This article was published in 2014, in Newsletter 115.
The committee of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign has been discussing for several years the possibility of employing paid staff and now there is the prospect of part-funding for this from one of our members. Here we hope to answer some of your questions.
Why does the Campaign need an employee?
Because we would like Cambridge to have the best bicycle facilities and safety in the UK, and this will only happen if there is a strong cycling lobby continually arguing for investment in the best infrastructure. Because there is lots to do in order to improve cycling provision in Cambridge! We have many committed hardworking members who consider the issues, attend meetings, write letters and campaign for better cycle routes, better cycle parking, better – and safer, and more – provision for cyclists. But they also have work and family commitments and there is more to do than they can manage.
Because northern European cycling culture has not spread to the UK. Too few people see or experience excellent cycling provision or quiet and unpolluted streets to create political pressure for change. In the Netherlands and Denmark cyclists often have priority over cars and children ride without the danger of speeding vehicles. Why shouldn’t the UK have similarly pleasant conditions for cyclists?
To get some of the good stuff on this side of the Channel, we have to work hard, and this takes time. We wish to strengthen Cambridge as the exemplar cycling city on this island, and that would produce benefits that would spread to other parts of the country.
What will the employee do?
We need an employee to do many things, some routine, some to make us more responsive and professional, and others to engage stakeholders and make more effective use of volunteer time.
We shall make sure that the new post holder will help us to campaign more effectively rather than simply replacing what we do already. For instance, large planning applications which affect cycling often need substantial preparatory work, sifting through many large documents, to identify the issues. This is very time-consuming and has traditionally been very burdensome for volunteers. By preparing a briefing summarising the key issues and shortcomings of a new development quickly, this would unlock volunteer work to undertake effective public campaigning and lobbying early on.
There are three main areas of work: volunteer facilitation, administration and stakeholder engagement.
What is volunteer facilitation?
This is a key part of the job and it involves supporting existing and new volunteers to make more effective use of their time. An employee could free up volunteer time, by handling correspondence and preparing briefings, so that campaigners can spend time on strategic campaigning matters. It includes finding volunteers to tackle specific issues, making sure they have access to the information they need, such as key documents, and helping them address the issues effectively.
What does administration cover?
All manner of mostly small but cumulatively time-consuming tasks, from sifting emails and passing them on to the correct people, to making sure that copies of our responses and correspondence are filed appropriately online so they can be found when needed.
How would the role increase engagement with other stakeholders?
Our employee would work constructively with, for instance: local schools, professional drivers, the police, the bicycle trade and elected representatives. This would help us argue for and build coalitions in support of better cycle provision, generally and on specific issues.
But how can we afford to pay someone?
An anonymous donor has very generously offered us two-thirds of the money required to fund a full-time employee for three years. The donor has asked that the Campaign raise one-third of the cost required. We feel that three years is the minimum time required for someone to have a real impact, to establish an effective network of contacts, to provide an enduring vision and to ensure the post is self-sustaining.
The committee is working on a plan to raise the money. This includes appeals to local businesses, applying for grants and, subject to approval at the AGM, increasing membership fees.
What will happen after three years?
The employee will spend about 10% of their time either seeking funding through grants or generating income from areas such as consultancy. Furthermore, having paid staff should help the Campaign to grow and thus increase its income, as well as its effectiveness.
Who will manage the employee?
The Chair and Co-ordinator will ensure that the employee understands the Campaign’s policies and help the employee with managing the workload, within priorities discussed and agreed by the committee (the trustees) at its bi-monthly meetings. Two committee members with relevant expertise will be responsible for personnel matters, such as annual leave. The employee will report to the committee and to the Campaign’s monthly open meetings.
We have worked on why we need an employee, what he or she would do, how they would be managed and how much money is needed. Now we need to be confident that our strategy to raise the money is likely to succeed. Then we can launch an appeal for funds.