Bicycles for Humanity just keeps growing and growing and it is just exciting to watch it all happen. As a grassroots movement , it is efficient, everyone is engaged in making a difference and as volunteers we get to work directly with the people we support in many developing countries. if you want to be inspired, make a difference and feel good about what you and your team are doing, think about joining the global Bicycles for Humanity initiative.
It is so hard to believe that we have shipped over 50,000 bicycles in 5 years and we still have not spent a cent on any overhead or administration. Grassroots movements are about people, about telling their stories and together making a difference, here and in the developing world. When these stories are told and retold, others want to tell the stories and become a part of the bigger story of the difference a bicycle can make, especially in the developing world. We invite you to share our story, to become a part of our story and to make a difference, we all can.
Movements take time to grow and evolve. they are never easy and no one person controls or drives a movement, but a collective group of minds sharing a common set if ideas and beliefs. Like the book, ‘It’s not about the bike”, the story of Lance Armstrong, bicycles for Humanity is not about the bike, but what happens when people worlds apart decide to set about change through the gift of mobility a bicycle can deliver. the following are few thoughts and ideas about the Bicycles for Humanity Movement. if you would like to contribute and become a part of this global initiative, everyone is welcome.
Vision and Strategy
The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of our movement and to share with all, our beliefs, model and strategy. The founding principals of the B4H Movement are as strong today as when our movement was founded 6 years ago. There are 4 guiding beliefs that our movement grows from. In the last 6 years, our movement has delivered over 70 containers or 40,000 plus bikes to Africa from over 30 chapters globally, literally thousands of volunteers and it continues to grow at a very rapid pace, all without any staff, support, central administration or monies spent. We are a pure grassroots movement and what connects and drives us is the common belief that , “A Bicycle can make a difference”
We believe that the gift of mobility that a bicycle can provide is universal, essential and empowering to all. Mobility delivered by a bicycle allows healthcare workers to do more, enables youth to travel long distances to school, entrepreneurs to establish business’s and deliver goods to distant markets. It also allows families to carry food and water long distances, hopefully allowing the family unit more time to be together.
To be truly sustainable, it must be embraced and accepted by our partner communities, with local teams taking full responsibility for the on going support of the program. Bicycles are delivered in Containers, local community members are trained in bike service and support and, with these BEC’s or Bicycle Empowerment Centers becoming the foundation to long term support, development, job creation and community development at many levels. Community is key to our movement, we encourage chapters here to work together with community groups and chapters in Africa. Global teamwork is key to both an understand and the development of new models to solve the problems facing many globally.
Bicycles for Humanity is a community based grassroots movement. Other than our main website, supporting a directory of all projects, there is no central organization, management or administration of any kind. We are a pure, highly efficient movement with community leaders organizing, their chapters, raising the funds to send the containers of bikes to Africa, to communities there that they want to support. This model allows all to organize, fundraise and collect in a manner that makes sense to them and their community. It also allows chapter heads to take charge, be accountable and to feel empowered as well as others on their team. In short, it is a very flat, very efficient model that allows whoever puts in energy to help do it the way they feel best. Much of our movements growth comes from individuals who, rather than just volunteer for a NGO or Non Government organization and just be a volunteer with little say, choose to start their own organization, while still being connected to a common vision through the movements belief’s.
Efficient models that empower the individual and the chapter to do more is the last founding key. Deep down everyone wants to make a difference, to contribute and to know that their efforts of helping others helps themselves and their communities at the same time. The B4H movement is really a model or template that allows all to help others globally and locally. It allows the creative energies and forces of many to focus on a very simple goal helping deliver the gift of mobility through a bicycle.
In Summary, The Bicycles for Humanity Movement Believes:
Bicycles are universal, everyone understands the power of a bike.
Individuals and their communities are empowered to make a difference.
The deliverables are clear and every project has a start and an end.
Accountability and responsibility stays with the chapter.
It’s fun and very rewarding on many levels, local, regionally and globally.
