For the last few months, we decided to be quiet. Our usual weekly email has not gone out, and our social media content has redueed to virtually nil. We did this without notice, and you deserve to know why.
Like everyone else, we have been side-swiped by this pandemic. Not financially so. In fact, we have picked up three amazing projects in Southend, the Solent, and Nottingham, and we have been working with amazing strategy teams and communities in all 3 of these areas.
And being busy has also been part of it. Our New Normal project goes from strength to strength. Our TPS COVID-19 project is being finished off. Transport Planning Camp Extra was a blast. And we are in the process of creating 3 new services, to be introduced over the next year.
But this doesn't explain our silence. What does is a simple fact that we came to realise during the pandemic.
Working quietly and in the background is our strength.
We first realised this as we worked on the New Normal project. When researching new visions of the future of transport after COVID-19, we were shocked at the sheer lack of variety. Those that are shared are the same visions as they have always been. As though nothing has changed in the world.
We kept thinking "a pandemic has swept the world, and your vision is the same one you have had for 10, 15, 20+ years? Has nothing changed?" We also kept asking what voices were missing. With protests sweeping the world, surely the voices of traditionally excluded groups need amplifying, and their visions need sharing? Where are the visions of of ethnic minorities, feminists, the LGBTQ community? Sod it, even the visions of people who don't have degrees (which 95% of our followers have)?
We also learned from our many failed experiments during this pandemic. Our daily updates on YouTube that we found out after a few days that we hated doing. In our online workshops where we tried new techniques for group discussions that bombed spectacularly. Live Streaming our Scenario Planning training where not only did our live stream give out, but it also felt really uncomfortable streaming through YouTube. We also tried to create two groups which tried to pressure for change, including walking and cycling improvements in our home town.
We came to realise that the way we are doing things not only didn't really empower people, but it didn't really make us happy either. We find happiness in being in the background, and empowering others in softer and more subtle ways.
To use a transport example, whenever we plan for transport we plan for the needs of passenger transport. Because that is what we experience directly. In some ways, it is the 'sexy' part of transport planning that everyone talks about and has an opinion on.
What we came to realise is that we are more like freight. We are there, in the background, just making sure that what we do works well and gets done. And that thing is empowering others to do things. In the same way that freight gets food to the shelves in shops and delivers the materials needed for literally everything in your home apart from the people.
We are best when we are organising, and we are doing things that knock down barriers and empower people who want to make the change by making that change easier.
The first step in doing that, is shutting the hell up. There are far too many people in the world who talk a lot, and whose role it is to lead the charge. We are not those people, and for too long we tried to emulate them for no good reason.
We will still state our view on things occasionally, and share with you some of the work that we have been up to. But we will keep what we say to times and issues where we feel we will have a meaningful impact. We have been practicing this over the last few months, and we are the happier for it.
We are now working on projects and with clients where we are genuinely empowering others to do transport and citizen engagement better. We are loving it. It just took us a pandemic to realise this.