Lucy Wells reflects on her past few months as an OnPurpose Associate at ECT Charity's head office in Greenford, London. OnPurpose is a social enterprise leadership development programme which combines two six-month consultancy roles set within organisations which use commercial dynamics to create social or environmental benefit. Alongside these consultancy roles, the programme includes a rigorous professional development and training program instructed by business and social enterprise leaders.
This blog was first published on OnPurpose's blog here.
"Watching rubbish dance in the wind and rain while the recycling trucks roll in may not be everyone’s dream view from their desk, but I love working at the depot. The sound of the buses coming and going, the oily jump wires which live under my desk, the ups and downs of breakdowns and flat batteries.
I used to find it laughable that the ex-President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had a PhD in Traffic Management – but I get it now, or at least I’m starting to.
I’ve always taken transport for granted, the fact that I could get from A to B easily, affordably and through a choice of vehicles. In fact, I’ve taken transport for granted so much that I’ve never stopped to really think about what an amazing thing it is.
Two months ago I started working at Ealing Community Transport and it was a catalyst for my personal journey to ‘stop and smell the depot’. And in doing so, I’ve started to realise a few things.
Transport is everywhere, we’re surrounded by it. It is a critical part of our landscape and environment. We’re so used to seeing it everywhere that we hardly even see it anymore. And it’s not just vehicles like cars, trains and buses but everything that goes with it: roads, bus stops, rivers and even the sky.
Transport moves not only us but all the critical items we need. It allows us access to education, family, food, work, play and just about anything else you can think of. Even the digital revolution relies on transport to get servers from manufacturers to racks and satellites into space.
Transport is what connects us, not just physically, but emotionally too. Because if you can’t physically get where you want to be you can’t emotionally connect with that place. Seeing a parent for a cup of tea, appreciating a great work of art with your own eyes, walking across a park covered in autumn leaves. Even just sitting in my flat I’m aware the things that make it feel like home are things I transported here to fill the empty space.
When we can’t access transport, a vital lifeline is cut off. Not being able to physically drive or use public transport leaves us vulnerable, dependent and, maybe worst of all, lonely.
And that’s what makes the depot such a magical place.
Ealing Community Transport’s vision is for inclusion and accessibility for all members of society, whatever their transport needs. One of the main services we provide is door to door transport for elderly people.
I’ll always remember the first time one of our passengers told me, ‘it’s the only time all week I leave the house’. And then the time another said, ‘I wouldn’t leave the house if you didn’t pick me up’. And really taking that in made me want to cry, because it was so sad that these people had lost their independence and because it was so uplifting to know that there is a solution which we can provide.
So, where some people see dirty roads, smell petrol fumes and hear diesel engines, I see majestic carriages, smell freedom in the great outdoors and hear the laughter of new friends being made whilst travelling on a little green bus.
No doubt this is just the beginning of my love affair with transport, but beyond the first flushes of infatuation this relationship has taught me something else.
When we’re looking to change the world we don’t necessarily need new ideas or new technology. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as using what we already have in a different way, putting people at the centre of our mission and seeing the beauty in the mundane."