The world’s first social network, Rotary was founded in 1905 by Paul Harris in Illinois. Harris called together three business acquaintances in downtown Chicago. The name, Rotary, was chosen because the meeting rotated each week. Gathering more and more participants, the meetings became so large in Chicago that they needed to establish a regular meeting place. The next four clubs were soon established in San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Los Angeles.
As of 2018, there are over 35,000 clubs with 1.2 million members in more countries than the United Nations. Today, Rotary holds the highest consultative status offered to a nongovernmental organization by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, which oversees many specialized UN agencies. The Rotary Representative Network maintains and furthers its relationship with several UN bodies, programs, commissions, and agencies. This network consists of Rotary International representatives to the United Nations and other organizations.
The operating ethic of Rotary is illustrated in the Four-Way Test:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
These guiding principles provide an ethical yardstick for everything Rotarians consider and act upon.
Each year, The Rotary International conference is held in a different city throughout the world. Over 30,000 members attend in their native garb. The trade show aspect of this conference is called the House of Friendship. Rather that an exhibit of hundreds of widgets and items for sale, Rotary projects are on display. Most booths are hosted by the project developer and are delighted to collaborate with other members visiting the conference. H2OpenDoors often displays the SunSpring water plant and offers consultation on ways to set up enterprise among the villages and schools.
The Rotary Foundation, founded 102 years ago, is one of the most respected charitable foundations in the world. Most visible of late is Rotary’s efforts to eradicate Polio. In collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and the UN, the disease as near an end.
The foundation has six areas of focus:
- Disease Prevention
- Maternal and Child Health
- Water and Sanitation
- Community Development
- Peace and Conflict Resolution