Month: April 2021

“I made a career from the three most boring words: Community. Running. Club.”

Caitlin Limmer’s words, not mine – which she says laughing and in jest. But what a community – a movement no less – it is. And a far cry from boring, that’s for sure.

I first met Caitlin about nine years ago. Running wasn’t really my thing. Or so I thought. Long red locks, a stonking voice and the kindest of hearts, she gave me an encouraging nudge: “Just come join and see”. And the rest, as they say, is history. No major medals or records ensued, but it was game changing nonetheless. Running is now an integral part of my life – to catch up with friends, clear my head or simply feel ready for the day/ week ahead.

But you see, Caitlin didn’t just do this for me, she’s done this for hundreds of other people in our community through her BeaRCat Running Club in Twickenham. And as a new Running Mayor of West London, she’ll no doubt change the lives of thousands of others over the next year too. What’s pretty astonishing is that she never proactively set out to create this community.

40 minutes to live…

“17 years ago, I was given 40 minutes to live. But actually, that moment turned out to be a new beginning, not the end,” Caitlin tells me.

Later diagnosed with ‘Myelodysplastic Syndrome’, a form of bone marrow cancer, Caitlin found solace and health in running – often at 5am camouflaged in clothes and sunglasses “so no-one would recognise me”.  She adds: “I went from slow caterpillar to slightly faster caterpillar. For many years it was clear: I wasn’t a great runner. I’ve gone on to run marathons (in a giant foam beer bottle, no less) and take part in ultra-swims. But I don’t care if someone does them in half the time. That’s their story; I have my own.”

What also became clear is that she wanted others to experience the life-changing potential of running, its ability to boost physical and mental health, and above all, to bring people together – and “meet some blooming great people along the way”.

What we can learn from geese, honk, honk…

You heard it right. Caitlin was standing in her garden one day, looking up at the sky, wondering what a honking commotion was all about. She spotted a gaggle of geese hovering above – and then clocked a smaller, tired goose struggling behind. They all waited, until the little one caught up. She gives me a quick lesson on goose behaviour.

“When geese fly together, they are powering each other with their wing movement, changing the air pattern. The ones struggling behind are therefore supported. They are 71% more efficient when they’re flying together. If we are all singing from the same song sheet we are more powerful. If we are being kind and supportive and not pulling away from each other, we are a strong, collective force.”

And this is the ethos that reverberates throughout the BeaRCat community, that she’s since realised has become her faith.

Hard work & being bold…

And it’s a faith that’s certainly led her out of her comfort zone. During the pandemic, like many other organisations, BeaRCat Running Club turned virtual overnight. And with it, Caitlin had to brush up on some previously unknown skills – pretty quickly.

“I wasn’t very good at it initially. No DJ skills, no Spotify. I had to learn. I’ve probably hosted about 250 virtual runs now, drawing crowds from Spain, Dubai, Ireland and the UK, of course. I wanted my community to stay in touch, hear other people’s names called out. Little bits of news, me still being there to support, if needed. I wasn’t going to shut the door on them. As a community we have a responsibility to each other. My community, our community, has been built brick by brick. I didn’t try and build a palace in a day. I just put the work in, every day, month after month, year after year. Good honest graft. When you’ve been ill and have it all taken potentially away from you – why would you want to be anything but yourself?”

Honesty in who you are – as a person or a business

Authenticity is an overused word. But at its core, it’s about being real and having integrity – leading by example and putting in the hard work. Now a motivational speaker and life coach as well, Caitlin has words of wisdom for businesses trying to build their own community.

“The moment you open the doors of your business, you’re leaving an impression of who you are and what your intentions are. Every single interaction has an effect on your community. There are often a lot of tick box exercises and lip service going on, for example when it comes to ESG. Businesses need to find their own individual way of developing their own community. Try things and experiment – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work; that’s when you learn. It’s the honesty that counts. And that’s how you teach people to grow, as well.”

Walking the walk

So, what can brands and businesses draw from this very real life community that’s gone from strength to strength, day by day? Having your own story – focusing less on competitors and more on what your business does really well – is certainly a poignant message. Then there’s the power of many: valuing everyone around you, from staff to clients, to achieve great things and grow. Being brave and bold when the time is right, certainly. And finally, being honest in your endeavours; clients and customers appreciate transparency, even when it comes to admitting mistakes – it isn’t a sign of weakness.

One thing’s for sure, Caitlin doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to community, she walks the walk. And, as the new Running Mayor of West London, she’ll no doubt be getting many more people to walk, or get out and run in the community. If you live in West London, watch out! Honk, honk.

