I recently wrote a blog for Rotary Voices on the concept of conscious inclusion and how we can make our meeting venues and service opportunities more inclusive and welcoming of people with different needs and backgrounds.
Similar principles apply to our digital media assets such as our websites and social media presence. On the one hand, digital devices can be a great source of empowerment for people with disabilities affecting hearing or speech. Screen readers help people with vision impairment. People who are not able to type can use dictation tools. As video becomes more popular, however, barriers are emerging again. Simple practices such as adding visually descriptive captions for images (Alt Text) and including transcriptions of audio content can combat this. This requires a little more effort, but as technology keeps improving, websites have inbuilt prompts to include Alt Text and automated transcription tools are becoming cheaper and easier to use. A little human oversight is important to avoid errors, however.
Making our websites and social media a safe and welcoming place for minority communities can help us to attract new members and deliver better projects. A no tolerance policy towards racial, religious or gender-based harassment is essential. Actively engaging online with groups that may be underrepresented in our local Rotary clubs not only connects us with our local communities it also links us with the wider world of Rotary. Acknowledging holidays celebrated by diverse communities is a start. We can also follow blogs and pages that represent different voices to learn and engage.
Considering the needs of vulnerable people when we communicate is also good practice. Sometimes we need to talk about issues in society that may be a trigger for persons who have suffered trauma, so approaching such topics sensitively and avoiding graphic languages or images is important. One tip is to include a local helpline when discussing issues such as suicide, violence, sexual assault and disasters.
As someone who uses digital media daily, I haven’t got this right yet. I’d like to learn more and improve my practice so that I can be more inclusive of my community. If you have some tips, please share them.
A couple of days ago, my Rotarian Magazine began a transatlantic journey across the room where my club holds its meeting. It was an exciting meeting with an engaging speaker or should I say an attentive audience? Often I have sat through meetings without a verbal contribution, save the occasional ‘hi’ and ‘smiles’. I just sit there enjoying the conversation and thinking ‘should I say something’ or ‘what do I say’. Then there are those moments when I actively participate in meetings, move across the room and get to meet the wonderful everyday people who are my Club members.
Our last meeting provided such an opportunity. One of our members, Emmanuel, is passionate about stamps so the August edition really fired him up. He took us on journey through National Stamps that have carried the Rotary Logo at any point. All you needed to do was make a contribution and you will be rewarded with the story of Rotary stamps in your country (Rotary eClub One membership is drawn from across the world). You also get to see a picture of such stamps. So I made my occasional contribution, was rewarded with Rotary stamps from Nigeria and Niger.
By participating, I learned about Emmanuel’s passion and the work he does with children who are interested in stamp collection. I also got a few tips on how to start collecting without spending 🙂 and my magazine began its journey across the room. That set me think about other members sitting across the room and my interactions with them. There is Dave, who devotes over 50% of his time to organizing RYLA programs and still manages to keep his job; Chris who happens to be the go-to person on matters relating to eClubs; Henry-never misses a meeting and lightens up the house; Carol our IPP, makes me feel I can (physically) see everyone in the room when she leads the meeting. There are so many other members with whom I have interacted with, just by crossing the room and others who I look forward to interacting with.
Being in a Rotary eClub is not rocket science, it is like being a member of any other Rotary club. Of course, there is the aspect of using technology to facilitate activities, extended meeting duration and the ease of maintaining membership requirement. Anytime, I login to the Club House I consider myself to have taken a seat in the room. My first action is usually to look around and see who else is in the room, sitting beside me or across the room. The added plus is that I can bring myself up to speed on the agenda without disrupting the meeting; decide what my contributions will be and make same at my convenience. Hmm, at my convenience is not always a good thing though, as sometimes another member will have stepped up with same ideas I had wanted to share.
Being in a Rotary eClub will not provide an escape from Rotary membership requirements, however it may make it easier for you to fulfill them.
Being in a Rotary eClub will seem to be a lot easier than being in a traditional Rotary Club. However, after two years of being a member of Rotary eClub One, I will say the opposite is true. There are still those moments when I crave the traditional Rotary meetings and (YES) the songs at meetings.
Do not get me wrong, I have enjoyed my time being part of an eClub and still continue to do so. I have been part of Rotary projects and have even led some on behalf of the club. The thing with being part of an eClub is deciding why you want to take the step and if it is the right thing for you. It was just the right decision for me – in the last 4 years, I have not stayed in any city for more than a year; my work schedule over same period has made it practically impossible for me to commit to any regular weekly meeting. My Club is very active, have regular ongoing projects in various communities and has been involved in providing relief and rebuilding for almost all the major disasters that had occurred across the world in the last two-years.
So you see I am proud to be part of the Rotary eClub One. It keeps me connected to the Rotary world, plus I do not have to worry about my career suffering or my Rotary participation being below par. In fact I enjoy the best of both worlds!
I am new at blogging and I am hoping to use this attempt to share my Rotary experience. Hopefully I will be able to solve the dilemma of what to “share” and “not share” before my next post.