In a meeting recently I was referred to as an “extremely persistent lady”. A polite way of saying I was a pain in the backside. Now you may think I would get upset at this, but I am not.

What they were referring to was an outcome I had achieved that people had been trying to make happen for 7 years. It was a result people had wanted, but said was not possible to deliver.

We did it in a year. It wasn’t easy, it took an awful lot of determination to keep getting up after the knock backs and finding ways around the bureaucracy and never returned phone calls. I didn’t do it on my own, I had to rally an army of supporters from many different organisations with different skills and influences to help, but we did it. I had to think differently, be innovative, resourceful and most import of all in this instance keep smiling. It is amazing what you can ask for if you are polite and ask with a smile.

The outcome we have achieved is the long-term sustainability of a charity I Project Manage part time called PEDALL New Forest Inclusive Cycling https://www.pedall.org.uk/. We have secured a base to operate from inside the New Forest National Park, right on the cycle tracks providing direct access for our inclusive cyclists onto the 100 miles of off-road cycle tracks. The base also provides a facility to maintain the bikes and somewhere for our amazing volunteers to meet, plan rides and organise the smooth running of the charity. What is more we have a 10-year lease, paid for up front with our current funding, so the project can continue running even if funding is reduced in the future.

Yes, I made ripples, I often ignored the protocol of the big organisations I was dealing with. I asked awkward questions, made myself unpopular in some circles because I was asking people to think differently to think outside the box; to help me find a way forward. I didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer I was determined to find a way as the result was critical to the long-term survival of this fabulous charity that helps improve wellbeing for so many people. I could have made life much easier for myself, this outcome is not part of my current role, but I knew it was critical to the future of this project. Believing in the project, seeing the fantastic work it does, the benefits to all of the riders and their families made me want to help make sure this project continues after the current funding. I put in the extra work, talked to people, found those critical supporters who could help and together we made it happen.

Whether you call this approach being a pain in the ‘***’, extremely persistent, or simple good project management depends upon your view of the world. However I am referred to, I am happy because we have the result the charity needs to ensure thousands of people can continue to ride and thousands more can now experience cycling, people who without the charity would not be able to get out and enjoy physical exercise, enjoy meeting other people, making new friends and enjoying being amongst nature in the beautiful New Forest, and achieving so much more than they thought they could.

The learning from this is that if there is a shared goal, a clear vision and someone to lead, then it can happen, however challenging it may appear to be. Everyone believed in the project, anyone who didn’t was invited out to the project, to come for a bike ride to see for themselves the benefits, the smiles on the participants faces, listen to the stories from the carers as well as the participants. There is so much good work that goes on yet often people making high level decisions are office bound, making decisions on issues that are sentences on a piece of paper. If they can see the projects, experience them for themselves, they quickly gain a good understanding of the need and you get buy in. It is also good for the decision makers to get out, enjoy the fresh air and change of environment too – it is good for their own well-being.

Being able to step back, think differently, be persistent while keeping a focus on the desired outcome was critical to us securing a base and to the success of this charity which I am so proud to be a part of.

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