Monday, August 25, 2008

Traditional Community

How did traditional communities like Rotary International manage to grow their memberships to where there are more than 32,000 clubs and over 1.2 million members world-wide? They put the web community to shame!

They did it locally, building small groups one by one. The web has plenty of small groups but no system for self-propagating them.

The world's first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was formed on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. The Rotary name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.

Rotary's popularity spread, and within a decade, clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York to Winnipeg, Canada. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. The organization adopted the Rotary International name a year later.

As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members’ professional and social interests. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

By 1925, Rotary had grown to 200 clubs with more than 20,000 members. The organization's distinguished reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks — among them author Thomas Mann, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, and composer Jean Sibelius.


  1. QUite thought provoking Artie. I had never considered this angle before. I sure am now...

  2. Well... Since it is "thought provoking" what do you think?

  3. I've always enjoyed the anarchic nature of the Internet, and how organisation seems to emerge from the sheer numbers. Contrast to this, the organisation from the outset, of relatively small numbers of people, such as the pre Internet initiatives you cite. Projects like Wikipedia seem to be heading more and more towards the oganised model - and it is interesting to note what they loose as a result. The hey day is gone, and with it the dynamic and interesting (for some). Replaced by narrower more focused objectives where it might even seem the ends justify the means.


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The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

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