Rotary eClub One, District 5450
World's 1st eClub (Jan 2002)

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Origins of Rotary e Club One


Author   Rotary eClub One Founding member John Minter
Life for Rotary eClub1 did not begin with a grand revelation. Building the online Rotary club was a political not a technical challenge.
In Boulder, on a snowy March morning in 1999, the D5450 Membership chair called the District Internet chair and asked "John, can we put a Rotary Club on the Internet?".  Jim Hanifin simply wanted help to expand District membership. Thinking of resources that could be tapped I decided it was worth a shot.  I answered, Why not! failing to realize I was jumping off a bridge without a bungee cord. That response was the beginning
of the thread that brings us to this moment.
The design committee represented about 300 years of Rotary membership and all levels of club and district leadership experience. Not enough can be said about the role of Gary Fletcher in making all this work. I might come up with ideas but it was always Gary put the rubber on the road. Without Gary we would not be here.
When we hit the wall going the normal club application route, we were advised to apply for RI approval of a pilot project. In June 2001 that advice paid off as the Executive Committee of the RI Board approved our application for a pilot project to test
the concept of a Rotary Club fully online.  The ExCom chair, a Fort Collins Rotarian, gave us a critical assist. It took him four votes to get the application past the objections of some committee members. 
After receiving the approval of the RI ExCom to undertake a pilot study I received an invitation from the RI General Secretary, Ed Futa to come to Evanston. 
Futa insisted Rotary wanted to be on the leading edge of digital development, not the "bleeding edge".  As we high-fived over his desk his parting words were "don't forget to keep within the average global modem speed of 28.8". I don't think we've drawn any blood but we sure didn't keep the speed down.
Barriers to putting a club on the net were Rotary mandates ("seat time" at stated meetings) and Rotary culture” How can we have FELLOWSHIP with "screen time" attendance?” The Council on Legislation changed the mandate in 2004, voting almost unanimously for eC1's motion for screen time alternative to seat time.  The fellowship issue disappears with experience.  
RI took the final step to legitimating the online model when the COL removed the distinction between e clubs and terra clubs in 2010.
I will end my story here but add another significant event of the early years, Chris Joscelyn joining the club. Gary and I both agreed he was the one who would plant the online flag in Evanston.  And he did.  I can hear him cheering.
My feelings about saying "why not"? joy and fun of service are in the journey. It doesn't end. 

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