Finding The Hidden InfoSec Story

Security Awareness Should be a Walk in the Park

Photo Credit: Tim S Hobbs Flickr via Compfight cc

Parkrun organises weekly 5km timed runs around the world. They are expertly organised, open to everyone, they are free to enter and it’s easy to get involved.

Now that all sounds very good, but the challenge is that they typically start at 09.00 on a Saturday morning, and that’s a time that’s easy to miss by just spending an extra, well-earned, hour in bed, or lingering over a coffee with breakfast.

So how come thousands of people turnout every week, come rain or shine, to run in their local park? And what motivates hundreds of volunteers to organise and marshal these events?

Well, the first bit is down to you, you’ve got to register and then make the effort to turn up for your first Parkrun – you may get encouragement from friends, or family, who already join in, or you may see something in the local, or national press – Parkrun attracts a lot of coverage. Next, it’s very easy to join in. First a simple online form, and then print your personal barcode. Participation is just as easy, you simply turn up with your printed bar code.

No matter what your ability level, you’ll find a friendly welcome. You’ll be provided with an introduction to Parkrun, and an introduction to the course in your park. And then you join the others at the start, and you’re away. Volunteers will encourage you all the way around, and see that you are safe. At the end you are given a barcoded token for your time, which is taken with your personal barcode to the volunteers with scanners.

Then you’re done – you either head home, or stick around for a chat. You’ll find a shared camaraderie at having finished. You’ll find encouragement from more experienced participants – they may mention joining the local running club! And there is usually the opportunity for a coffee.

Within an hour or so you’ll receive an email with your time and finishing position, together with links to the full set of results for your Parkrun.

In between events you’ll get emailed newsletters to keep you interested. You can buy tee shirts, and other merchandise, if you want to feel more a part of the event, or you can buy merchandise that makes life easier for you (like a barcode wrist band). Via newsletters, corporate partners may offer you discounts of products related to running.

Then it starts to become addictive, you’ll want to do another Parkrun, and then another, to see if you can do better. If you’re on holiday you can find a new park to run in, where you’ll be welcomed as a visitor. Parkrun ‘Carrots’ are dangled before you – aim for 50 runs (10 for juniors) and you get a free running shirt, you’ll see other runners already wearing them, then more shirts for 100 and 250. If you help with Parkrun there’s a free shirt for volunteering at 25 events.

You’ll find yourself telling your friends and family about the fun, about the health benefits (to the runner, and the ‘health of the nation’), about how easy it is to join in and how easy it is to improve, and about all the helpful like-minded people they will meet.

Should you suffer a setback (maybe illness, or an injury) you can come back, slowly at first, and with the encouragement from others you will gradually get back to where you were, and then push on from there.

Now let’s think about Information Security (IS). There so many things that your IS programme can borrow from Parkrun:


* Ensure that anyone, and everyone, can get involved.

* Make it easy to get involved – whether people are complete beginners, or an expert of many years.

* Make sure people understand what they are doing, and why.

* Explain the benefits for themselves, and the bigger picture of how they fit into IS for the whole organisation.

* Provide regular, and timely, feedback on progress showing how things are improving.

* Set goals, and where appropriate, offer incentives to reach them.

* Get more experienced people to encourage newcomers and less experienced people, so they won’t feel they’re on their own.

* If someone suffers a setback, support and encourage them so they rebuild their confidence, and get them back to where they were.

* Above all, make it fun.

So give some thought to why Parkrun is so successful, and then reflect on whether you want your IS to be seen as an early start, facing a plod through the rain, cold and mud. And all of this on a day off.

Or is your IS programme an invigorating ‘Run in the Park’ that invites everyone back for more? And a final thought, you could always look after your team, and encourage them to take up Parkrun.

Author: Steve Pomfret

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