A Brief History of Rotary E-Clubs
The concept of Rotary eClub One was developed by a design committee from D5450, commencing work in March 2001 under the leadership of John Minter, D5450 Governor's Representative and a member of the sponsoring Rotary Club of Boulder, Colorado. The Board of Rotary International approved the world's first provisional Rotary E-club (Rotary eClub One) in 2001 with John Minter as its Charter President.
On January 18, 2002, Bhichai Rattakul, Rotary International President 2002-2003, attended a Quad-District Rotary Foundation dinner in Denver Colorado where Rotary eClub One was presented with its Charter Certificate, dated January 4, 2002.
In 2003 Charter President John Minter, President-elect Chris Joscelyne, and President-nominee Gerry Roberts, undertook a major review of the Rotary E-Club concept. Significant changes were made, monitored closely by RI. The model that was adopted became the operational benchmark that we all know today.
In June 2004 the RI Council on Legislation approved the resolution: "To allow attendance credit for a 30-minute interactive club Web site activity." This opened the way for the Cyber Rotary Clubs Pilot Project with 14 e-clubs participating in the proof-of-concept evaluation trial.
Rotarians Joscelyne and Minter, with support from D5450, submitted a proposal to the Board of RI that Rotary should follow the Internet naming protocol of the UN and governments (e-health, e-commerce, e-trade, e-banking etc.) and adopt the descriptor "Rotary e-club". This recommendation was adopted by the RI Board who ordered that the descriptor "Rotary cyber-club" be no longer used. The Pilot Project was renamed Rotary E-Clubs Pilot Project, and clubs were directed to remove references to "cyber-club" from their websites.
A Rotary e-clubs advisory panel was established to respond to the needs of the 14 Rotary e-clubs in the pilot. Panel members were PDG Mel Taunt (Arizona), PDG Gerry Roberts (Wyoming), PP Carol Steen (North Carolina), PP Angus Robinson (Australia), PP Chew Ban-Seng (Singapore) and PP Chris Joscelyne (Australia) who was panel chair. Rotarian Joscelyne acted as liaison for the 14 Rotary e-clubs in the pilot, working with RI staff member Judi Woods, collecting and collating data that was reviewed regularly by the Board of RI.
In June 2008 Rotarian Joscelyne attended a meeting of the incoming RI Board for 2008-09 and gave a detailed report on the progress of the pilot project. Prior to this meeting, some RI Directors had voiced their concern regarding long-term viability of e-clubs. However following a robust Q&A session, RI Directors were satisfied that e-clubs should continue beyond the pilot period, subject to the approval of the 2010 Council on Legislation (COL).
The Rotary E-Clubs Pilot Project concluded on 30 June 2010 following the COL at which Rotary e-clubs were approved permanently, with a limit of two per Rotary District. Of the 14 e-clubs in the pilot, 12 had met the performance requirements prescribed by RI, and 2 had failed. The 2 that failed had their charters cancelled and they were shut down on June 30, 2010.
At the 2013 COL, voting delegates removed the limit of two Rotary e-clubs per District. Earlier concerns that there may have been a "gold rush" effect, with an overwhelming number of e-clubs being chartered, proved to be unfounded, with less than 100 Rotary e-clubs being chartered in the three years following the 2010 COL. In 2016, the Council on Legislation voted to abolish the distinction between clubs and e-clubs.
In summary, the most successful Rotary e-clubs knew from the beginning that technology is purely an enabler, nothing more. This was the forecast of the D5450 design committee in 2001, and they have been proven correct.