Essex Area Ramblers

At the heart of walking in Essex

Back in June we shared with you the key findings from the survey we ran with volunteers in groups and areas to help us improve the support we provide to you.
Thank you again to each and every one of you who took part, whether you helped promote the survey, took the time to fill it out or held meetings with your group or area to feedback collectively. Thanks to your efforts, we heard from at least one volunteer from each area across England, Scotland and Wales.
I’m contacting you to follow up with some information about how we have used the findings from the survey. This message outlines improvements you will notice to your support in late 2017 and early 2018.
 

You told us

We will

30% of groups told us you rely on a single expert for ICT and many of you were interested in training and support to increase confidence in using digital tools.

In 2018 we will be piloting more training through ‘webinars’ – online video conferences where multiple people can join a live training session.
 
We will continue to provide dedicated support in using our online systems through the delivery team, who run workshops at Ramblers Roadshows. As mentioned in the October CEO’s newsletter, the roadshow programme returns in spring 2018 and we’d love to hear from areas interested in hosting one.


Your responses to the survey revealed low levels of awareness of many of the support resources the Ramblers offers to volunteers in groups and areas, including our toolkits. Several of you commented that the survey had brought resources to your attention for the first time.
 

 

Work is underway to improve our volunteer zone to make information more prominent and easy to find.
 
 

The ability to communicate with members by email was widely emphasised as the most pressing need for future development. 74% of groups and areas said improved member communications would be at least helpful.


We recognise the urgent need to improve communications across the organisation and have established a new Communications Group, consisting of representative volunteers and staff, to take forward some specific initiatives to improve our collective conversation. As part of this work, we will be transforming our approach to data over the next few years, to enable staff, area and group volunteers, to be able to communicate better with members by email in the future. 
 

By far the greatest demand you expressed for training was around the practical skills related to group walks: leadership (10%), first aid (12%) and navigation (10%). These three topped the ratings across all three countries. 65% of you had drawn on external first aid training at least occasionally.
 
There was additional enthusiasm in Scotland for group-walk related training (18% compared to 10% across England and Wales)


We are going to run a year-long pilot of first aid training in 2018. We will be identifying a training provider we can work with on this and will be in touch with more information in due course.
 
We will continue to run training for walk leaders through Ramblers Roadshows, with extra provision in Scotland thanks to funding from sport Scotland to help recognise and build upon the talents of our volunteers.
 


Almost half of respondents told us you wanted to make more use of social media and many of you wanted to see improved support for publicity and social media (68% of groups and areas).
 

We will continue to offer workshops at Ramblers Roadshows and are reviewing and updating our social media toolkit in 2018.
 

Some of you expressed a desire for more locally-based staff, or for staff who are assigned to specific, named areas.
 


We recognise the desire for more local support. We have now recruited an area support manager, as well as one North and one (pending) South area support officer in England, and area support officers in Wales and Scotland.
 

Pathwatch was seen as a good idea in principle but in need of more effective implementation. 25% of you told us you found it unhelpful or very unhelpful.
 


We are now consulting with volunteers and local authorities on how those implementation issues can be addressed with a view to redesigning the Pathwatch app in 2018. We are confident that this will make reporting and dealing with path problems much more efficient, everywhere.
 

Some treasurers suggested you would like improvements to the annual return and ability to produce periodic management accounting reports.
 

The work to investigate different products and services which would enable this has already begun. We will need some more information from Treasurers so will be looking to re-establish a Treasurers sounding board to get this. As Treasurers are aware, new finance systems need to replace legacy systems around our current financial reporting and governance structure, therefore we hope to begin any new development or changes at the beginning of the 2018 – 19 financial year.

 
As mentioned in previous communication about the consultation, we are not able to implement all of the suggestions received through the survey, discussion groups and phone calls. Some will take a little while to put in place and will only be possible once our ICT systems are upgraded. But where we are able to start right away, we will do.
Look out for an update on how this work progresses, in spring 2018.
 
If you have any questions, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

All the best,

Simon Barnett
Director of delivery and development

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