Skills building with the London Cycling Campaign

A few weeks ago Matthew and I facilitated a one day workshop for the London Cycling Campaign. It was for their newly recruited group of volunteer Campaign Organisers and local group members who will be working hard on the Space4Cycling campaign in the run up to the local elections in May. This aims to get local candidates across every borough committing to specific demands to make cycling safer in their neighbourhoods.

The brief was to design and facilitate a day that built their confidence and skills in lobbying local candidates, communicating campaign asks to their local community and getting into local and social media. Some participants had been involved with LCC for a while, some were new to the organisation and the campaign. Most participants hadn’t met each other, so time getting to grips with the campaign and getting to know each other also had to be factored in.

LCC posted a good summary of what we did and their thoughts on how it went on their blog, written up straight after the event, in a much timelier manner! I thought we’d add a few more reflections from our perspective and a selection of comments from participants.

We designed the day to be very interactive and participant led – lots of discussion and activities in workshops and smaller groups, plus a big chunk of open space. Many participants said this was the best thing about the day – it enabled them to meet other and share experience and expertise. Comments included “my head is buzzing”, “it was intense and I am tired” and “the best thing was ‘doing it’”.

However on reflection we might have leaned too far towards active participation and we didn’t include a presentation about the campaign and their role in it. Although they had all had a written briefing in advance a number of participants felt that a quick update on the campaign at the start of the day would have been helpful and a couple of people still felt confused about what they were there for by the end of the day. This made us ponder that perhaps we can be so determined to do things differently and make things participative that we forget that sometimes a plenary presentation is exactly what’s needed to set the scene.

Plus, while lots of people really valued the open space session and felt they had necessary conversations relevant to their groups, others were less sure. A couple of participants felt that it was a bit “too open”, not structured enough, and that conversations veered off into irrelevant tangents. We’ve been facilitating a few open space sessions recently and having a few discussions about them. Pondering a blog post soon on the joys and challenges of facilitating open space, so watch this space! As always, we’re keen to hear your views.