The Virtual Ride Across Britain: Raising (More!) Funds for Paralympic Athletes

Sep 25, 2012 7:30 AM ET


Today, we’ll tell you how we raised funds for Paralympic athletes through what we call the “Virtual Ride Across Britain” – literally cycling on (stationary) bikes in each of the Cisco offices across the UK and Ireland!

I’m writing this blog in conjunction with 2 of my Cisco colleagues, Stephen Reidy and Nigel Townley.

Last week in another Cisco blog, we introduced Cisco’s participation in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (or ‘RAB’, as we call it) – a 9 day cycle event across the whole of Great Britain. A number of Cisco colleagues were taking part over one or multiple days to raise funds for ParalympicsGB, in order to help this tremendous charity support more inspirational athletes. Alongside this, we also run the “Virtual Ride Across Britain” or VRAB, to enable more employees to participate. For the Cisco staff that can’t get out on the road, we compete virtually on gym bikes at each of the UK offices – Bedfont, Galway, Glasgow (Trilogy), Greenpark, Langley, London City, Manchester, Ruscombe – with an objective to collectively ride the length of Britain, equivalent to the 963 miles that the road riders complete in the “actual” RAB.

Stephen Reidy is a sales account manager in Cisco, and championed our “Virtual Ride Across Britain” across all of Cisco’s UK and Ireland offices, and Nigel Townley is a director of engineering in our “Enhanced Customer Aligned Testing Services” (or eCATS) testing team and press-ganged – sorry encouraged :-) -- tremendous participation in our Greenpark (Reading) office.

“OK.  Impressive stuff, this Deloitte Ride Across Britain”, I hear you say -- where participants cycle 100+ miles on each of 9 days, staying (with one exception) in camp sites each night. “It’s not for the faint-hearted, is it?” No. “It’s not what you’d really class as an inclusive’ employee event, is it?”  No.  OK, it was open to all Cisco UK and Ireland employees, but cycling 100+ miles after a night in a tent, in typical UK September weather, is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Inclusion and diversity is important at Cisco. This is why we’ve started the “Virtual Ride Across Britain” to give more employees the opportunity to participate in this cycling fund-raiser. Employees could cycle for 5 minutes or 5 hours. Or just watch as their colleagues hammered away on an exercise bike – usually situated in a highly visible part of each Cisco office.

This year, we achieved far higher employee participation than last year. Inspired by the Road RAB riders and by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (which had incredible profiles here in the UK and in Cisco, where Cisco was the Official Network Infrastructure Partner), we had teams competing for distance, speed and fundraising – while at the same time having a bit of a laugh!

How did we do then?

On Employee Participation, engagement jumped: VRAB 2012 has been the most successful to date in terms of engaging employees from across the Cisco UK and Ireland (UK&I) offices. With just over 260 people taking part in VRAB 2012 this is a significant improvement on the 60 or so that took part in VRAB 2011.

On fundraising, we raised more: VRAB 2012 also became the most successful to date in terms of fundraising, raising (at the time of writing) £5,500 (Money raised + Cisco match funding). To put this in perspective the Physical Road-RAB Riders raised £15,000 resulting in VRAB contributing 25% to the total fundraised between RAB and VRAB.

On miles covered, we did more: The VRAB Teams covered over 1040 Miles in 5 days across 8 sites in the UK&I. A number of teams went above and beyond the required 50 Min bike ride, with our Green Park (Reading) office completing over 1000 KM (621 Miles) alone.

In our Green Park (Reading) office, Cisco had 5 teams in the VRAB with 28 riders competing for the longest distance covered in 50 minutes as well as the most distance covered per team. The bikes were set up in a very visible location right in the entrance to the office/restaurant area and provided an ideal opportunity for staff and visitors alike to support the riders. As well as covering 1044KM over the week the team collectively raised £530. As for the Reading teams the ”Victorian Pedaltons” covered the most distance with 429KM covered, and the “You Spin Me Right Round” team accomplished the fastest average speed over 50 minutes with an amazing 53.8KM/h. In our Galway (Ireland) office, where the chat and team competitive spirit were legendary, funds were raised for the Irish Paralympic athletes.

The VRAB Planning Team deserves a mention – this year saw Virtual Sales lead the VRAB Planning & Engagement alongside 8 site leads and a number of individuals from our Communications Team. In total, there were 20 Individuals involved in the organisation, planning and execution of VRAB 2012, each hour contributed from spare time in what are already jam-packed, chaotic schedules. A very impressive feat given that this planning phase also overlapped with Cisco’s Year-End!! It really was about doing a little bit more to make a bigger difference

And finally, with social media, we shared many pictures, wall posts and banter (all in good taste!) through the Cisco RAB Facebook during the event, utilising a communication medium that is both inclusive and pervasive to internal and external individuals, enabling employees. Families, friends and customers could then see how we were making a difference for Paralympic athletes.

So… Congratulations to all the riders and sponsors on an amazing event, and a huge thanks to everyone who supported our VRAB-2012. We do feel we have now established a growing legacy: next year we’ll be aiming to beat this year’s results.

Finally, if this effort has impressed or inspired you, perhaps you can support us at the Cisco Virtual Ride Across Britain Just Giving site, or, better still, initiate your own event, raise funds for a great charity, and have some fun while you are at it!