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TRAINING OF TRAVELSMART OFFICERS, 2003

Packaging the Travel Choices : SCHOOLS

Tips for TravelSmart Officers

The role of a TravelSmart officer requires you to liaise with the school community no matter which program may be introduced. However, a major part of the role is also centred on liaising with other departments within local council, the Education Consultant/Coordinator and other key roles within the State Transport and Road Authorities. There may be numerous other stakeholders involved that will also be important contacts. To ensure good relationships are maintained and results are achieved here are a few tips, organised under the following headings:

Kids on Scooters

Steps for Starting Out

The TravelSmart Officer role requires close involvement with many parties:

When starting out you need to think about the intricacies of the role, those who you have to interact with and your local environment. You will benefit by following a few simple steps:

  1. Meeting with key people from the Local Council and the State Transport Authority should be a priority
  2. Identify how each fits into the TravelSmart Network
  3. Find out what has happened in your community relating to TravelSmart, Road Safety and related programs in general
  4. Locate your local schools and become familiar with the areas surrounding each (transport, roads, walking and cycling facilities).
  5. Investigate the road safety record in the area (the traffic management or engineering section could be a valuable source of information).
  6. Find out what the issues are for each group identified above. Note it is important to consider not only external organizations but also groups within your own local government authority.
  7. Identify who can provide you with this information most constructively. i.e. keen TravelSmart supporters.
  8. Think about how you will go about getting the message across to those groups.

How can you be of most value to the school?

At the very least you must:

You need to develop the knowledge to know who the best referral may be - and networks can help there.

Table 1 offers some general areas where you may add value to the program from the school's perspective. This is intended as a guide only and local requirements should be checked before commencing these actions.

Table 1: Opportunities to Add Value at the School

Curriculum WSB Events SRTS

Assisting with

  • Travel diaries (distribution, collection, collation)

Organising

  • Surveys
  • Consent Forms
  • Insurance

Organising

  • Consent forms
  • Travel (Availability/Times)
  • Public transport tickets

Assisting with

  • Arranging involvement of stakeholders

Awareness

  • Opportunities to incorporate curriculum with other activities
  • Individuality of school and teacher
  • Feedback from school about their interests and restrictions

Coordinating

  • Walking route
  • Parent Coordinator
  • Volunteer Roles

Coordinate/Provide information

  • With other programs in the community or TravelSmart network
  • Opportunities for co-promotions with other organizations and grants available
  • Competitions and prizes

Awareness

  • Program maintenance
  • Opportunities to continue building relationship with school
  • Feedback to school on timing and progress

Focus on Priorities

Some programs require really active organizing and coordination; others require you to be a key communication link. The role is a balance between active involvement and relationship building. Both are critical.

You need to outline your priorities and consider your areas of influence or focus with different groups:

The School

Remember that the whole school community: Principal, Teachers, School Council, Parents are all decision makers.

Develop an appreciation/understanding of the Education System within which the schools fit.

Council

This is your base organization. Your reports on programs and projects will influence council decisions.

Remember involve Engineering and Community Development departments

The Community

You need to consider both the- physical environment of local area (terrain, transport services etc.) as well as other programs that are currently operating in the area.

Education Consultant

The person in this role in the relevant department will be very much a co -organizer particularly for any curriculum based initiatives. This person can also serve as a mentor for gaining knowledge about the education system.

An important part of focusing on priorities is remaining aware of who are you responsible to.

Familiarising yourself with the features and considerations linked to each program will give you a general idea of the key stakeholders involved, their roles and your responsibilities. Who you are responsible to may vary with different programs. The Local Council is your immediate employer. However, overseeing the program is your State Transport Authority. Close relationships with the Education Consultant / School Coordinator will assist you to ascertain the main priority for the program and how you can be of most value to the program. Good relationships with both the engineering and community departments will assist you to work out the best approach in the council. In this context, internal cultures are important.

Sometimes this can be difficult when individuals or other departments see your role differently. For example, someone in the Engineering/Infrastructure or Planning departments may ask you to get involved in collating data or preparing a report on a traffic management issue. You would need to think about this in terms of the purpose of this task, its relevance to the program and your responsibilities as a TravelSmart Officer. Is it really a task for the TravelSmart officer? Check with your supervisor, or discuss it with colleagues before responding. You are likely to find that yours is a new and evolving role and misdirected authority on the part of an individual or department may not be intentional.