Bicycles for Humanity Developed World Chapter Model
Chapters and local community leadership are the foundation to the B4H Grassroots Movement. Chapter membership is open to all, individuals, schools, civic clubs, church’s, sports teams, really anyone who believes that a bicycle can make a difference and is interested in sending at least one container of bicycles a year to a community partner/chapter in Africa.
4 Guiding Principals of Chapters in the developed world are as follows:
Chapters are free to organize in any way that makes sense to them. Bicycles for Humanity existing chapter leaders and teams will mentor you and your team to the best of their abilities. All we ask is that a developed country Chapter try to deliver on their commitment of sending one container of bikes a year. If the chapter has raised funds and does not complete the process of sending a container, than we ask that that chapter forward any funds they have to an existing chapter. Chapters cover the cost of buying the container, which becomes the BEC, Bicycle Empowerment Center, all local logistics, plus the cost of Ocean freight to the closest African port. Depending on the partner relationship in Africa, some chapters may also cover the in country shipping and logistics on their own or in partnership with their African Community partner
Every chapter and chapter leader will be listed on our website, www.bicycles-for-humanity.org and in the main B4H directory, plus they will have a link to their website, Facebook or WordPress page. We encourage all chapters to support all 3 social media platforms, plus use Twitter to keep all informed locally, regionally and globally. We encourage chapters to follow a uniform naming model, example, Bicycles for Humanity, Ottawa. www.b4h-ottawa.org as an example. Today’s social media allows for all to spread the movement message virally and we encourage all chapters to establish links and favorites pages with all other chapters. This way you both learn what is going on within the movement, plus gain ideas on how to make your chapter better
Chapters are free to pick whatever community they want to support in Africa. In many countries like Namibia our movement has a long history with the Bicycle Empowerment Network and many chapters partner with this group. Other chapters establish their own partner programs in Africa and any new or existing chapter is free to join these initiatives, or you can start your own and grow B4H membership around your project. B4H has a set of logo’s and images that all chapters are encouraged to use, we also do not mind if you create your own or a variation of one of our existing ones.
By telling your story locally, the media is drawn to the efficiencies and value that a B4H Chapter partner creates in their community. We encourage all chapters to keep telling your story and the need for bicycles in Africa. We also encourage chapters to work together, share ideas and where possible establish relationships that are good for all chapters and communities in Africa.
In Summary Bicycles for Humanity Chapters are:
Free to organize in whatever way they like and support the community of their choice.
We ask that all chapters try and send at least one container of bicycles annually.
We encourage teamwork, both here and in Africa and by building community everyone benefits.
We encourage chapters to follow our core naming model and to use social media tools to tell their story and spread the word.
We respect the chapter structure and encourage all to do the same, while sharing and helping each other.
Every day I wake up and check Google alerts, I am totally in awe by what is going on within the Bicycles for Humanity Movement. As a movement we are 6 years young and growing in a hundred directions, yet we have no staff, no budgets of any kind and no real organization, really no leadership, just a whole lot of people who believe that the gift of mobility that a bicycle can deliver is an important first step to a better life.
If we had created a Non Profit, organized centrally and asked people to join this NGO would we have grown the way we have, I don’t think so, would individuals be taking this in a hundred directions all good for their communities and good for communities in Africa, nope, don’t think that would have happened.
It’s hard to identify any one thing, it’s a lot of things. People want to make a difference, they want to drive change and they want to be accountable and know that what they are doing is making a difference. Today’s connected world of social media allows all with common interests to connect, organize and mobilize quickly and efficiently. The speed at which grassroots can drive change and the efficiencies of models that scale driven by concerned citizens who want to make a difference is a powerful force and one that is very difficult to stop.
There is a terrific book called, The Spider and the Starfish, the concept is simple. if you cut off the leg of a spider it dies, but if you cut off the leg of a Starfish, it grows another leg. Movements like Starfish flourish because there is no one leader, but a set of ideologies that many believe in. Mobility offered by a bicycle is efficient, economical, environmentally friendly and universal globally. Saving a portion of the 18 million bicycles destined for landfills in North America and Europe is a good thing. Doing good in one’s own community and linking that community to help do good a half a world away connects us in ways we cannot imagine.
