Going through old email messages and selecting appropriate stories is part of my job editing the GLI English website. However, since GLI Chairman and Co-Founder Robin Rowland died at the end of March, glancing at those messages, many from Robin himself, has been particularly painful. However, one message in particular summed up Robin’s GLI philosophy. It concerned the Akshara network’s newsletter Livelihoods. Robin felt we should publish the 32-page publication, as we often had done in the past.
However, near the end of the newsletter there was a story that caught Robin’s eye and he thought we should repeat it elsewhere on the website – in the Food for Thought section in the Share area.’It will stand the test of time…’ Robin wrote, ‘you can attribute/thank the editor G Muralidher, for another stimulating edition.’
It showed Robin at his best – enthusiastic, meticulous, courteous, kind and thoughtful and with an almost photographic memory. He, of course, hoped all these things would rub off on us and some of them did. I will miss him.
Here are a few of the tributes that have been coming in. We will be adding to them over the coming weeks. PAUL BISHOP, GLI ENGLISH WEBSITE EDITOR.
The rhetoric of civil society centres around the collective. We stand united to amplify the voices of the marginalised and to create a better world. Though we are ultimately fighting for the rights of the individual, we know that our power is more forceful when we work together.
But because of this knowledge, our collective conscience often forgets the individual strength and sacrifice that forms and fuels our various struggles. It is integral that we remind ourselves that there are moments where we must acknowledge the individuals – not as heroes or villains – but as conscious people who have devoted their lives to a cause in solidarity with others.
This is certainly one of these moments. At the end of March, CIVICUS lost one such ally in Robin Rowland, the Chair and Co-Founder of the Global Links Initiative (GLI). Robin brought an enthusiasm and presence to the international stage of civil society along with an incredible list of achievements.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of Robin’s being was his ability to recognise the individual strength of those he worked with. Reading some of the tributes on the GLI website, there is a word that appears more than any other – friend. Robin contributed to the progress of global civil society in countless manners, but it was his smile that made the biggest impact. It was not a surprise that he believed that ‘a smile is the best language in the world.’
I met Robin during my early days at CIVICUS at a conference in 1999 on promoting Corporate Social Responsibility in the Asia Pacific. We were on the opening panel of the conference and he gave the business perspective and I gave the civil society perspective. His warmth, his willingness to push the business community to do more, and to connect people globally was always evident. He came to most of the CIVICUS World Assemblies since then and always brought young people doing inspirational work at the grassroots level with him to expose them to what CIVICUS was doing to promote civil society around the world.
He was so much better at keeping in touch compared to me but never made me feel guilty if I got back weeks after he had written. I called him ten days before his untimely passing away and he told me he was planning to visit South Africa to work with people he had met at the CIVICUS Assemblies and was particularly keen about spending time with the Rural Women’s Movement in my home province of KwaZulu-Natal. We had planned to meet a few days after his death.
While I am grateful to have had a wonderful last conversation with him, I regret deeply that, someone who I had grown to love and respect, is no longer with us. His spirit will live with me, with CIVICUS members he got to know and with the members of the Global Links Initiative that he was so dedicated to. As we say in my hometown Hambe Kahle (Go Well) Robin Rowland, the world is poorer for your absence; and thank you for enriching CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation by being an active, compassionate and dedicated member. And thank you for being my friend. - Kumi Naidoo, Honorary President, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.Co-Chair, Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP). Chair, Global Coalition for Climate Action
Kigali April 25, 2009
To: The Family of Late Mr. Robin Rowland RE: My condolences
My mind was as little to accommodate such surprised bad news of demise of Late Mr. Robin Rowland as its announced in the GLI news letter since March 2009. I got this bad information 5 minutes ago from now when I was reading news from different partners organizations at GLI news letter. I will always remember him as well as his family by following his foot steps in changing people’s lives. Oh God comfort his family and his Nation.
May his soul rest in peace.
Rugaruza Jerome Skjeggestad
Founder and President of FRIENDSHIP AMBASSADORS FAMILY (FAF)
l have learnt with deepest sorrow about the passing away of Robin Rowland. l had been out of town and couldn’t acess the internet so l saw the news just now. Robin accomplished a lot by setting up GLI which has brought changes to many people. l know you can still continue in that same spirit. May God continue blessing and showing you the way. - Kuda Pfuurai
I have just heard of Robin Rowland’s sudden death. I can’t deny the fact that I am still in a state of shock.
