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RAGM takes on the Next Generation challenge
Category: Events | By RAGM, 1-Sep-2011 | Viewed 4903  Comments 0
Wherever there is a Rotary project there is one or more Rotarians inclined to visit the venue and report back on the strengths and weaknesses of the project, all designed to create greater success in the future. Given that there are thousands of such projects initiated every year, it's sad that we've not yet developed a medium for sharing those lessons learned and friendships formed.

RAGM has aligned itself with a company creating websites that may be able to fix this problem through 'cloning.' Yes, multiple copies of the same website, under local control, exhibiting specific local content but also part of a global network that allows the items published on one site to show up on all others in the clone network.

To paint a picture of how this would work, e-mails, pictures, articles, and posts to services like Face Book are part of the communication tools used to carry a message about a project. Distributing such information attracts attention and often an interest in learning more about the project for the mutual benefit of all concerned.

In this model of communication, advantage is taken of the evolution in interpersonal communication. Think of it as a sort of Internet 2.0, where it is one thing to read about a project but quite another to become engaged. Social Media is intended to enable such interaction. 

What if project supporters connected instantly with hundreds of other Rotarians working on similar projects? What if those Rotarians could share ideas around the world? Or combine projects for greater impact? Or simply start up new friendships in distant lands? What if all this information were automatically available to a network of local clubs also using clone websites? And what if we could select from the best of the best ideas and harness new energy for our projects? I think the least of these would be a very worthy outcome — and a benefit to Rotary — and I believe all of them, and far greater gains, are easily within reach. 
That website is now up and running at http://ragm.rotaryglobal.net/ and accessible to our 500 members and 1,500 e-mail subscribers located worldwide, as well as all other Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors. The site currently carries about 10 articles on microcredit generally and on specific Rotary projects in microcredit and other areas, enabling us to educate members and attract new support for our work.
Most importantly, one of those featured articles is a blog, essentially an e-mail letter written by a Rotary member to eloquently highlight the issue of maternal healthcare in Nigeria. It's an example of one Rotarian using this new website to reach out to the Rotary world. But this is just one very small example of how a truly interactive website can advance Rotary's key objectives.
The new RAGM website is constructed as a global forum, where all members are welcome to comment on any article they see or on any issue facing our Microcredit Group. To comment, you must be a member and you must log in. And, of course, we would expect that all comments or blogs meet the Rotary Four-Way Test.
Obviously, this is a way to build participation, capture new ideas and identify potential new leaders and volunteers for Microcredit. And it gives our action group a very professional, high-tech, 21st Century image — which we hope will appeal to young adults. But I don't think the benefit ends with Microcredit.
It is time to be honest; it is a friend and long time associate that has developed this concept of cloning websites. He has offered to create other cloned websites at no cost, and host them for a mere $20 per month. This new service is available to all Rotarian Action Groups, Rotary Clubs, Districts, Zones, Rotaractors / Interactors and as many projects as one can imagine. Being honest, I feel that Rotarians are fortunate to have such a friend and I believe the new system of cloning websites will serve Rotary needs.

The benefits don't end there. By sharing content, all websites in the program would be constantly updated and relevant — with greatly reduced local effort — solving one of the major nagging challenges for many clubs, large and small. Local clubs would have a new, more vibrant image, reflecting the global reach and relevance of Rotary. And each website would serve as a first-rate recruiting tool for new members. Rotary and its activities are first-rate and our organization is making a real difference in the world. We need to tell that story.
But the potential benefits are global, as well as local. What if, for instance, Rotarian Action Groups fighting Aids, Blindness, Diabetes, Hunger and Malnutrition, Malaria, Multiple Sclerosis and Polio all had clone websites, constantly sharing content and attracting blogs from members? 

This could take us from solving local website issues to addressing the larger challenges of Rotary. This could take us into the realm of Rotary 2.0 — transitioning from basic Internet communications to active global collaboration. It would demonstrate a 21st Century approach to global co-ordination and effective action. It could help ensure our continuing relevance in today's fast-paced world and speak directly to the expectations of young adults seeking ways to make meaningful contributions to society. In short, extensive use of Internet-based collaboration could directly address our Next Generation challenge and give us a competitive advantage in this area.
All of this says to me that the clone website concept is worthy of exploration and it's why RAGM is working with the developer to evolve a product that can fit within the Rotary culture.

Steven D. Rickard

Steve Rickard is president of the Rotarian Action Group for Microcredit. For more information, visit RAGM.rotaryglobal.net.
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