Broken Windows

Earlier this year I joined the Windsor Rotary Club. My membership came about through an unusual meeting – the 2015-16 President, Terry Munsey, is our regular handyman! He was at our house doing some work when he mentioned that he was a member of the Club. I was looking to increase my social circle, get out of the house more often and contribute to the community by volunteering. I attended a few meetings, and before I knew it, Terry was sponsoring my membership.

One of the benefits of joining is the “Rotary Down Under” magazine. While reading the September 2016 issue today, I came across an article called “Broken Windows”, which resonated with me, both as a Rotary member, but in regard to life generally. So here it is.

The “Broken Windows Theory” dictates that if windows are broken and left unfixed, people tend to infer a prevailing sense of indifference towards the upkeep of order in the neighbourhood. Subsequently, they show less inhibition towards breaking further windows or similar anti-social behaviour – if nobody really cares, why not? Similarly, if it doesn’t really matter, why prevent it taking place?

If this attitude continues unchecked, it can cause the entire area to be affected by a rise in crime. Petty vandalism can lead to larger wrongdoings, as people perceive an apathy to lawfulness and feel free to act without restraint.


So what does this mean to Rotary? Our clubs’ successes are defined by their internal cultures. High levels of meaningful service, ethics, integrity, respect and unity, as well as a commitment to fostering goodwill and assisting the development of both our own members and the wider community, are the foundations of Rotary worldwide. These are our windows.

Occasionally and regrettably, these windows get broken. Areas of service may become neglected. We may fail to bring in new members or members who add fresh perspectives. We may defer the opportunity to undertake projects of significance or may not embody our values when interacting with other club members or when facing difficulties in reaching our objectives.

We have two choices once this occurs: we either identify and set about fixing the problem, or we do nothing and watch the resultant drop in standards….and membership. Seems like an easy choice. But we all know that the right choice isn’t always the easy choice.

We can look to others to fix the problems, or even expect they will do so. We may believe we “aren’t responsible for” or “don’t own” the problems, so therefore they aren’t ours. We may even figure that nobody will notice, or that the problems will fix themselves over time. In reality though, these “windows”, which our success rests upon, are every Rotarian’s priority. Small fractures left unchecked can lead to large breaks.

Great teams comprise of individuals prepared be self-managing. They take personal responsibility for ensuring standards are met and raised further again. They don’t need to be prevented from breaking windows, they are out there fixing windows, polishing them and taking pride in them.

We all, at times, get off course and our windows get broken. But it is how we respond to both our own broken windows and those within our vicinity that will define Rotary’s future success.



While this article deals with how Rotary responds to and fixes problems in its local community through the volunteering and drive of its members, the whole concept of the “Broken Window” can apply to any person, family, organisation and community. So what broken windows do you see, and how are you going to fix them?



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