rotary

Hugh Masekela was in town. He partnered with our very own Isaiah Katumwa to put on a scintillating jazz show. Sorry if you missed it. It probably won’t be happening again. I was privileged to attend and that is where I picked up on the story of Rotary and its big-hearted women and men. Telling a bit of the story of these magnanimous women and men is my two cents salute to a good cause.

This particular story starts with one George Kasedde Mukasa, a member of Kampala Arch Club (reputedly one of the oldest Rotary clubs of Kampala) donating a 10 acre piece of land in Mukono to grow vegetables. That was about ten years ago. Then about three years ago, the Rotarians decided to use the donated land to build a specialized trauma hospital.

The Rotarians of Uganda then went fund raising for this project. It appears that while they were at it, they also hatched the idea of setting up a blood bank at Mengo Hospital. They went east and they went west. They went south and they went north. They were relentless, and single minded. The Rotarians are gifted in many ways. Some gave their time and others gave resources. Others made the connections, and provided leadership.

They convinced many to support these noble causes and of course everyone wants to be part of a good thing. Several corporate organizations and individuals put their best foot forward and donated generously. And now there will be a trauma centre and a blood bank, courtesy of the local and international Rotary movement, and the women and men of Rotary

That is how we came to converge at the Serena Conference Centre. It was time to celebrate the labour of love created by the incredible Rotary family. Rotary has been growing and giving worldwide for the last 100 years or so and has developed into a formidable force. Rotary’s stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. They are a secular organization open to all people regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference.

I guess in attending this jazz fest, we were all celebrating the noble ideals of the founding fathers of Rotary. This is becoming more and more important in a divided and polarized world. As some societies close out those who would be refuge seekers, the importance of Rotary probably becomes more pronounced. Is it not time then to rethink their business model?

As celebrated businesswomen and men of professional and ethical standing, it is times Rotarians adopted the concept of shared value as opposed to their current model of (corporate) social responsibility. Social responsibility is a very transient phenomenon, involving the provision of freebies and temporary relief. In an ever-changing world, with governments becoming remoter and remoter, it is time to change as well.

Adopting a shared value concept means that the mobilizational capacities of Rotary are focused towards building sustainable and integrated communities. Shared value is a management strategy in which organizations find business opportunities in social problems. In the shared services model, the idea of shared profit and progress in the communities where Rotary operates can be used to build self-respecting communities. While (corporate) social responsibility efforts focus on “giving back” or minimizing the harm business and organizations have on society, shared value focuses leaders on maximizing the competitive value of solving social problems.

A Rotary foundation, driven by shared value is more likely to permanently and sustainably impact our society. Like in the biblical parable, instead of giving us fish, Rotary must start to teach our societies how to fish. That way, every Rotary beneficiary will be able to buy their own ticket the next time Hugh Masekela sings ‘Stimela’.

Professor Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Abacus Business School.