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Putting allyship into action

Kevin Nash, Technical Director of RideLondon, on working with the Black Unity Bike Ride

In 2021 London Marathon Events (LME) partnered with the Black Unity Bike Ride (BUBR) team to help them deliver their mass participation ride in August. Kevin Nash, Technical Director of our own festival of cycling RideLondon, reflects on what he learnt during this process, and why it was just the start of an exciting new journey…

Personally, engaging with the Black Unity Bike Ride team, the event, and the participant response (the vibe) has been a truly thought-provoking, game-changing experience.

After being made aware of the concept of allyship through recent LME workshops designed to help explore and develop our ideas and objectives around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), it was soon apparent how this concept is critical in the development and realisation of our vision of inspiring activity.

The BUBR presented itself as an opportunity to take these new learnings and consciously apply them in a real-life context.

Taking tangible steps

It meant having the awareness to be able to take tangible steps and actions, by taking the privileged position we occupy as both individuals and as an organisation to assist a community-based initiative that delivers positive cultural inclusion and personal development.

On reflection, this has heralded the start of what will undoubtably become a personal and professional journey to explore what can be achieved through allyship to actively promote positive cultural inclusion.

For me, this is currently through the realm of cycling, either directly with cycling as a leisure pursuit and an urban mobility option, or more indirectly through the potential benefits that physical activity bestows in our wider society.

Shifting our focus

Shifting both scale and focus away from our traditional mass participation environment meant that LME’s resources and its existing professional network can have considerable impact on the outcomes of community initiatives such as BUBR by gaining access to options and opportunities that would otherwise be blocked.

In helping to deliver the BUBR we learnt that many of the organisations we deal with on a day-to-day basis have biases and processes that add barriers to delivering DEI objectives. LME can challenge these ingrained assumptions and strive for better opportunities to facilitate community events that deliver on the diversity, equity, and inclusivity agenda.

Connecting with communities

Working with BUBR also meant discovering the extent of its reach; a reach into communities that LME would traditionally find (a) great difficulty in connecting with and (b) having relevance to. Establishing these meaningful partnerships is powerful in providing a symbiotic relationship that will enable a strong link to be forged and maintained to deliver cultural inclusion.

There is also an important recognition that LME (as we exist today) do not, should not and will not own this community space. We look very much at maintaining the local BUBR ‘DNA’ that has been created by the community and serves the community. We are linking to that energy and playing a low-profile supporting role. The resulting active audience will be increased, become more diverse, have greater equity and will be more inclusive and therefore more representative of our society. A goal we all wish to achieve.

Delivering a large impact

What does it take? Awareness and conscious decision-making. As a partner LME could assist with no financial risk and low levels of resource requirements to help deliver a large impact which can be amplified year on year.

In trying to sum up what allyship in practice means to me right now, it is: Connect. Assist. Extend.

Change is possible, and I am looking forward to the journey.