James asked if our Members were aware of Rotary Connects and District Endorsed Programs. He continued with this explanation: "Rotary Connects has been a key project of the Community Welfare Committee for the last 3 years and another 6 years before that under its original name of PACE. (Partnerships Advancing Community Engagement).
Rotary Connects is a six-step process to help identify issues and create projects that involve members and deliver outcomes that benefit the community.
It is important to understand that it is a process and not a project like we might create to address Homelessness, Family Violence or Trachoma. The methodology has been designed, tried and tested by members of the RCM to make sure the skills, motivation and time spent on community service projects, by members and other District 9800 Rotarians, are applied in the most effective and successful manner.
The program recognizes that every project is unique and the reasons for undertaking a project are many and varied. They may include:
- A member has an issue they are passionate about
- A new member joins the club and has a project they wish to take to the community
- The club President has a signature issue they wish to pursue
- The club wants to know what issues are of concern to the community
- The club has completed a vision day program and members have identified a number of issues of concern.
- The club has become inward looking and there is a need to reengage with the local community.
The list is endless.
Since 2014 the program has been approved as a District Endorsed Project (DEP) which means it is developed and managed by the Rotary Club of Melbourne and supported and promoted to District 9800 clubs by the District through District events and publications including: District Conference, District Assembly, District Directory and the monthly bulletin, Networker. Until 2017 the program was promoted to all clubs under the District Community Service Avenue of Service. In the current year it has been promoted under Club Service to provide a stronger link to the Vision Day program and the District Rotary Leadership Institute and PETS training.
Currently, within the club, there are 5 Community Welfare committee projects using the Rotary Connects methodology to deliver outcomes for: homelessness, family violence, refugees, youth transitions and Women in Need. The methodology has also been incorporated in the partnership agreements with Launch Housing and the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Within the District, 35 clubs have expressed interest in the program and discussions have been entered into with 5 clubs: Richmond, East Keilor, Wyndham, Werribee and Laverton Point Cook.
Why is the program important to the Club and the District?
Currently across Australia communities and families are experiencing many difficulties and there is a growing need for help due to increases in: family violence, homelessness, youth unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, depression and mental health issues.
At the same time government resources are decreasing in real terms and the delivery of welfare services are being contracted to large service organisations no longer located within the community. And smaller, innovative welfare organisations located in the community are facing significant financial difficulties in delivering basic services to those in need.
With the increasing demand, and the redefinition of the delivery of welfare services, there is a need for communities to come together to fill the gap. The Rotary Connects methodology enables clubs to engage with others to determine what issues are of concern to the community and to identify any “gaps” that could be addressed. From discussions with our partners and with other key stakeholders in the community we know that Rotary is in a unique position to start a conversion about what is of concern to the members of the community.
We have also held discussions with Rotarians involved in successful community projects. These include the Rotary club of Maryborough and their very successful Say No2family violence campaign. And members of the nine Rotary clubs that have combined with the Boroondara Council Foundation to form Boroondara Cares.
So what are we doing?
To improve the engagement with District Clubs a major review of the program was undertaken in 2015. As a result, significant modifications have been made to the program documents and promotional material, to improve the message and make the program more appealing and accessible to members.
- A key addition to promotional material is the creation of the Prologue and Project Check list. Combined with the promotional flyer we are hopeful this will encourage members to either start a project, use the Checklist, or at least contact the Rotary Connects team to learn more.
- Another key change is the creation of a Resource Kit which provides additional information on the Questions/Actions and Details on each of the six steps listed on the Project check list.
- To improve accessibility all this information will be available to members under the Projects tab on the Clubs new website. Although members are currently able to access the site it is currently work in progress as we are trying to finesse the way members access each of the items in the 70 page Resource Kit. Once this is finalized we plan to make the information available on the District 9800 web site.
Finally, in order to improve members understanding of how they can use the methodology, early in 2018 we are planning to conduct workshops for Board members, Committee chairs, project leaders and interested members. Notification of the timing of these forums will be sent out in late January.
However, if anyone wishes to know more about the program before then or would like to join the team please open the attached Flyer or contact me or one of the following Rotary Connects team members:
Barry Murphy, Cynthia Edgell, Marion McLeod, Norman Taralrud-Bay, Peter Hollingworth and Reg Smith. Please see the attached Flyer and Prologue: 37571_1_RotaryClubofMelbourne_6ppDL_v2.pdf