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GAVEL Clubs good for Hong Kong, even better for the Mainland

GAVEL Clubs good for Hong Kong, even better for the Mainland


Sponsor of the first Gavel Club in Mainland China Jane Marie Kennedy

First Chairman for Toastmasters China Warwick John Fahy  On 17 August 2007, Warwick received a Presidential Citation at the Hall of Fame from Toastmasters International. His citation read: "A far-sighted visionary and efficient organizer, Warwick led his team of able and dedicated Toastmasters to expand the number of clubs in China from fewer than ten to more than forty in under three years. In the process, Warwick trained new Toastmasters in the ways of organisational leadership while leading the clubs in China to becoming a territorial council and then a provisional district in less than two years.”


I want to help Jane Marie Kennedy do for Toastmasters Gavel clubs, what Warwick John Fahy did for Toastmasters China. 

Speech class was an elective in my high school and thus too scary a subject for me to choose voluntarily. Looking back through my twelve year Toastmasters lens of experience, I should have leaped at the chance. Gavel clubs have the same format and benefits as the adult Toastmasters but serve youth from primary school age to eighteen, when they become eligible for membership in Campus, Corporate and Community clubs.


As Peter Drucker said, "anyone can solve a problem, taking advantage of an opportunity, is the challenge.” Toastmasters came to the Mainland in 1999 with one club in Tianjin, one in Shanghai and one in Guangzhou. Warwick, was the man with the plan and seized the opportunity by organizing the disparate clubs with the first national Toastmasters Conference in 2006.


On a visit to the Kowloon Toastmasters club, I met this twenty-something lady who said she had been in Toastmasters for eight years. You have to be 18 to join, plus eight would make you 26? No, I joined a Gavel club in my junior year of high school. Oh, what’s a Gavel club?


Toastmasters Hong Kong has been around since 1954, with YLP (Youth Leadership Program)and Gavel clubs well entrenched in both public and private schools. Thus the YLP/Gavel opportunity presented itself. Until, Jane Marie entered my life, Gavel clubs remained in tegory’s ‘cloud’ file. Had Jane Marie, the opportunity jumper personified, been in my high school, she would have seized the opportunity of an elective speech class. Shortly after sharing with Jane Marie, my great idea for a Gavel club in Zhengzhou, Mercury Rising at #47’s Sino-US program was chartered.


The Gavel club opportunity? 


Alexis de Tocqueville visited 25 states and Canada, talked with 200 business and government leaders, went back to France and wrote "Democracy in America.” He then credited America’s success to no Dominate Religion, a Clean Slate and the Power of Associations.


Mexico had a similar Democratic Constitutional form of government, but divided its authority with the Catholic Church. The Clean Slate with no dominate religion – Catholics and 57 varieties of Protestants – yielded to associations of like-minded peoples. The farmers formed the Grange Society and later rural educators created 4-H clubs for the youth. Now that 80% of the Euro-American population lives in the city, corporate or professional associations use the Power of Associations - otherwise known as lobbying - to bend the government to favor their special interests.

Toastmasters International sprung from the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) 90 years ago to teach men the art of public speaking. Today, it has spread the good news of self-improvement through membership in an association to 15,000 clubs in 130 countries. The one common denominator,  speaking in English. However, over half of the clubs are corporate clubs because Fortune 500 companies understand that communications and leadership skills are learned abilities and the Toastmasters experience remains the best teacher.


Toastmasters overwhelming success in China, is deja vu Tocqueville’s America – no religion, a clean slate - in the sense there is a limited civil society and therefore few member run associations. By the end of 1955 almost 2/3, about 60%, of all Chinese farmers were engaged in cooperative farming. Call it the Chinese mirror of the US Grange Societies.


The first 4-H club’s name was the ‘Tomato’ club and later they were known as ‘Corn Clubs.’ Teaching the old dog farmers new tricks, was a real challenge but when the cotton farmer’s 4-H son earned more money per acre growing corn, it did the trick. Let’s just say that Gavel clubs are the 4-H clubs of the city, out to teach the old dog adults how to speak.


 What’s the Strategy?

Sunzi’s Stratagem #14 :  Borrow a corpse to resurrect the soul 借屍還魂/借尸还魂

 Take an institution, a technology, a method, or even an ideology that has been forgotten or discarded and appropriate it for your own purpose. Revive something from the past by giving it a new purpose or bring to life old ideas, customs, or traditions and reinterpret them to fit your purposes.

What’s the forgotten ideology?

 The power of civil society through associations.

 Over half of the clubs in China are Corporate clubs, especially in Shanghai, and Beijing. Community clubs are much more challenging – grass roots endeavors on foreign soil Xi’an Toastmasters took three years to matriculate and only sprouted after the Filipina HR boss at Emerson chartered her club. 


 Mercury Rising at #47’s Sino-US program is was first and only Gavel club in Mainland China.


Campus/Gavel clubs are the secret ingredient – the Way Forward – because every school in China has at least one English corner and 99% join Toastmasters to improve their spoken English. However, here again, the grass-roots doesn't know that they exist, even adult members are unaware, that access to self-esteeming, supportive group therapy, communications and leadership training, currently flourishes in both public and private schools, just around the corner, in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. 


Sally Zhao, Annie Lee and I,  spent at least three years trying to lead horses to water utilizing Toastmasters International’s Youth Leadership Program (YLP). An eight week program designed to introduce youth to the benefits of joining a Toastmasters club. 

 Hong Kong Young Elite Gavel Club for primary and secondary students.


How to let the grassroots, know about Gavel clubs?


Start Gavel clubs at international, or international wannabee schools. Mercury Rising, is part of an international program at a public high school Zhengzhou #47. The politically correct terminology is IB International Baccalaureate schools. I never went to one because I couldn't begin to spell Baccalaureate. Needless to say, IB schools are all the rage in Asian countries. There are 81 IB schools in China, primarily in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The only one in Henan is  Zhengzhou Middle School. They have been an IB World School since December 1999. 

A closer to home example is Utahloy – where Kay & Roy Hitchcock teach - they have been an IB World School since April 2005. Utahloy, offers the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP)and IB Diploma Programme (DP). The school is private.

Shangdong Province, our new home, has its first, Qingdao Amerasia in April 2014. It offers the IB Diploma Programme (DP) and like Utahloy. it is private.

The majority of well-established IB schools offerspeech, debate and United Nations extra-curricular activities. Gavel clubs, provide the same communications and leadership skill experience in a mutually supportive group environment as the other types of Toastmasters clubs - Community, Corporate and Campus – except they are for primary and secondary school youth. Chinese Tiger moms are spending zillions on educating their babies, while the Gavel club experience is free – that's the opportunity. For more information search Gavel clubs at






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