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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fading In America, Civic Clubs Thrive Abroad

A meeting of the Taipei Toastmasters club. (flickr/Jon@the@nC/Jonathan Chen)

A meeting of the Taipei Toastmasters club. (flickr/Jon@the@nC/Jonathan Chen)

We’ve been hearing for decades that civic groups like the Kiwanis and Lions Clubs are hemorrhaging members here in the U.S.

 

But according to John Gravois, editor and writer at Washington Monthly, they are alive and well in places like South Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Indonesia.

For example:

  • There are 60,000 Rotarians in South Korea
  • There are 11,000 Kiwanians in Taiwan
  • Rotary International has grown 60 percent in South Korea

Toastmasters executive director  Daniel Rex told Gravois that the group is “organizing about a chapter a week” in India and Sri Lanka.

Gravois compares civic groups to “Fortune 500 companies expanding operations in emerging markets” while they “wither at home.”

“These clubs provide people with networking in a society where social interactions may have been governed by village ties and caste.”

– John Gravois, writer for the Washington Monthly

He told Here & Now’s Robin Young that processes of urbanization and rapid industrialization are playing a role and that many countries where civic groups are booming resemble the U.S. 100 years ago.

“We were a largely agrarian society, people were moving off the farm, cities like Chicago were sprouting up overnight,” he said.

Gravois says that rapid migration into American cities led people to break off traditional social ties, creating a hunger for new networks. Gravois sees a similar shift happening in many rapidly industrializing countries today.

“These clubs provide people with networking in a society where social interactions may have been governed by village ties and caste,” he said.

Gravois says Toastmasters’ success in India is a good example of why civic groups are thriving abroad.

“It was founded… to help tongue-tied young men to get over their fear of public speaking. That is a pretty useful thing for somebody who may be one generation removed from the village in India and they’re trying to get an office job in a big multi-national bank in Mumbai,” he said.

Guest:

  • John Gravois, editor/writer at the Washington Monthly

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