Despite what you have done for me, I am sorry I could only meet you once while you were here with us. While I try to live life without many regrets, I regret not being in touch with you earlier.
Looking back, my encounter with you was a turning point in my life, and I don’t think I ever really fully appreciated it.
Many respectful people have influenced my decisions in life: My encounter with Bill Carter, co-founder of Ashoka, was my first step into the real world of social entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurship. Yoshiyuki Sato, founder of Kenya Nuts, taught me to appreciate the role of business in a respectful and fair relationship between countries of different economic developmental stages. The social entrepreneurs and the reality in Nigeria woke me up to the role of the finance sector and the need to readjust the flow of finance.
However, without you, and without GLI, I may have never really played a direct role in the world of social entrepreneurship. If I had not sat next to you in the Skoll World Forum 2006, and together became excited about the need to stimulate and link Japanese social entrepreneurs with global fellow entrepreneurs, I may have never considered ever entering the Japanese community of social entrepreneurs.
Thanks to you and GLI for allowing me to spend the most memorable three months in the Tokyo GLI office as Developer. I was able to experience both the challenges and the power in the Japanese social enterprise community. Although it was a relatively short time, thanks to GLI, I was welcomed with open arms into the community, and it was by far the most deepest three months of human encounter I have ever experienced to date. Although I may not be directly involved in facilitating or nurturing social entrepreneurship right now, social entrepreneurship and my experience in relation to it is still the foundation of both my personal and professional life.
So although it is too late to tell you in person, I would like to send you a big thank you for all that you have done for me. No doubt I am not the only one you have given a starting chance to, or moral support, or a network of compassionate fellows around the world. I am certain that the seeds you have sown will grow into strong trees, which will in return provide a shade, a home, a place for connection to others in the same way.
Thank you for all the links you have provided.-Arisa Kishagami, former GLI Japan office employee
It is with deep regret that I have learnt of the death of Robin Rowland who was instrumental in the setting up of First Step Network (FSN).
Robin inspired me to set up FSN in 2006, indeed the slogan small steps make the difference is largely down to him.
FSN owes a lot to Robin and the next Candle Night, we will dedicate to him.
Unfortunately there is more bad news; the flame that insitgated ANPRAS, Dr Oliver passed away on April 14. And so in the space of two weeks we have lost two great philanthropists. In small steps we believe wherever you both are, you will be our inspiration for ever - G Raj Chintaram
It is with an anguished heart and an outpouring grief that I pay tribute to Mr. Robin Rowland. Robin’s untimely and sudden demise has caused an aching void in me, my family, Goodwill Social Work Centre, GLI and the Tamilnadu Networking Initiative.
As I write this tribute to this legend, my eyes are filled with tears as I have lost a noble soul, a good friend, and a great visionary with a huge heart, who cared for others so much. Robin represents to me a rarity in a person so young in spirit.
We at Goodwill are all still in a state of terrible shock and unable to accept the fact that our ever-loving great friend Robin, a great savant of humanism and a guiding star of our organisation and GLI’s Tamilnadu Networking Initiative, Tamilnadu,India is no more.
Though our friendship was short lived beginning from November 2006 and ending on March 27 2009, it was very purposeful, meaningful and invigorating. Robin and I developed a blossoming partnership helping to provide services and capacity building programmes in Tamilnadu, Networkers now number over 370.
To quote Robin from his email (July 12,2007) to me ‘My own experiences of successful partnerships, even between people who have great mutual respect for each other,is that it is most important that both partners can see significant benefit in that partnership.’
As a GLI Networker and GLI’s Representative in Tamilnadu, India I feel so proud and privileged to have joined with Robin in his partnership initiative and availed of the wonderful opportunity of connecting with people and organisations the world over.
More importantly, it was sheer providence that Robin and I could meet together and work in close co-operation with him and GLI to form Tamilnadu Networking Initiative, in the State of Tamilnadu India, which was so dear to his heart till his death.
Robin highly valued the Goodwill – GLI Partnership and I gratefully acknowledge his greatness for caring about others to get connected and empowered through this partnership. His great association with Goodwill challenged us to tread paths unfamiliar hitherto in serving the GLI family in Tamilnadu. Above all, his professional guidance, advice and trust he showed to all the Goodwill staff, my wife Kala Christopher and me encouraged us to strive for the most effective performance.
