How can Bicycle Initiatives Cooperate More
Movement Bikes is working towards a vision of high quality, affordable bicycles. A vision that certainly isn’t unique in this world, although we have a unique way of going about it. But what about other organizations that have their experiences, struggles and successes?
Coincidentally, the World Bicycle Relief warehouse is located about 20 meters from our own assembly spot. WBR is the largest bicycle relief organization in the world, having supplied over 70,000 bicycles since its inception in 2004. The vision was coined by F.K. Day, one of the SRAM Co-Founders. The bicycles are high-quality, robust vehicles with a design people are very familiar with. People on the streets recognize the double-top tube, and the black color that is often associated with Phoenix bikes. Their are proven work-horses, and enjoy a reputation for durability.
No organization has created the perfect bicycle yet. And even WBR is continuing to improve their product line, switching production facilities in Asia, and changing the design on their bikes. The ultimate question though isn’t about how many bikes has one organization brought to developing countries, or what their bike looks like — but rather how we can ultimately benefit the people we want to serve the very most?
In the for-profit sector, competition is good, because it drives innovation and brings down the price for consumers. In the NGO world, we should seek collaboration. Profit isn’t the goal, but the best product at the lowest cost.
Bringing prices down can be achieved through ways other than competition. Sharing product lines, coordinating shipments, sharing teaching methods and technologies, or giving advice on microfinance or mechanics trainings; this is a sample of all the sectors where the developing world would be the ultimate beneficiary. And yet, this crowded world of NGO efforts is competitive, because of branding and sharing resources. Any NGO, whichever sector it may be, is competing for grants and resources, believe in their own vision, and take ownership over their work. All these factors make collaboration difficult, because when one’s brand is swallowed up by a different organization, the association of one’s work is often erased as well. In the end then, collaboration would ultimate help people, because rather than competing for markets and resources, we bundle our efforts and multiple our brain-power.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to put 30 leading bicycle initiatives into one room, lock them all in there, until they have created a culture of collaboration, not competition? Wouldn’t this be a flagship success for other NGO sectors as well?
If the work that we do is about humility, and service of those that truly need it, then there is no alternative but to find ways to work together. Perhaps zyOzy has the answer to creating a new dialogue. In the end, this work is not about us; it’s about the people we serve.