Networks can help

TravelSmart Officers cannot work alone. Support is essential and it helps to:

It is important to create your own network of TravelSmart Schools Program Supporters. These may be people within a department you deal with or they may have direct experience from previous involvement on a program so:

Add to your network by talking to people who also run programs in your area or within the education system. Often you can link into and share information that may help engage key people or organizations into your program. They may also help with advice on how to navigate around negative situations. Think creatively!

In the near future, national contact with all TravelSmart people will be available through an open list server forum. You will be encouraged to put forward ideas that have worked for you and seek information to assist with your own needs. TravelSmart is an evolving area. Innovative contributions or questions you have thought of may be of great use to others and can generate additional thought for further and ongoing development.

Partnerships

Forming partnerships with other relevant groups can offer great opportunities for TravelSmart to play a 'value ad' role where both organizations benefit from the exposure.

Opportunities to link into other programs may be found by networking with:

Internal Cultures and Values are Important and they can change over time

Internal Cultures vary within organizations and change continually according to the values of that organization and its priorities at any given time. Asking an existing work culture to accept a new program can have the same threats as introducing Voluntary Change programs. Sometimes the internal culture may view the promotion of 'Active Transport' promotion as 'warm and fuzzy' and ineffective. Communication skills used internally need to be just as carefully planned and introduced in order to effectively market your role and the programs you are promoting. Getting to know people and what is of value to them will help you find the most effective aspects to tailor to each person within the organization.

postcard: ride our bikes to get fit and to save using the car

Changing Cultures

School Environments change. Student and parent groups move through the school. This brings changes to the makeup of the school, as does the transient teaching population. A change in principal can alter the philosophy and the priorities of a school. Maintaining contact will assist you to understand where the school is at and helps you to plan approaches to that school at any given time in the long term TravelSmart relationship. (Link to Opportunities)

Local Community Flavours

Within your council area there will be community pockets with their own distinctive values and attitudes. It is important to be very familiar with these pockets. A community in one suburb may be far more environmentally focused than a community in an adjacent suburb. This may be reflected in the community activities in the area, types of shops and restaurants, types of homes and layout of streetscapes. As schools are usually zoned to specific local boundaries, it is likely that the community values will also be reflected in the school environment. Take time to familiarize your self with these differences and plan your approach accordingly.

Anticipating External Questions

Plan before you go to any meetings or information sessions. This will help you anticipate questions and provide a credible response or relevant referral point for that person. It is important that you plan with the actual values of the organization in mind. An informed response may be the difference to the questioner perceiving your program as a solution to road safety or educational and physical development issues or another demand on their time.

Be Sensitive to the Local Environment

The local environment where you work will vary. Some areas will be suitable for all programs, others won't. Within a local council region there can be rural and city environments, industry, major roads and freeways. Duty of care to children and infrastructure limitations will be the major challenges. Knowledge and awareness of your local area will help. It is critical that you find out this information through your own experience. Walk around the areas, hop on a bike and drive around so you can respond to questions with first hand knowledge.

Manage Expectations

Expectations of what you can and can't provide will exist both internally and externally. Many of the points listed highlight this fact. Knowing your role within each program, the area requiring assistance (internal and external) and the limitations of each program will help you to present only information that is relevant. Each group will have their own agenda and listening to and acknowledging the barriers is necessary but should not become the focus of your communication. Careful questioning skills are necessary to move the group forward to your main objective.

Identify and Pursue Opportunities

Recognising opportunities for schools is a primary objective for TravelSmart officers. Once you tune into the network of programs, events and what other program promoters have to offer, you can link together to form a strong collective of information providers and support. This is the key to introducing voluntary change programs. It is essential to acknowledge that each school you approach requires your flexibility to innovatively introduce a framework of programs in a way that has meaning to them.

Credibility is a key to keeping the doors open to you 

Credibility is the key to engaging any audience. If you want people to listen to you and accept your information then it is important to be believable. This applies not only to what you say but how you deliver your information. The following points are essential to the promotion of any new ideas, concepts, products or services. (Link to Getting the Message Across/Communication and Step by Step Marketing Strategy)

An audience will find you credible if:

Gaining credibility is often the challenge when new to TravelSmart. Not only is knowledge of community programs and engineering projects required, but also an understanding of the school environment and the special needs and considerations required when dealing with teachers and children. Dedicating time to research and planning will help you gain credibility with the key members of the school community.

Your own presentation is also important. Professionalism is important but a school is not a corporate environment. At the end of a teaching day you may be given 15 - 30 minutes to present information to a group of teachers in the staff room. You may not be the only item on the agenda. Concise, relevant presentation of the facts delivered in a down to earth manner will possibly be better received than a glossy drawn out power point presentation given by someone in a designer suit. Image should be relevant to a school rather than the boardroom.