His supportive presence was always an added blessing to all GLI-Goodwill events organised for GLI Tamilnadu Networkers in Madurai,India. He was always full of praise and appreciation for every piece of work done by the Goodwill team. We have never met a person so great and generous yet so friendly and lovingly critical. The GLI sponsored NGO capacity building initiatives for the Tamilnadu Networkers under the aegis of The Funding Network,UK organised by Goodwill is a glowing tribute to Robin’s innovative thinking and generosity.
What a great loss for all of us that death has snatched away our dear Robin , who was instrumental in connecting people. I am very much beholden to Robin for bringing a ray of sunshine to us and many a GLI Networker in Tamilnadu. - Dr Christopher Daniel
In Memory of My Dearest Friend Robin Rowland
It has been eight years since I first met Robin in London in July 2001. At that time I had just received my Masters degree and joined a non-profit organisation in Tokyo. It was also my first time to the UK as a member of a delegation from Japan to learn about civil society developments in Britain. Some of the people I met through my short stay in the UK have since become my best friends; among them was Robin, who in many ways changed my life.
One of Robin’s favourite ways of introducing himself to new people was: ‘I worked for a large multinational corporation for 38 years and was in charge of operations in over 100 countries. I feel ashamed that English is still the only language that I can speak. However, I have three secret weapons: no jet lag, I enjoy food everywhere and I am always smiling. A smile is the best language in the world.’
Robin and I launched GLI together in 2003 and he dedicated his body and soul to this initiative. Since we were in different countries most of the time, Robin and I discussed work over emails on a daily basis. We travelled together in the UK and China few times a year and work was pretty much the only topic we talked about. Despite the language barrier, Robin has an astonishing gift of remembering everyone he met. He sent over 800 hand-written Christmas cards to friends and people whom ‘he respects’ all over the world. Once Robin told me that although he spent a good amount of time flying every year, he had never watched a single in-flight movie. ‘I just don�t have time for it. There are too many things to do and to think about.’
Robin’s principle for running GLI was ‘never do things that someone else has already done.’ In a note to me last year, he said ‘I think this principle is consistent with the concept of the social entrepreneur that we are promoting worldwide. Innovation is much more important than simply repeating. GLI is small but unique. I believe our efforts have proved that a small organisation can indeed influence big players.’ In 2004, GLI invited three UK social entrepreneurs to China for the first time. Today, more and more young people in China want to realise their dream of launching their own social enterprise and make the world a better place.
As the sad news of Robin spread, our organisation received laments from GLI Networkers, social entrepreneurs and partner organisations from all over the world. Robin’s personality, his caring heart and his dedication to his dream made everybody miss him deeply.
Robin rarely took a day off since GLI was established but he travelled all the way to Shanghai for my wedding three years ago. He brought a set of fine porcelain from England as a wedding gift. The print was from a still-life painting by Winston Churchill during his period of convalescence. Robin once told me that he used to love to sketch and paint, and the pieces hanging in his home are all painted by himself. He said that ‘I don�t have time to do that anymore, but maybe I will when GLI no longer needs me. But again, I might have a different mission to work on at that time.’