Think political engagement isn’t for your organisation? Think again…

By Daniel Bond, Product Director for The House Magazine.

From the outside, the machinery of Westminster or Brussels can appear obscure, and the formal legislative process even more so. Political engagement, therefore, may seem like alien territory – something best left to professional lobbyists or campaign groups with armies of activists. But that myth needs to be debunked – political engagement is both achievable and realistic for organisations that have never attempted it before. In this blog, I will try to explain which types of organisations should be attune to this, why they should be seizing the moment and, more importantly, how to get started.

What type of organisations should engage with politics?

The answer to this is that with a clear strategy and the right platform, any organisation can make their voice heard.

Against a backdrop of Covid-19, the climate change crisis, Brexit and technological disruption, political decisions are being made that will shape our economy and our society for years to come. Through effective engagement you can ensure that, as those calls are made, policy-makers are well-informed about your industry and your organisation – moving you from a silent bystander to a proactive part of the conversation.

At Dods Group, for example, we work with organisations across all sectors to achieve this, from telecoms, technology and transport to engineering and energy. By engaging through our platforms, including The House, Westminster’s in-house magazine, organisations can speak directly to policy movers and shakers.

Those in the energy sector, and adjacent industries, should pay particular attention. As the UK prepares to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference this November, the ‘Road to Net Zero’ is on everyone’s lips. But this is more than just a political catchphrase. Behind every headline pledge made by world leaders this Autumn, there will follow a multitude of policy decisions to be made at a national, regional and local level – each representing another opportunity for organisations large and small to get their message heard by a political audience on the look-out for ideas, information and inspiration.

Why now?

As finance departments look to rebuild following the pandemic and tackle the even bigger crisis of climate change, policy-makers are searching for answers to some huge and complex questions.

How can we ensure energy is clean, secure and affordable? How can we be confident that new technologies are given the support they need to become viable alternatives? How can government and industry work together to build a skilled workforce? Can policy-makers get buy-in from their voters? And, following the Covid-19 pandemic, how can economies afford the investment required?

At the same time, Brexit could open up new opportunities for British exporters, and for global firms looking to do business in the UK. Rapid technological change is transforming society and creating new industries. And let’s not forget the evergreen challenges in housing, health and social care, or education and skills.

Politicians cannot address these issues on their own. Success will require a coalition of stakeholders, from industry, Whitehall, local authorities and NGOs, working together to meet common goals. This has to be accompanied by an inclusive exchange of information, ideas and solutions.  

If you don’t stick your head above the parapet during that process, you’ll remain on the outside of strategic decisions. And yes, that may mean a missed opportunity for your organisation. But more than that, the political debate – and the policies that emerge from it – will be the poorer for your absence.

After all, who else is better placed to inform policy-makers about the challenges facing your industry? Who else is more qualified to work with them to grasp the opportunities on offer, or to help them manage the risks involved?

It’s in all of our interests for policy-makers to implement clear, thought-through and effective policy. And that means presenting them with all the facts. 

How to get your voice heard

It’s clear then, that political engagement is something many organisations should consider, and that now is a pivotal moment for relevant ones to join the conversation.

But where to begin? Being clear about what your organisation is asking for, or what it is offering, is vital. So start by asking yourself some questions. What do you want out of this? What action do you want policy-makers to take to help you?

But just as important, what can you bring to the table? Is there a policy-problem that your organisation can solve? Or an opportunity that your business can help the UK seize? Think about how you can you work in partnership with policy-makers to overcome common challenges or achieve shared aims.

Any successful communications strategy also starts with a candid assessment of how your organisation, or your issue, is viewed. What do policy-makers and political influencers know about you already? What do they think about your industry or sector? Are they under pressure to act in a way that will benefit or harm your organisation? Do they even know that you could be impacted by decisions they are taking?

Organisations that offer political monitoring can help. Our Monitoring and People service can pull together stakeholder maps to identify the key politicians, policy-makers and civil servants you should be aware of, and give you a greater understanding of what makes them tick. You may also want to consider some primary research in the form of political polling. At Dods, we offer research measuring brand awareness, perception and campaign recall, to help you track the effectiveness of your engagement in real time.

This is where this blog ends – but where a successful campaign needs to begin: with a clear understanding of your target audience and its aims. In this case, what politicians are trying to achieve and how you can make them better informed in their decisions. Without this, you will fail to engage effectively – politically or otherwise.

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