My wife and I started bicycles for Humanity to simply send one container of bikes to healthcare workers in Namibia. Today there are literally hundreds of volunteers and leaders everywhere who share our vision and beliefs and all who have joined this movement have taken it a thousand times further than I could ever imagine. Would this viral growth happen in a structured NGO, don’t think so, too many rules and to much inefficiencies to attract high energy people. Can a highly structured NGO attract good people and keep them, by making them a small cog in their big machine, don’t think so, people want to make a difference and they want to do it their way.
Bicycles for Humanity and all within it resemble a Starfish and it keeps growing on it’s own. Many highly structured NGO’s are beginning to look like Spiders and by losing one individual, they can fail or become very inefficient.
In reflecting back on the last 6 years, it is simply incredible what has happened and I have no idea what the future will bring, but I know that it will be good on a hundred fronts and the gift of mobility that a bicycle can deliver will reach many many more communities globally.
We have been asked time and again, why Bicycles for Humanity is not a Non Profit, who is it’s board, why it has never spent a cent on administration and why it will never have staff, and overhead of any kind. the answer is simple, we are a movement and really a philosophy. All within the Bicycles for Humanity movement believe that a bicycle can make a difference to so many globally. All withi the movement also believe that efficient models with accountability and empowerment forming the foundation to the chapter/community model allows all to drive it in the direction they feel best. Seth Godin in his blog today, summed it up nicely.
Organization vs. movement vs. philosophy
An organization uses structure and resources and power to make things happen. Organizations hire people, issue policies, buy things, erect buildings, earn market share and get things done. Your company is probably an organization.
A movement has an emotional heart. A movement might use an organization, but it can replace systems and people if they disappear. Movements are more likely to cause widespread change, and they require leaders, not managers. The internet, it turns out, is a movement, and every time someone tries to own it, they fail.
A philosophy can survive things that might wipe out a movement and that would decimate an organization. A philosophy can skip a generation or two. It is often interpreted, and is more likely to break into autonomous groups, to morph and split and then reunite. Industrialism was a philosophy.
The trouble kicks in when you think you have one and you actually have the other.
A movement is a wonderful thing, it grows on all sides every day and everyone is doing the best they can to take it forward and the surprising thing is that it works. there is an ongoing debate out there between a movement and a non profit, our choice is movement, it is viral, it attracts incredible talent globally and it allows everyone to be the solution.
The last 6 months I have been asking myself, what is next for the Bicycles for Humanity Movement. When we started it was to provide the gift of mobility offered by a bicycle to healthcare workers and women in Namibia. This program continue’s to grow and many chapters over the past year have started to spread their wings and enter new countries. This year, chapters entered and are building programs in South Africa, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Zambia and Rowanda. These chapters are searching for new communities to support and they are doing a terrific job. Our Chapter in Whistler in partnership with other chapters, Calgary, Saskatoon and hopefully others is now building a program in Uganda.
In 6 years we have gone from groups collecting bikes to support other organizations projects to chapters branching out and supporting their own projects in Africa and we hope this continue’s for many many years to come.
I think we are about to enter the 3rd phase of our growth and I believe the most important single step in our movement. Initially we grew in the developed world and supported the developing world. today we are seeing a trend towards groups in the developing world, Uganda, Swaziland wanting to form chapters and build community globally to support their respective countries and communities. As new grassroots groups in developing countries take hold, it will open up and grow our movement in ways we cannot yet imagine. new relationships with government, new partnering opportunities with corporations and industry groups. Individuals and groups that have a heart for a specific country can now get involved. As we grow in both worlds, developed and developing, we have the ability to help more in many new areas, yet, stay close to the initial belief’s of our movements grassroots . We are about to enter a wonderful era in the life of the Bicycles for Humanity Movement