I do not know whether he will finally have time to pick up his brush again in another world. I would like to believe that whatever he is doing, it is something he cares about and enjoys. People who live in paradise ought be able to communicate in the same language. With his three secret weapons, Robin will certainly be able to achieve all his dreams. We will be missing his smile for ever. -Fan Li, GLI Executive Director and Co- Founder
I am very sad to hear the news of Robin passing away. I only meet Robin personally once, but from that one time, we have been in communication over emails about various initiatives. He was always willing to give me support and even though we only met once, it seemed like he always had me in the back of his mind, so when there was an opportunity that arose, he would always make sure that I knew. A kind and thoughtful person that worked hard to make the world a better place, my thoughts are with his family and his friends. - Kelvin Cheung
Jane and I were away when we heard the sad and shocking news of Robin’s sudden death. Robin was a real visionary in forging collaborations across the boundaries of country and culture and was enormously generous in sharing ideas, contacts and opportunities. He really understood how simple connections between people can change the world. We are very grateful for the support he gave to ruralnet|uk and Jane will always remember the opportunities he opened up for her to visit China. He will undoubtedly be missed across the world. - Jane and Simon Berry
I have woken up today with you all on my mind and in my heart, together with our dear friend and colleague Robin and his family. Know that you have support and prayers from all over the world today, including myself. I am feeling Robin’s loss deeply and still cannot come to terms with it. I send you all deepest condolences and want you to know my thoughts are with you. - Jan Beeton
My wife and I had the pleasure of having Robin Rowland stay with us when he visited Edmonton, Alberta. He and I formed a close friendship and I am going to miss his leadership and wise counsel. My family send condolences to Robin’s family. -Gary McPherson, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship School of Business, University of Alberta
Re. Robin Rowland. I just wanted to add something which I’m sure many others will echo, but I hope will be of some comfort to his family at this difficult time. I didn’t ever meet Robin but had one conversation with him on the phone, followed by a Christmas Card. He had remembered my recent redundancy and treated me – a complete stranger – like a lifelong friend. I was so touched by this, and humanity will be considerably poorer without his warmth and inspirational charisma knitting people together. As I can testify, he will be remembered with fondness even by those who never had the privilege of meeting him. -Stuart Craig
I was extremely shocked to hear the news about Robin. He was a remarkably nice man, extremely energetic and considerate and he will be greatly missed. I used to send him links to reports about NGOs in China and he was always very appreciative of my small contributions. I didn’t know Robin well but I will miss him. Please extend my condolences to his family. If there is anything I can do please let me know, let’s make sure that GLI survives as Robin would wish. - Michael Rank
Very sorry to hear about Robin. He would be pleased to know that things are continuing. -Oz Osborne
It is with a heavy heart, I learnt about the sudden death of Robin Rowland. Our heartfelt condolences to all dear and near and the entire GLI team. Almost single handedly he started and built-up GLI to make it a truly international networking organisation.
I fondly recollect our first communication where he introduced GLI and invited me to become a member. He was meticulous in his communications and would personally invite every new entrant.
He and Libby Brayshaw visited Christopher at Madurai in South India in 2007. We met briefly at Chennai on his return from Madurai and I was honoured to host a dinner for both of them. The photo taken on the occasion has been published in the GLI site. That was the first time and last time I met him in person. He left a lasting impression on me.
I pray to the Almighty that his soul should rest in peace. Let us all carry forward the torch of GLI. Amen. - Kris Dev
I would like to send my sincere condolences to wonderful Robin’s family and friends. Robin has been amazing in raising the profile of Chickenshed and its work – not only that, but he has been a good friend to me and helped me on so many occasions. I am shocked and saddened by this terrible news and send my love to his family and friends. -Susan Jamson, Chickenshed Theatre
Robin was our dearest friend. We all loved him and respected him. At this very moment, I am very sad.
GLI is remarkable and is increasingly playing an honest and effective role. We will work harder to cooperate with GLI’s work. May his soul rest in peace. - Jaff Shen CEO of Fuping Development Institute
It is really hard to believe. Last year when we met each other in Shanghai, he was so energetic and quick-minded. I still keep his handwriting New Year’s greeting card, which unfortunately turned out to be his final handwriting. If there is a chance, please convey both my colleagues’ and my deepest condolence to Robin’s family.- Lv Chao, Executive Director of Non-Profit Incubator
I learned the tragic news that Robin has passed away. We have made contact with him by email recently to invite him to attend the social entrepreneurship forum which we are going to hold annually. Moreover, we looked forward to receiving his hand-writing Christmas cards every year, yet his passing away made all these things become a great pity.
Please convey our great sorrow and care to his family, and may his soul rest in peace. Please convey to all the staff of GLI that turning sorrow into strength, we shall make endeavor to develop Robin’s undertaking of social enterprises, letting his achievement play greater role in China and globally. - Ren Xuping and Zhang Shuping, China Rabbit King and Rabbit Queen
I am so surprised and so sorry to hear of the sudden death of my long-time friend, Robin. Fifteen years ago, it was at the Japanese-British 21 Century Committee that I first met Robin, the International CEO of British Royal Insurance. From then on, we became good friends to each other. It was from our concversation that I showed my interest in UK’s Social Entreprenurer activities and it was Robin who introduced me to interview CAN and its leader, Andrew Mawson. From them, programmes of important meanings in my journalist life were born.
I remembered the scene that Robin, already the leader of an environment protection organisation in Buckinghamshire, northwest of London, visited a house at Amersham, one of the central cities. He actively participated in the movement to protect the city’s appearance, which reminds us of its long history of more than 1000 years.
