My first proper project, working title Sprintypants

Today I am unveiling (to myself at least) something that is not much more than an idea, but one that I am pretty excited about turning into A Helpful Thing.

Last month I was introduced to a fantastic person who is changing career from marketing to personal training.  At first we got talking about whether it’s possible for a 37-year-old (i.e. me) to train to beat his personal best in 100m sprint, that he set when he was 17.  It was a nice icebreaker, and then we moved on to other stuff.

To my surprise, a couple of days later she said that since I am looking to help people, she would like to help me, in the form of free personal training to work towards beating my 100m PB.

That got me thinking.  Is there a way to take her kind offer and direct it towards something more helpful than my own selfish aim?

This is where my thinking has taken me so far, beyond this first layer:

Layer 2: Straightforward philanthropy – raise funds for a charity (of course).  But make it slightly more meaningful by linking my increase in mobility to a corresponding and resultant increase in a disabled child’s mobility.  Have met up with Whizz Kidz already to talk about this.

Layer 3: Help others to help others – turn a passive beneficiary into an active participant.  This could be done by getting together with a disabled child and working with him / her to organise, say, a “helptathlon” on Clapham Common – a local sports day.  Then it no longer is about me running my 100m, or about raising money; these are useful by-products.  It becomes about me helping a young person gain life skills and confidence through the exercise of organising a charitable event together.  This strongly appealed, but it could go further…

Layer 4: Help others to help others to help others!  Get other adults (mentors) together with other kids to organise other charitable events.  I sometimes hear people saying they’d like to do some volunteering to help kids, but can’t think of how to do that.  If I can connect willing adults with willing kids, and facilitate them to work on a fun project together (by providing a potential theme as well as just the connection), then it could be something much wider and even more helpful.

Layer 5: Connect organisations to the people involved in the project.  If more people get involved, then it’s not hard to see how a range of corporations could get involved too, whether that’s in terms of corporate sponsorship, or to add a whole new dimension to the element of skills transfer.

So that’s my initial idea of how I might experiment in the alchemy of transforming selfishness into helpfulness – a delicious cake of helpfulness in fact.

Whether I can progress through those layers depends especially on whether I can find children who are keen on collaborating (and the necessary permissions etc), as they are the centre of what this would be about.  So that’s my first step.

The reason for posting it here is partly because I have found that sticking something on the Internet is a useful way of testing whether I am willing to commit to something or not.  The other reason is that I can follow how the idea evolves and then flourishes or crashes over time.  And it opens it up to ideas, support and other forms of useful input from other people (meaning you) along the way – fancy a slice?

I’m really quite excited.  And I have my first official sprint training session with my Fairy Godtrainer this Thursday, and an official 100m timing this weekend to see what my starting point is – so watch this space (also @chrispacke #sprintypants on Twitter).

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