IMBA Uprising 2018

The end of March in small town USA is very different than Vancouver, BC. First the weather is warmer and drier and second, many women in mountain biking were coming together for the first ever IMBA Uprising in Bentonville, Arkansas. We were interested in attending the Uprising, as it was the first time IMBA was providing a forum specifically for woman in mountain bike advocacy and a general interest in hearing what our partners to the South were thinking and feeling about their representation in the sport they love so much.
 
Evening check in started off with the usual, general anxiety around being in a group of powerful women and wondering where you land. We were introduced to Rebecca Rusch and Aimee Ross from IMBA who would set the stage for the weekend to come. We were encouraged to share how, why, and what challenges and successes we have experienced around IMBA’s four pillars - Ride, Build, Learn & Engage
 
Rebecca Rusch made the connection that Ride-Engage-Build-Learn spelt out REBL, establishing that we are all REBELS. We were here to enact change in our communities and do so through the power of our voices as women.
 
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Over the course of the weekend we were encouraged to develop our personal 4 pillars or values, and consider how we can use them to lead within our communities, and how to put the call out to others to become more involved.
The presenters were diverse, all influential women within the community having expertise in various aspects of the industry from trail design and maintenance, advocacy and marketing, to economic development, all shared valuable insights into their experiences, and success.  The open and collaborative nature of the summit provided a forum to engage with the speakers, on ways to leverage our strengths.
 
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A key takeaway was the reminder of the importance of understanding your audience and tailoring messaging, event structure, marketing and communications to resonate with them.
 
Social media is a powerful tool providing the ability to connect and engage with your audience in a personal and meaningful way and can bring like minded people together building communities and friendships.
 
Data plays a pivotal role in understanding the persona of your target audience, surveys, conversation, and other forums that bring people together provide opportunities to listen and gain better understanding of the wants and needs of the community so that we as organizations can make better decisions and push our governments to be engaging in the same practices.
 
While we were encouraged to dig in and harness our abilities and strengths, it is equally important to develop a network of supporters, allies and advocates who have similar goals and vision, whose strengths complement our own. A co-hesive group with a shared vision will enable greater success in engaging with stakeholders in our communities to receive their support to make positive and sustainable choices for land use and recreation opportunities.
 
Not only did we sit, listen and engage but we also rode! The trails in Bentonville are special because of the thoughtful network that the entire community has embraced as an economic driver to the area. Learn more about Bentonville here.
 
Riding together allowed us to carry on the conversation and get to know each other where we feel the most comfortable - on our bikes!
 
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bgr35hlHmri/?tagged=imbauprising
 
The weekend was all about women coming together to share in the positive energy, leadership and skills to share in some local riding. Women left feeling confident to go out in the world, where they may not necessarily be represented and show up! It was a great place to start and to move forward knowing that a group of women established in Bentonville be there to back you up!
 
We went to Bentonville with a goal to gain a better understanding of the perceived challenges facing women in mountain biking and explore what Women’s event could look and feel like in Canada. We learned that in many cases women are looking for a community that provides a safe environment to experience mountain biking. However; simply establishing women's only events and groups will not necessarily satisfy every woman or provide the opportunities that meet everyone's needs.
 
While there is a time and a place for Women's specific events, focusing on the development of gender specific groups will only grow the divide not bring the greater mountain bike community together. Men and Women need to be part of the conversation and the focus needs to be on inclusion and on initiatives that we can control and have impact on.
 
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Based on feedback from a member of the group IMBA created the first ever Women’s Mountain Bike Day which was May 5th.
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We left focused on creating the world we want to live in, and developing strong communities  built on understanding and inclusion. Communities not just of women, but also of First Nations, People of Colour, the LGBTQ2 community, regardless of ability, age, race or economic status. So this is what we are working to create. It’s a big undertaking but it’s one that the world is needing and the connection that people are looking for.
 
“Trails for all, Trails forever”
Author: Christine Reid
Executive Director NSMBA

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