If the dark days of January weren’t hard enough to get through as it is, they are also traditionally a time for self-reflection; looking back over the year past and forward to a wide open twelve months ahead. Even the Roman God, Janus, who kindly lent his name to the month is depicted with two faces, keeping an eye on what has already been, while also pondering the future.
So, now seems like as good a time as any for us to publish our Annual Impact Report for 2021. There’s no prizes for guessing what it is about, but it’s a hugely important document to us; and it’s not just the physical document that is important, the process of reflection is just as vital. Getting the basics out of the way, our annual impact report looks back over everything that we have done, and – much more importantly – have achieved in the last year. It is an opportunity to pat ourselves (and you, because “we”, Trash Free Trails, are our members) on the back for a job well done. It’s also an important time to ask some slightly more challenging questions, and try to answer them… what did we say we would do? What did we do? What was the result? Based on that, what should we be doing in 2022 and beyond?
What did we do?
So what exactly did we achieve in the last year? Waayyy too much to include in the whole report, never mind in this post. But, here is a flavour…
We held our Spring Trail Clean and Halloween Trail Clean Tour activation events; with hundreds of organised and self-led trail cleans taking place around the UK and abroad.
We published our State of Our Trails Report and held our first State of our Trails Summit, bringing together bike industry big-hitters in a call to arms.
We expanded our TrashMOB Academy programme, giving more young people the opportunity to connect with the outdoors through mountain biking. We also learned a huge amount about how we want the programme to work in the future.
Our A-Team of ambassadors has grown to over 30 and worked hard to organise local trail cleans and shout about us. We also organised our first Weekender, bringing together as many of the A-Team as possible to plot, plan and play for a few days in mid-Wales.
But what did we really do?
Huh, we hear you say. Didn’t you just tell us? Thing is, everything above is brilliant, wonderful stuff. But (there’s always a “but” isn’t there?) as comforting and reassuring as numbers and events and tangible things are, it is dangerous to measure success purely by them.
What really, really matters is the outcomes that result; it’s not (just) about the amount of SUP that we remove. It’s about trails and wild places being left as nature intended. It’s about volunteers feeling positive about the impact that they’ve made and the connection they feel. It’s about ecosystems that are no longer choked by crisp packets and drinks bottles. It’s about young (and old) people discovering the wonderful joy of purposeful adventures in woods and mountains and lakes.
And that’s the thing. Numbers can help us measure our impact, but they are never the be-all-and-end-all. As an example, the number of individual pieces of SUP removed last year was double what we managed in the 2 years up to 2020… but the number of volunteers went up by around 20%. Coupled with our social media engagement, this demonstrates that our volunteers are doing more and feel part of our community. But let’s focus on that total amount of SUP metric for a moment. Hey, we are looking forward to the day that we conduct zero trail cleans and remove zero items of SUP in year… because our work has been so successful there is nothing there to remove. We know we are a long way from that though.
So in the meantime, we will keep an eye on some of the stats, take them with a pinch of salt and concentrate on making a sustainable impact on the areas that we care about.
Oh yeah! DOWNLOAD IT HERE!!!!
So how will we continue to make an impact next year? Maybe the first question is to ask what areas do we want to make an impact on: what are our priorities?
So we know what we want to target… how will we organise ourselves to achieve those six priorities? There are three broad strands to our programme of work – each overlapping, braiding and twisting, but with their distinct themes. You’ll notice that we are focussing on outcomes again, rather than the nuts and bolts of what we’ll do.
Finding the way
As with 2021, we’ll use a route map to guide us on our path through the year. It will point us in the direction of the summits we want to scale, and flag some of the waypoints along our journey. Rather than trying to tell you all about our plans here, we’ll update you with those very soon.
We’ve said it before and we will keep saying it until we are blue in the face. We would not have made an impact at all were it not for our own ecosystem: our TrashMOB volunteers, our A-Team ambassadors, our partners and every individual who has given us time, creativity and enthusiasm over the course of the year. We wouldn’t exist without all of you; and more importantly our trails and wild places would be a poorer place. Thank you and we would love it if you joined us again in 2022. Onwards!