Trevor McArdle A Keynote Speaker at the District 1110 Council and Handover on Saturday 27th June, 2020.

I am Trevor McArdle and I am a Rotarian – and that is something I never thought I would hear myself say.

The key reason why I became a Rotarian was due to a chance meeting – but of that, I will tell you more later.

I am the founder of a Social Enterprise called Cage Cricket – described on our Twitter handle as, ‘hip-hop cricket with attitude, but with a deep respect for the history and heritage of the (parent) game’. The game was created, devised, invented in Somerstown Portsmouth, a particularly economically and socially challenged community, but a community I loved.

The first, and most fundamental, tenet of the game is that it be totally inclusive; that regardless of age, gender, ability (or disability), or race you can participate. It has won multiple National and International awards for our work, in particular with challenged communities, with those living with dementia, for our work within prisons and the justice system.

And through this work I’ve met, and engaged with, a wide spectrum of individuals and organisations (be it faith groups, issue specific charities, youth groups or social enterprises) that have done, and continue to do, incredible work within their communities. There are some great organisations out there.

It was through this work that I became aware of the individual from a particular organisation (that I mentioned previously) who was actively looking to help nurture, aid and develop – to support – these community groups. In particular, this individual wanted to help the relatively new, and rapidly growing, set of ‘social businesses’ that are called C.I.C’s (Community Interest Companies).

For those that are unaware, these were set up by the Government in 2005 to regulate and recognise those groups and businesses that do good (and are of benefit to their community) through performing their day to day business activity.  Not quite a business in the conventional sense (they commit to use their profits and assets for the public good and not for shareholders) they are not quite a charity either (they are allowed to make a profit).

That individual was Tim Mason and, on the first day we met, he told me that I had to join his organisation and that this organisation was Rotary. I don’t do membership groups. I want to be as inclusive and open to the community groups I work with as possible and feel that membership of an organisation – particularly organisations that revolve around lunches and committees, a bit of a challenge. Tim asked me to go away and research, to look at the history of Rotary, its aims and its values. And he also offered me a first step – do not become a full member become an associate member and join only when you feel comfortable (he was clear in his mind that I would join, I wasn’t).

I read up and researched – and discovered a global and historic organisation that was founded by individuals from the world of business and commerce who used their assets and skill set to effect positive change, to help those in need within their community. The eradication of Polio, provision of clean drinking water, public toilets for women, education (particularly for girls), the list went on. This was a far-sighted and innovative movement, ground-breaking in its day, totally committed to serving the ‘whole’ of their community.

I joined, but I did not join Rotary straight away, I joined Rotary Social Innovation as an Associate member which, as I saw it at the time – and in keeping with my Twitter handle for Cage Cricket – was ‘hip hop Rotary with attitude, but with a deep respect for the history and heritage of the organisation.’

Social and Innovation – two key words.

Social – to reinforce Rotary’s link to Society, to actively engage with ground-breaking projects and organisations.

Innovation – to utilise the tools and mediums of the 21st Century to effect that change – social media, the internet, those social enterprises.

It is ironic that the man who celebrates taking office via social media is the same man who has been such an advocate of its benefits to the future of the Rotary Organisation.  And it is the future that is so important to Tim.

Throughout this article I have used the word ‘history’ on several occasions and the history of Rotary is immense and humbling, but what Tim is most concerned about is that the Rotary that he loves could become just that – history. We are all aware of the age demographic of our current membership, a demographic that is particularly under threat in this current climate, but where many see this as a threat to our future, I see this as a rare and powerful opportunity.

As we of a certain age are threatened medically, another group will see huge and damaging threats economically. The future of our youth, in terms of employment and opportunity in life is now, in the wake of the pandemic, more threatened than ever. They will need help and support, guidance. As a generation they now have and will experience a completely changed landscape to what they knew before – something new and frightening.

But our membership has seen this all before. We need to step up as our founders did; to become elders, to share of our knowledge, our life lessons, the wisdom and skills of a life time and career and engage with, communicate with and support this new generation. We need to embrace their method of communication, social media, to offer our help and to serve and to set an example that will encourage the next generation of Rotarians.

We need to become ‘socially innovative’. We need to become the ‘go-to’ organisation for these young, rapidly growing enterprises.

The founders were knowledgeable and successful businessmen who used their skills and assets to do good. Social enterprises come from the opposite direction, their starting point is the desire to do good, but they often lack the organisational and structural business skills that are bread and butter to many of our members. Indeed, we are both looking to arrive in the same place, but from different directions.

What if we Rotarians offer to share our knowledge, to support these fledgling organisations, give them their wings and help create sustainable (and Rotary affiliated) social businesses. Let’s not see the current age demographic of Rotary membership as a threat, but as an asset, as a council of elders willing to engage with and support all these well intentioned (but often organisationally challenged) social enterprises and know that when they succeed we too succeed; that we’ve served and in serving we have done good and protected the future of our organisation

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