“As a young person I was very passionate and proud of the bicycles I owned,” says Dave Kent, a services delivery executive for IBM in New Zealand. So it was a perfect match when, in 2012, Dave learned about Bike Tec. The organization is a community project, run by volunteers with support from sponsors, that inspires young people to take an interest in everything related to bikes.
“I love all things cycling and I have been a tutor and a mentor to younger folks most of my adult life,” says Dave. "Applying my knowledge of cycling and mentoring in order to volunteer at Bike Tec was easy for me.”
Simon Gilbert, the founder of Bike Tec, initially started the organization to help young people build bikes from scrap parts so they could more easily get to the youth center he runs in Lower Hutt City, across the harbor from Wellington, New Zealand’s capital.
In a little more than a year, the idea has taken off. Now operating under the umbrella of the Youth Wise Trust—a not-for-profit dedicated to creating safe, drug- and alcohol-free places for youth in the Hutt area—Bike Tec still enables bike usage and ownership by young people, but now also uses bicycles as the tools to help build confidence, promote positive experiences, emphasize recycle and reuse principles, and advance healthy activity and exercise.
Building bikes, building skills, delivering outcomes
Dave says that Bike Tec begins with a straightforward proposition: build and maintain a bicycle.
“However, the experience for the young people has the potential to be more meaningful,” he explains. “For someone, it could mean taking pride in something they’ve created—possibly for the first time. For another, it could mean mobility and having transportation to get to school or a job. And for someone else, it could one day mean having the skills and experience to get a job.”
Dave and the Bike Tec team are quickly working towards teaching their students how to repair and build a bicycle to industry standards so that students can earn National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits towards qualification for secondary school. They have already successfully extended the program to local primary schools where younger kids are taught road safety by Bike Tec volunteers, as well as how to perform safety checks on their bikes.
In addition to literally getting his hands dirty with bike chain degreaser while teaching students how to build and repair bicycles, Dave also helped the team at Bike Tec better understand how to articulate the impact they want to have in the community. “I ran a session where we used the framework from an IBM activity kit called Measuring Success with Outcomes,” he says. “We then created what amounts to our business case—an important document we needed with Youth Wise and our local council, who together account for over 85% of our annual funding and to whom we are accountable for service outcomes.”
Since June of 2012, Dave estimates he has volunteered between four and six hours every week at Bike Tec, and in mid-2013 he was appointed vice chair on the board of trustees. Also, in late 2012, the Hutt City Council awarded a merit prize to the organization.
Professional skills enriching the lives of others
In addition to Dave’s service at Bike Tec, he makes time to volunteer at the Mahora House Trust—an organization that provides an assisted landlord service for people who have or have had some mental illness, or for those who just need help with their lives. “At the time I learned about Mahora House, it was in danger of failing to meet the regulatory and management standards to keep its charitable trust status,” says Dave. “I had a good set of business skills that I thought they could use, and in return it was a learning opportunity for me about being a trustee or management committee member.”
Dave assisted Mahora House Trust as its risk and finance officer, giving them practical advice on financial matters. Today the organization is on firmer footing. “Without question my skills from IBM in leadership and diplomacy have helped me be a more effective volunteer,” Dave says. “In many things in the not-for-profit world you need to be measured and calm and stick to your objectives—perhaps more so than in the for-profit world.”
Being able to focus on the big picture is also a trait Dave appreciates. As someone not thrilled with airplane travel, Dave had to quietly fight through his trepidation when he and the Bike Tec team had to fly to attend a cycling education course. “You can overcome some personal difficulties to help achieve the greater good,” Dave believes. “I have never regretted getting involved in volunteer work. It has enriched my life and made a difference to others—it is possible to fit it all in, and then it’s hard not to find the time.”