By Kiki Melonides, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff
Passion and dedication to service unite Rotary and Rotaract members worldwide. Rotary is rich with energy, and rich with diverse members from all professional backgrounds representing hundreds of cultures, customs and traditions. But clubs don’t always have the professional skills amongst their members to design and implement a project needed by the community. To address this gap, District International Service Chairs identify, organize and coordinate local subject-matter experts in the form of district resource networks.
Think of your district’s resource network as a consulting firm. But rather than spending millions of dollars to hire consultants temporarily, we can get free help from our fellow members who speak our same language, are familiar with the local culture, and have technical skills and experience and are ready to mentor clubs as they develop their projects. Our experts include Rotarians, Rotaractors, Rotary Peace Fellows, and program alumni who are often also members of a wider professional network through Rotary Action Groups and The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers.
We interviewed District Governor Adriano Maestri from District 2072 in Italy to learn how clubs in his district are using the district’s resource network to better plan impactful projects.
Kiki: How does the District Resource Network (DRN) provide resources for clubs to develop stronger projects?
Adriano: District 2072 is particularly active in supporting global grants. Our clubs use our local network of mentors and experts to ensure their projects are well-planned and meet the requirements of The Rotary Foundation. Club members contact experts directly for advice and guidance on their projects or we flag projects for review by district experts when further technical expertise is needed. Our district’s International Service Chair Paolo Pasini recruits and maintains the database of experts ensuring they are available to mentor clubs.
Kiki: How are DRNs valuable to club members?
Adriano: Our clubs are very passionate about service but don’t always have a member with expertise in every single area of focus. Designing and implementing projects without the proper expert consultation can be very dangerous and can actually result in more harm than benefit to the community.
Our local experts, along with our District Foundation Committee, screen and review projects before they are submitted as a global grant application to TRF. The support of the District Resource Network is essential and ensures the full success of the projects through the technical and management knowledge that the members of the district network have. We have seen that project plans and grant applications that have been reviewed by experts result in a more sustainable and more impactful project, and a faster review by and response from The Rotary Foundation.
Kiki: How are experts utilized to ensure global grant requirements are met, including meeting the community’s needs?
Adriano: We have experts review global grant proposals to ensure:
- a comprehensive community assessment has been conducted,
- the project is led by the host club and involves the local community,
- the project plan addresses the identified root challenges and aligns with an area of focus,
- training components are built out where appropriate,
- the project includes procurement of local resources, and a monitoring and evaluation plan ensures the project will continue to be measured, evaluated and maintained for many years to come.
The District’s Rotary Foundation Committee then reviews the global grant proposal to ensure fit with TRF’s policies for the identified area of focus, and for the district’s endorsement of the project.
Kiki: Can you share how DRN experts contributed to strengthen a project?
Adriano: A sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene improvement project in public schools in Nepal leveraged the advice of experts. The project was designed after members from the Rotary Club of Vignola from Italy visited the Rotary Club of Patan in Nepal in early 2016.
The project stemmed directly from a community assessment conducted by the Rotary Club of Patan in which the community selected equipping local schools with clean drinking water and toilets as their top priority.
When the members from the Vignola Club returned from their visit, a series of club and district meetings began between clubs in Italy and Nepal. The collaboration inspired other nearby Italian clubs to support the project financially through a global grant.
A member of the District Resource Network of District 2072, with professional experience in water treatment, provided step-by-step advice to the host and international clubs during the design and development of the initiative which was crucial to the success of the global grant.
Kiki: How did experts work with the clubs?
Adriano: We worked closely with Gabriele Mallapaty from the Patan Club, a member of The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers, to plan this project. She guided the project with her in-country Water, Hygiene, and Sanitation (WASH) experience. In addition, she helped us develop important relationships with the local Nepalese schools and government officials. Gabrielle collaborated with our very own water expert, Corrado Barani from the Vignola Club. Corrado attended each meeting and was always available to support all the technical aspects. In addition to having specific technical knowledge on water treatment, Corrado is also an entrepreneur and manager of an important company in the water sector.
His expertise, combined with Gabrielle’s in-country experience proved to be key, not only in the technical field concerning water resources but also from the management point of view, both in the drafting and implementation of the project.
Kiki: What kind of guidance did experts offer to improve the project?
Adriano: The initial project has been greatly improved, both from a technical and financial point of view.
From the technical and organizational point of view, the help of experts allowed a deep revision of the project draft to identify the best technical solutions (water treatment and delivery methods), as based on his knowledge and professional experience, he was able to suggest the most suitable and effective solutions.
By working closely with experts, the planning process became more collaborative allowing more club member to participate This open, collaborative approach led to building even stronger ties between neighboring districts in Italy. From the financial point of view, the synergies demonstrated by the clubs and the identified solutions have encouraged a strong collaboration between Districts 2071 and 2072. In fact, governors of different years have supported the project financially, guarantying financial support for the multi-year duration of this project.
Finally, the technical part, controlled by experts in the water treatment and disinfection sector, has certified the feasibility and sustainability of the project with long-lasting, verifiable and measurable impact.
By using Rotary’s own valuable assets, we can build more sustainable, larger scale projects that lead to bigger and better global grants, increasing our impact. We’re also allowing for a more meaningful Rotary experience for our members who wish to use their professional skills to improve communities. Read more on how clubs can work with their International Service Chair to plan stronger projects and global grants.