishing. I could also see what more could be done to help others and I thought, “This is where I can contribute and make a difference”. “This is what Rotary is about – tell, do, and see the difference.”
What is one thing you wish you could change about Rotary?
Our attendance requirements. Right now, there is too much focus – at least in my region – on club meeting attendance. Many current, and potential members, want Rotary to be about participation in projects, community events and engagement in exposing Rotary to the “outside world”. I believe we should be measuring engagement, participation, and living our brand as an alternative to attendance at club meetings.
Speaking of engagement, tell us about your favorite service project you have worked on?
Every second year, through a national multi-district project, we hold a two-week camp for young people with a physical disability. It’s held in the mountains, by a large lake, and we accept candidates from all over the world. During those two weeks, campers have the opportunity to meet new people, work together to solve problems, and, most importantly, test their physical limits. It’s a truly life changing experience. I have seen young people stretch their capabilities beyond imagination, which in turn will give them self confidence in all situations in life that and will follow them throughout the rest of their lives.
If you could interview anyone around the world, who would it be and why?
I would like to interview the top religious leaders of all faiths, starting with the Pope since he’s the most accessible. I would ask them, “How can you use your influence, to make a difference to build peace? What do you need from others?”
Why are the regional leader groups important to the work that Rotary does around the world?
Regional Rotary Foundation coordinators, Rotary coordinators, Rotary public image coordinators, and endowment/major gifts advisers are the best toolkit a district could want. They have the knowledge that the district governors, and additional district leadership needs to help increase all areas of Rotary.
At this year’s training, we’ll be focusing a lot on teamwork. It’s a tremendous opportunity to have the incoming regional leaders train with the directors-elect and incoming trustees. I think this will really raise the bar and allow the groups to focus on how to support each other to achieve goals.