Then, Robin retired from the business sector, founded GLI, devoted his heart and soul to expand GLI’s programmes and activities from East Asia to South Asia, and now it is believed the time for achievements comes. Although I am one of the advisors, owing to my own work, actually, I hardly have had a chance to take part in GLI’s activities. This is really regrettable. I guess to all of you who support GLI till today, this sudden sadness is just like a hole suddenly opened in your heart. Please don’t lose your heart. Please keep on following Robin’s wishes. - Imai Yoshinori
I was totally shocked at the news. It is unbelievable. I remembered the moment I met Robin at Fan�s wedding ceremony. It was just like something happened yesterday. The presence of Robin means too much to us. Now we have lost him. How I wish I could have more chances to talk to him. -Yanyan LI, professor of Komazawa University, GLI Advisor
I was totally shocked at the news. Although I only had contacts with Robin by emails, to me, he is the one who influenced me to become involved in global relations. In 2003, he paid his first visit to ETIC. Robin’s enthusiasm was very impressive. In 2006, during my visit to UK, Robin asked me ‘do you really need to get involved globally?’ which inspired me to think about the question of how to position ETIC on a global span.
It was from that visit that my relationship with GLI started. I have always think that I should meet him and say thank you to him and talk about Bromley By Bow and CAN and the future. But now he has left us. GLI is just having a big influence to China and even India. Undoubtedly, Robin’s enthusiasm has recorded a big step in the world. May his soul rest in peace. – Hiroishi , ETIC, Japan
This is too much a surprise to me that I was totally paralysed. Eight years ago, I walked along with Robin to Dowa area in North Kyushu. Then, from Royal Sun Alliance, CAN, to GLI, and during these five years, Robin had gradually expanded his activities, had more and more achievements. We just feel that GLI is going to experience a more bright future from now on. This is really a great pity.
With his love to people and life, he traveled around the world to address social problems in different societies. I believe through GLI, his existence and spirit will always remain in people’s heart. May his soul rest in peace. - Hori Kumiko
I was so shocked and so sorry to hear of the news that Mr. Robin has left us. The feeling of grief deeply overwhelmed us now. Please convey our deepest condolence to Mr. Robin’s family.
Robin was our respected friend, who had been working hard in promoting the development of social entrepreneurship. During his cooperation with us, Mr. Robin impressed us deeply with his marvellous spirit of enthusiasm, perseverance, professionalism and concentration, which also deeply moved and affected our board members and staff.
We hope the cause Mr. Robin has left will have better development under the joint efforts of all of us, by which his soul can be comforted and reassured. - WU Jianrong, CEO, Shanghai YMCA
I have just learned the news that Robin has passed away due to a heart attack.I have been deeply admiring Robin since I met him and this horrible news really makes me fall into deep grief.
It was only ten days before when I mentioned some of my conversations with Robin to those friends who were making endeavor to be social entrepreneurs. Those wise and insightful words of him still echo in my mind.
Robin is a true practitioner who devotes his entire life into the spreading the idea of social enterprises. All the friends and I will commemorate this gentleman forever.
I’d like to express my grief of Robin’s passing away to you and all the staff of GLI. Please take care of yourself and may his soul rest in peace.
I always believe that GLI has made great contributions to the development of China’s social enterprises. I hope you all get through the hard time and keep working on this great undertaking. - Qing hua SONG, Executive Director, Shining Stone Beijing
I couldn’t believe that Robin has passed away. Robin has left me such a great impression. He has made significant contribution to the development of global social enterprises, also to the development of China’s social enterprises. Though we haven’t met a lot, I have deep admiration and respect to him. Please remember me to his family and friends. His passing will be a great loss to many social enterprises. - Ma Zhongliang, Chief Director of Capital Social Economy Institute, Beijing
It happened so suddenly and just five days before, I told my friend who wanted to start a social enterprise about the enlightenment I gained from the stories of social enterprises in UK.
From the first time I and Robin met with each other, the visit we paid together to Handa, the visit to UK, and I changed job from a journalist to a NGO staff-all these memories are still vivid in my mind.
He was just like a beam of sunshine as we could hardly understand how important he was until one day we live without him. I think, maybe, dedicating ourselves to the undertaking would be the best memorial of this great gentleman.- Zhu Ming, Project Officer of PCD