Idea exchange gets Rotarians talking
After hearing Greg Mortenson address the second plenary session on 21 June, about 60 Rotarians took part in an idea exchange, sharing their thoughts about how to apply the lessons from his book, Three Cups of Tea. Photo by Monika Lozinska-Lee/Rotary Images
Fired up after hearing Greg Mortenson address the second plenary session on 21 June, about 60 Rotarians took part in a lively idea exchange, sharing their thoughts about how to apply the lessons from his book, Three Cups of Tea, to Rotary club projects.
Idea exchanges, which were called interactive discussion groups at previous conventions, were reinstated this year after being absent from the last two meetings. The small facilitated discussions are designed to allow Rotarians to share ideas and learn about projects from their peers in an informal setting.
During the session, Rotarians discussed one of the book’s central themes: the need to engage local leaders in a project and create buy-in from the community.
A Rotarian from Canada expressed a desire to see Rotary clubs replicate Mortenson’s success in Afghanistan and Pakistan in other parts of the world, such as Central and South America. Another participant noted how Mortenson’s humility and willingness to build relationships from the start helped earn the trust of the community.
Many participants agreed that Rotarians and clubs have to be careful not to impose their values and ideas of what is needed on another culture, but rather take the time to hear what the communities think is most essential.
When the discussion turned to Mortenson’s efforts to promote literacy, particularly among girls, a Rotarian from Iran noted how literacy among women has risen dramatically in the last 20 years in her country, and is already making a big difference in women’s involvement in politics and decision making.
Facilitator Geri Appel, a member of the Rotary Club of Wichita, Kansas, USA, and a Rotary Leadership Institute trainer, was pleased with the level of participation.
"I think it went very well," Appel said. "Everyone came in with an open mind and was willing to discuss the subject. We talked about what they wanted to talk about, and the comments were most informative."
Participants also gave the idea exchange high ratings.
"This is the reason I came to the convention. The idea exchange was just wonderful," said Jeanne Isdale, of the Rotary Club of Killeen Heights, Texas, USA. "I have such admiration for what Greg Mortenson is doing."
"It’s an interesting concept. I like the discussion," agreed Julie Kinder, who is attending the convention with her husband, David, a member of the Rotary Club of Cambridge North, Ontario, Canada.
Both Isdale and Kinder said they would definitely attend an idea exchange again.