The sun is shining and I’m in a field in Northamptonshire – Elkington to be exact. Having said that, I’ll not be in the field when you read this as I have no internet access here and so ‘publication’ will have to wait. I’m at the Battlefield Trec with Peta and Sasha (and Sam and Joker).
The Trec is presumably named after the Battle that, according to my map, took place near here in 1645. My lack of detailed knowledge of English history and – more importantly – no internet access prevent me from imparting further detail.
A Trec, in short, is a challenge for horses and riders in orienteering and agility skills and they take place all over the UK. On one day horse and rider enjoy a 20 – 50km ride (dependent upon your level) where they pick up points for interpreting the map clues correctly and completing the ride within the set timescales. On the other day, they undertake a sort of obstacle course and are timed on how effectively the horses can undertake walking and cantering – technically referred to as ‘Control of Paces’. I go as a helper, gofer and driver – and have increased my repertoire of skills this weekend by doing some judging.
What made this Trec different to any of the others that I have attended was the provision of a training session for people who wanted to learn more about moving up a level. If you move up a level you go on a longer orienteering ride and the clues are more difficult.
The training session was in a barn. You took your own chair, your own paper, your own refreshments and your own writing implements. No free pens bearing a sponsor’s name, no sweets to eat (or take home to the kids!). The air-conditioning was determined by the gap in the barn door. But all the delegates were enthusiastic and willing to learn. What would you prefer – a posh venue with delegates who do not particularly want to be there, or keen and participative delegates at a Village Hall?
This venue reminded me of various discussions I had seen and heard in the previous week relating to perceived links between the quality of a venue and how this can improve the quality of learning. One person had asked the question on a forum and there were various responses, including one person listing their Top 21 tips for an effective training room. Another person in another discussion was quite effervescent in their enthusiasm for the use of good quality learning facilities and the many benefits they bring with them – they did at least have the openness to point out that their role was to hire out such facilities. The return on the investment is difficult to quantify – if in fact there is any.
But hiring facilities is an expensive business. And if you or your organisation is looking to save money at the moment it is an area that you could target with surprisingly good results.
Every day there will be training and meeting rooms near you sitting empty, and every day – again near you – your organisation or other people will be hiring such facilities. These people need to be brought together.
I have done this previously by getting together with similar organisations and creating a ‘currency’ for the use of a classroom or a spare place on a corporate course. First it needs some alternative thinking – in a similar way to the Universities when they decided to hire out their accommodation during student holiday time. It also takes a bit of setting up as you need to decide on full or partial cost recovery and may need to involve your Finance people to keep them on side, but it’s do-able. And not only does it save money, it cements effective helping relationships and can bring in different ideas by having delegates from other organisations.
Try it – there are great gains to be made, and not just financial ones. If you want any more information about how I went about it, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll happily supply you with more information.
P.S. (added after returning from Elkington) Peta, Sam and the horses came second overall in their level with their highest ever score, so they were very happy!