This is the final post on the history of Mobility Lab, If you haven't checked out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, or Part 7, then you should before reading on.
Have you ever had that moment in your life when you just knew what you were doing was the right thing?
It may come when everything else in life is going to hell. Or you just feel completely broken. It may not even make any logical sense. Its just...that feeling. You may even get the chance to feel it more than once.
For us, it came in Manchester in November 2019. On the day of the second Transport Planning Camp. On a day when Manchester really out-Manchestered itself on the weather front (a months worth of rain in one day), and a day full of energy and positivity. And Transport Planning Camp was a brilliant day.
But we were not firing on all cylinders that day.
The day came right in the heart of when it was the worst for us. We were tired, beaten down, and just wanted to crawl in a corner and hide. As we say, the day was brilliant and the energy was amazing. We just couldn't get into the mood.
The day ended, everyone packed up, and went the pub for a social. But we stuck behind for another appointment. Her name was Kitti, a transport planner for whom we were acting as mentor for her Transport Planning Society Bursary. She had also attended Transport Planning Camp.
"Just a catch up" it was meant to be. And it was. We talked about climate change and airports, her methodology, her research challenges, and went through some draft sections of her paper. It was good stuff. Really good stuff. Making research a compelling read is an art that Kitti is clearly good at. But as we packed up, she said something that was a throw away comment in any other conversation.
"This is how things should be. Challenging others in a positive and open way. Today was fun!"
On the train back south (one of the few running that day) we reflected on that comment. What we had done during the 18 months that we had been in existence came flooding back to us. Working with Piia, Si, Giles, Beate, and Laura to deliver a brilliant Open Mobility Conference in Brussels in 2018 as part of Travelspirit.
Delivering not just one, but two excellent Transport Planning Camps. Which would not have been possible without the work of Anna, Pawel, Laura, Rachael and Kit.
Working with Jenny, Tracy, Stephen, and Steve on a Discovery Project in the Scottish town of Inverurie. Finding out about the needs of rural residents in a really rural area (sorry Jenny - it may not be rural by Scotland's standards but it is rural!). Seeing people inspired to bring new ideas to the table was worth the effort of the project on its own.
Having the chance to work with Milton Keynes Council on their evidence gathering for their position papers on walking and cycling, road safety, and smarter choices. Working with James, Steve, Hayley, Sara, Jackie, and Ishwer was amazing. Whilst we did not have the time to complete it, a big thank you to Victoria for getting it over the line!
We had the pleasure of co-authoring not one, but two papers with Teresa and Nic. Not to mention taking part in two events with them at Transport Practitioners Meeting 2019 and Highways UK. And we authored a paper of our own.
We ran our first two Scenario Planning for Transport Planners sessions, thanks to the help of Michelle and Brogan. And the feedback from participants has been amazing!
And we got accepted onto the Natwest Entreprenuer Accelerator to boot.
Not to mention the thousands of conversations on the current and future state of transport, openness, civic engagement, and everything in between.
Reflecting on all of that as the train sped through the Staffordshire countryside with a whisky in hand (on the rocks) also made us reflect on the meaning of success and achieving your goals. We are firmly in the school of thought that if it feels right, then we have achieved success.
But the funny thing about being in business is how the meaning of that success needs to be distilled into a metric of some sort. A sales target, a goal for growth, customer engagement rates, likelihood of success, percentage of the product complete. Modern business is full of them.
Don't get us wrong. Some metrics are extremely important. Particularly the ones entitled 'income' and 'expenditure.' But the feeling of doing something right has to be written into that measure of success. We could be hitting our sales targets and income growth targets all the live long day, which would be for nothing if the feeling was empty.
Coming around to this way of conducting yourself as a company takes time, and a lot of mistakes. It was a process that we needed to go through and learn the hard way. We do not believe in fate or anything like that, but perhaps on this occasion it gave a helping hand.
Kitti was the spark that put the final peices of the puzzle together. The puzzle of why we are here as a company, and the sorts of things that we need to do in the time that we have on this Earth to make a difference. To leave our own little mark.
Our reason for being is now caputured in our vision. And its a simple one.
Such a change will be hard. It certainly won't mean we will become a major transport consultancy company. But that was never the point to begin with. The point is to change things for the better, and to start serving the people for a change.
We are now in a position where we are targeting projects where doing so is possible. We will share what we do, and the tools that we build. We will help everyone learn and build new skills. And we will kick arse whilst doing it.