Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day 9 Part B: Suggestions for globalbike

Highlights of Day 9 Part B
  1. Finally getting hearing some serious analysis of the bike "donating system" in Lusaka
  2. Hearing concrete possibilites for improvement

Lena and Lazarous are the Grassroots Soccer staff overseeing the UNHCR project. (Brian will be taking over for Lena in the next few months as Lena's fellowship ends) This is another topic I can best cover in bullets. Also keep in mind that these suggestions were made in a light of ways to increase globalbike's capacity and continuing relationship with Grassroot Soccer

  • Repair budget for each bike. Each bike will eventually need repair or replacement no matter how well they are taken care of or high quality simply because of the constant use and rough conditions. The budget doesn't need to be a very large amount and could simply be a form of subsidy for the cost of repairs.
  • Guidance on where to find reliable, high-quality, reasonably-priced bikes in the local area. (I didn't say these suggestions were totally feasible) GRS spent a significant amount of time talking with people and bike shops trying to evaluate which bikes were the best deal. They were nervous about the budgeting of it all but I think that speaks to their dedication to cost-effective decisions.

In 2010, they would like to donate the bikes to the GRS/BSA coaches not just the local program coordinators. That would be 180 bikes. The value of a bike as a commodity makes the donation of a bike a big deal in the refugee camp; it's like giving them a car. Donating a bike to be shared among the coaches would be a logistical nightmare considering the distances the coaches are from each other and from the meeting places for interventions. Deciding who would get a bike, especially for the GRS coaches, is putting a higher value on some coaches but not others; a scale that really can't be established universally and objectively. That brings me to the next suggestion:

  • The next donation for GRS needs to cover all 180 coaches. Granted, they can be given in installments to the GRS office but they need to be delivered when the money has mounted to 180 quality bikes.
  • Transportation supplement. The best value bikes are found in Lusaka which means they must be transported to the settlemet. Getting the 8 previous bikes to the refugee settlements was difficult because the staff normally uses the public bus system and then company cars. Can you imagine a) trying to get 8 bikes into a Subaru forester? b) traveling 12 hours with bikes or even c) trying to find a place to put 8 bikes on a public bus? After my trip on the bus back from Livingstone, I have no idea how they managed to use the bus storage space to get them there. For 180 bikes or even two deliveries of 90 bikes they would have to rent a Fuso truck and driver. To get those 180 bikes to the refugee settlements, it would cost at least 4 million kwacha each trip based on the transport estimations they have experience with. Later on we discussed the possibility of having UNHCR help transport them but there would be a fee with that as well.

Don't be fooled that this conversation was purely based on ambitious goals and idealism. Our conversation quickly reverted to the logistics of how a donation this large could and should be best managed.

  • Bikes would still be used as an incentive. Only after completing at least one intervention successfully would a bike be offered. The coaches need to prove they are serious about their dedication as a volunteer first.
  • The recruitment of coaches and the training would never mention the possibility of getting a bike. This tactic is just to ensure the motivation for getting involved is altruistic. Even though the GRS staff were upfront and clear about these coaching positions being nonpaid volunteer only, they still received requests last year for money or subsidies in exchange.
  • The bikes would remain Grassroot Soccer property; donating a bike to a coach does not mean they own the bike. Once they stop volunteering for GRS, they forfeit the bike as well. While we are not naive or even bothered that they would use the bikes other than to travel to intervention meetings (i.e. going to the market or the ministry offices), the bikes are not for them to keep forever.
  • The coaches would be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the bike. This is where the suggestion to pay for repairs comes into question--if someone will pay for every flat tire, what's the point in trying to dodge the potholes? Despite the difficultly in financing the repairs, Felix assured me that the benefit of a bike far outweighed the financial costs. I also wondered, what would happen if the coach rendered a bike completely useless because he refused to fix any of the minor problems? Or if he was careless enough to lose it or not lock it up so it was stolen? There's no way the coaches could afford to replace a bike completely.
  • Contracts. Signing something is a big deal here. The terms of the bike donation would be made clear to each coach and they would have a copy of the signed contract as well as GRS. Even if that means they have to replace a stolen bike, a signed contract has some serious weight to it that is not taken lightly.
  • Tracking system. The contracts would aid in this process. I mentioned the sheets that PCI uses every time they deliver a bike they get the recepient to sign off that they did receive a bike and they are now responsible for it as a result. Perhaps globalbike could create a universal bike record booklet to send with the financial donations to any partner to help the organization keep track of who, when, and how many received bikes. As a result, this would help globalbike's efforts to maintain a record of the INDIVIDUALS who got the bike along with the pictures we receive.

Obviously a donation this large to a place that far away would have its fair share of logistical hurdles. I thought about how they would even travelin the camps to give the bikes to the coaches--would they go to the coach's homes? intervention meeting sites? That would make for cool pictures if the coaches got a picture taken with the teams/leagues they works with. Or perhaps a common meeting place would be more feasible? Would they deliver them all in one day? Telephones access is only in the ministry zones so how would they know where to be and when? And taking the pictures of each recepient...this plan definitely needs more details. Nonetheless, I think it's great to know where globalbike stands and where we can strive to be.

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