Traditional North American service clubs are dying. Or so is the view from a mid-sized Canadian city, which was virtually built on fraternal organizations. Please don't misconstrue. Service clubs are made up of compassionate, generous, dedicated individuals and clubs like Rotary, Optimists, Kiwanis, Lions, Shriners etc, do tremendous things in their local communities -- from new hospitals and parks to soccer clubs and literacy programs. (Stuff you'd be proud to tell your kids and grandkids you were a part of.) But, for the most part, their members aren't getting any younger, nor are they being replenished in any significant numbers. Why?
Some believe it's the pace of modern life. Others, the rise of social networks. Still others, the generational apathy of Y's and Next-ters.
But wait. Aren't we more interconnected and globally-aware than ever before in history? Yes, indeed.
A family member attending university tells us that her friends throw keg parties to support their global vision foster children (gotta love the ingenuity) and buy each other goats for Bangladeshie villages for Christmas. This same young -vegetarian- did an exchange this summer to plant trees in New Zealand.
Like never before, we're demanding a say in the environmental programs and urban development agendas of nations. We are raising money for food and clean water in Sudan, and AIDS relief and the rescue of child soldiers in Uganda. (Causes that are inarguably central to our own humanity.)
But why abroad and not at home? Do our domestic causes -- which include homelessness, hunger, child poverty, low literacy -- not resonate as impactfully? Has our global consciousness caused us to overlook the needs in our own corner of the world?
And now, devil's advocate: Aren't we always talking about how, because of technology, we have the ability to share causes, build tribes, effect change, across communities and nations on an historic scale? We sure are, but why not start at home?
The point? We guess it's more a question, really. What do today's service clubs have to do to get our attention? Perhaps it's a formula of one part marketing, one part remarkable, with a pinch of emotional bandwidth. Or, maybe it's a re-imagination of the model itself?
Choose your cause. Start at home. Change the world.