Moving Mountains with Rotary and Ashoka

By Ulrich Guntram, Rotary member of Bonn-Süd-Bad Godesberg Club, District 1810 and Clara Bräuer, Project Manager at Ashoka Deutschland gGmbH

As Rotarians and Rotaractors, we can move mountains if we just connect with the right partners. While there may be challenges, the rewards can be monumental. Strong partnerships, whether with other clubs in your country (or across countries), or with like-minded organizations, can result in tremendous change.

I’ve been fortunate to play a part in such alliances in the past, such as a multi-national partnership with Rotary clubs from Singapore, Malaga, Jakarta, Paris, and Manila to establish a new vocational training center for orphans in the Philippines. Or when my current home club of Bonn Süd – Bad Godesberg in Germany partnered with several other Rotary clubs in the region: together we assisted pupils from underprivileged families in their educational career. In these two cases, and in so many others, having strong and effective partnerships made a big difference in project success and impact.

Regardless of the nature of the project or the partners involved, the path to success is often similar: focus energy on properly designed initiatives, activate the huge potential of expertise and goodwill among Rotary members, and bring out the strengths of all participating partners.

An organization that has many strengths to offer is that of Ashoka, one of Rotary’s official service partners. A year ago, I learned by chance about Ashoka and became a member of the Ashoka Support Network, a global community of committed leaders who share, support, and advocate for Ashoka’s values and vision. For those who do not know Ashoka: Ashoka is the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs. Their global community of Fellows has a similar richness of expertise with that of Rotary. Their dedication is highly inspiring. Ashoka Fellows and Rotary members share the same aspiration to make this world a better place – they as social entrepreneurs, we as drivers of a global service organization. Examples of collaboration, such as this story in rural North Carolina, USA, prove inspirational and indicative of the possibilities of this partnership in action. Consider what we can achieve together when joining forces!

When RI recently launched its global partnership with Ashoka, Clara Bräuer, my Ashoka teammate, informed all 76 Ashoka Fellows in Germany about the collaboration. Many Fellows signaled strong interest in exploring common ground, and as a start, we are in the process of introducing four of these Fellows (listed here) to Rotary and Rotaract clubs in their region, as well as certain Rotary Action Groups (RAGs), which can offer a complementary network of experts and platforms to the Ashoka network. The objective is to share resources and connect with relevant allies; there is also the simple opportunity to learn more about each other.

Jörg Schüler (Frankfurt) and his Digital Heroes organization pursue a train-the-trainers approach of young students who are trained to deal with conflicts among younger pupils and how to deal and prevent cyber mobbing. Currently they are working with 192 schools across the country.

Andreas Eke (Panama) and Charline Joost (Hamburg), and their co-operative Generation Forest, allow private investors the opportunity to buy a share of land in Panama, which will be reforested and cultivated according to ecological standards. Employees in Panama enjoy similar social benefits and standards as in developed countries.

Attila von Unruh (Cologne) and his team assist SMUs and entrepreneurs who are at the risk of insolvency. His non-profit organization is providing mentoring and expert advice in order to rescue small businesses.

As Clara and I are drilling down into our Rotary and Ashoka networks, we were pleased to discover connections and historical relationships, such as Rotary members who have been part of the Ashoka Support Network – it is all about connecting the dots!  

Please join Clara and me in reaching out to Ashoka Fellows. Invite them to a meeting to learn about their social ventures. Grow your understanding of their field. Start a common project.  Whatever you do, it is a rewarding journey and together you will have strong impact.

Have you collaborated with Ashoka? Publicize your joint work on Rotary Showcase, and tell us about it through this brief online survey. Your opinions help us better support the partnership. Success stories may be shared through Rotary and Ashoka media to further inspire local collaboration.

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