A thematic forum for the social transformation of our societies

By Laura Fernandez

Before joining WINGS I became heavily involved — on a community and citizen level — in the construction of the World Bicycle Forum (FMB4), which celebrated its 4th edition in February in Medellín, Colombia. The topic of this year’s forum, Cities for All, placed the bicycle as a social transformation tool and a solution to deep issues like inequality, urban mobility and gender. Celebrated annually, the forum is the largest global event promoting the bicycle in all its forms, and completely organized by civil society for citizens.

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As part of the committees organizing the event, I was deeply involved in what became a great learning experience in terms of bringing about more equitable and just societies, civil society participation and the role of private social investment in supporting social change. Thus, the forum is a versatile example of how the philanthropy field operates and what WINGS envisions.

The World Bike Forum inspired, connected and advocated for cities — the majority of today’s societies now reside in urban areas — that are more equitable and just. In this forum and for many that are part of a world bicycle movement, the vehicle to help accomplish that vision is the bicycle. Similar to philanthropy being considered as a development tool, there are discussions about explicitly including bicycles in the goal of sustainable cities from the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be defined in September.

The benefits of the bicycle are numerous: promotion and democratization of public spaces, equal opportunities of transportation by all economic classes, reduction of car usage and carbon pollution, flexible and sustainable mobility, increased physical activity and health benefits — the list goes on. That is why the bicycle, invented more than a century ago, is the vehicle of the future.

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While the participation and institutional support of Medellín’s city government was very important, both the support of the private sector and the work of citizens from around the globe were the building blocks — the infrastructure — which made the astonishing success of the World Bike Forum possible. The private sector contributed financially and citizens contributed with their time. Various sponsors with their charitable giving helped with the logistical costs an event of this magnitude entails, and the citizen team volunteered time and skills to plan, construct and implement program, communications and fundraising strategies.

This philanthropic behaviour from the private sector and individual citizens clearly demonstrates how private resources can work for social good. Additionally, the use of new fundraising approaches like online crowdfunding helped bring additional donations for the event by targeting generational giving.

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The World Bike Forum counted with a wide and diverse public — the majority from Latin America — participating in panels, workshops, bicycle rides, yoga for cyclists, book presentations and film sessions in which ideas and knowledge were shared. The speakers represented various stakeholders: NGOs, private and public sector, academics, advocates, activists and artists. More than 7,000 attendees gathered to get excited and inspired, and to discuss the bicycle as an instrument to build sustainable cities, including how this can be organized to the benefit of all citizens.

Helping to organize an event of such scale was a fantastic and enriching experience that made clear the value of partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector, which together can achieve great results.

Laura Fernandez is the membership and development coordinator of WINGS. Photos courtesy Citizen Team of the World Bicycle Forum.

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