Blueprint 2020 Summary

Steven Ford, interim chair of the Ryder360 board, reflects on Ryder’s first completely virtual Blueprint festival.

Blueprint is our annual summit where we celebrate our achievements over the past year and set our goals for the year ahead.  It is undoubtedly one of the highlights in the Ryder calendar and the expectations were high for this year’s event.  However, when the Ryder360 board began planning late last year, no one could have foreseen the unique circumstances we would find ourselves in only a few months later.

Most of the speakers from Ryder and our close friends were already confirmed.  After a couple of days of rethinking the format, we confirmed the plan for a ‘virtual festival’ – saving the more social aspects for later in the year, which we look forward to when we return to normality.

The festival began promptly at 09:00 BST on the first Monday morning with a welcome video from our leaders Peter Buchan and Mark Thompson.  This included a review against this year’s objectives, an introduction to our goals for the year ahead and an announcement of promotions and the winners of the Everything architecture awards.

Online presentations were scheduled throughout the following two weeks, structured around our strategic areas of improvement – digital, environmental, research and social.  We were encouraged to join all presentations where other commitments (and time zones) allowed.

I struggle to choose a favourite, but it is hard to forget the first live presentation of the festival, which was led by Grant Sellars and Simon Wyatt of Cundall, on our environmental strategy.  After logging on early to make sure the technology was set up and to run through logistics, I was nervous about how an entirely online festival would go and how it might restrict engagement.  I was delighted to see over 130 people on the call, with a huge amount of valuable discussion taking place afterwards.  This enthusiasm continued throughout the two weeks.

We had a fantastic response to the annual design competition, for which the brief was to “spread a little joy” by creating a piece of art presented as a three minute video.  The brief was deliberately vague, and each team responded in their own unique way – congratulations to Teams Wise and Bell for coming first and second respectively.

Blueprint 2020 was brought to a fitting and somewhat emotional end as Peter, Mark and Gordon Murray closed the festival, during which we all raised a virtual glass to Peter and Gordon’s happy retirements.

Looking back, Blueprint came at just the right time.  Even though we were (and still are) working remotely, we all felt extremely connected.  Blueprint also had a hugely positive impact on people’s wellbeing.  This is particularly fitting considering that this week is UK Mental Health Awareness Week – right now it is more important than ever to consider our mental health.

As Mark highlighted in the closing presentation, Blueprint has taken place every year but two since 1994, making 2020 the silver anniversary of the event.  Despite the challenging circumstances, it has certainly been one to remember and I am very proud of what we achieved.  I do hope that Blueprint’s pearl anniversary in 2025 is a little less challenging, however!

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