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From Values to Rules

The journey from values to rules is an intriguing one, a transformation often marked by an incremental loss of the initial vision and a diminishing capacity for innovation. Often an organization's guiding principles can inadvertently become stumbling blocks to innovation, creativity and progress.

Values as the Attraction Point

Initially, Rotary clubs attracted a diverse range of professionals because of their strong foundational values like fellowship, global understanding, and service. It was business leaders getting together to have fun while helping others. Those values acted as a magnet, bringing in more and more members.

Values Lost in Translation

As Rotary clubs mature, there's a tendency to formalize operations, leading to a shift from value-centric decision-making to policy and procedure-focused action. Those policies and procedures can alienate newer members who joined with the enthusiasm to contribute but found themselves stifled by procedural and bureaucratic constraints.

A Homogenizing Effect

When values transition into rules, it's even easier for an organization to lose its essence and what made it attractive. As diversity dwindles, so does the capacity for innovative approaches to problem-solving, particularly those related to social issues.

Disconnect with Younger Generations

Younger generations are known for valuing flexibility, diversity, and opportunities for impact, the critical elements that are often sacrificed when rules take precedence. If they sense a gap between an organization’s proclaimed values and the lived experience, they are more likely to disengage.

Reversing the Decline

One solution might be a "back to basics" analysis; realigning policies with values and injecting flexibility back into procedures. An added benefit allows adapting to technological changes and evolving societal norms. Moreover, employing technology offers a more personalized and efficient member experience, thereby boosting engagement and renewing interest in Rotary’s core mission.

To sum it up, shifting back to a values-based approach might not just be a good idea; it could be essential for Rotary clubs to maintain and grow their membership, ultimately amplifying their impact in the community and on society.

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Dec 20, 2023

I couldn't agree more with the point of view expressed in this post. From a personal standpoint, I have observed as additional procedural layers begin to paralyze the 'People of Action' on club, district, zone and international levels.

As members of Rotary, we place the greatest amount of importance on values. Truly, as layers of staff increase and merit is based on 'data only' results, our focus on values somehow seems to diminish.

User friendly technology can play a most effective role if it brings us together to boost personal connection and an experience based on a community of shared values.

Too often, as in the RI website, impersonal technology may be the source of frustration and ultimately a decision…

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