I had a chance recently to catch up with Thomas Stokell from Challenge for Change.
Challenge for Change is a social marketing agency that specialises in running behaviour change projects getting people cycling and walking, particularly cycling. The biggest project they run is their Workplace Cycle Challenge project, which they do in partnership with the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club).
Thomas piloted a project in New Zealand in 2002 – ‘The Bike Wise Business Battle’. This worked well and he continued running similar projects in New Zealand and Australia, and then brought the approach to the UK in 2008. The first project in the UK was in Swindon in June 2008 which got 900 people cycling, about 1/3 of whom were non-cyclists, and 1/3 of them were still cycling 12 months later.
How does the project work?
The simple answer is that they challenge teams, departments and companies to compete against each other – to see who can get the most people to cycle for 10 minutes or more. The idea being that people who give cycling a go are more likely to start doing it regularly.
To reach the new and occasional cyclists they focus on first reaching regular cyclists. These regular cyclists are their champions who then get more people cycling. They provide prizes and incentives for these regular cyclists to encourage them to reach as many people as possible. They also provide incentives and prizes for each organisation. The organisation with the highest percentage of people on a bike wins the prize.
To help make it easier for people to give cycling a go they encourage existing cyclists to loan their bikes at lunch time, they encourage workplaces to provide bikes, they provide bikes, and of course some people already have bikes of their own. Some people even bring muffins along – ride a bike a get a muffin. Mmmm.
The reason this approach is effective is that people have heard for years the message that cycling is good for them and good for the environment, but people have negative perceptions towards cycling. By getting people to give it a go for 10 minutes or more they can help overcome some of these perceptions. And sometimes the problem isn’t getting someone on the bike, it’s getting them off again afterwards! Now of course this doesn’t magically turn everyone into cyclists. However it’s a great first step, and it’s a great catalyst for change.
In each area they run a project they hire a workplace coordinator who spends 35-40 days on the ground getting workplaces engaged, with CTC Challenge for Change providing back office support.
How does funding work?
Funding for each project comes from all over the show – NHS, universities, council, climate challenge funds, big lottery fund, transport, health, air quality. CTC Challenge for Change help local organisations to coordinate their efforts to fund a project. And what the cost is can vary dependent on the size of the town and the amount of support the orgs are providing locally. However it’s typically somewhere between £20k and £40k. Each organisation brings £5k – £10k to the table, as well as local people’s time and effort.
Top tips for anyone setting up a scheme themselves
- Make sure you’ve got a good level of investment in it, and that enough colleagues are involved. You need enough manpower and enough budget.
- Have enough incentives for the regular cyclists
- Make sure you have a dedicated coordinator to build relationships. They’ll need to have 40 odd days to work on it.
If in doubt then call Thomas!
Thomas’ contact details
Phone: 07984 309 265
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