The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR) have partnered with Movember for a new community program aimed at better connecting male motorcyclists. We chat with Mark Hawwa – the Founder of DGR, Throttle Roll and Ride Sunday – about this special initiative.
The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR) has been going since 2012. How did it start, and how have you seen it change over the years?
I had just come back from a trip to Japan and fell in love with their mix of a classic and custom motorcycling scene. When I got back, I was determined to get a bike that could bring that style back here to Australia, but none of my mates rode that kind of bike, so I started the Sydney Cafe Racers. As the custom style caught on, I started seeing people from around the world get into these groups and we connected over a joint love of custom motorcycles. Then the idea for DGR hit me when I saw a poster of Mad Men’s Don Draper sitting on a Matchless motorcycle in his beautifully tailored suit and thought it was a really interesting way to show a motorcyclist. At the time in Australia, we had a lot of issues with public perception of “bikies”, so it motivated me to spread the word throughout these groups and get everyone riding on the same day on their classic and vintage style bikes to dress dapper and ride together to break down that negative stereotype. That was 3,000 riders in 64 cities, and now we’re connecting 116,000 riders in 678 cities, so quite a lot has changed!
DGR has a special relationship with its global charity partner the Movember Foundation. How did the idea of the DGR Social Connections Challenge come about?
The relationship with Movember formed in 2016. We were working with various Prostate Cancer Foundations around the world to localise people’s donations and provide them with tax deductibility, but it was a tough job. We connected with Movember and everything just moved forward naturally. We have really similar goals in how to provide support for men and are actively funding a wide range of prostate cancer research and mental health programs to connect men in motorcycling.
The DGR Social Connections Challenge came about with us knowing how dedicated our community through DGR was in fundraising and in changing the way men communicate, so we thought it was finally time to help bring specific programs targeted at all riders to make a difference to them directly. This program isn’t just for people in DGR, but for every single male motorcyclist. We’ve never done anything like this before and Movember was really excited to build out a program that helps us better connect with riders as a part of their “going to where men are” approach to mental health. It really is a world-first and we’re honoured to be able to bring this to the global riding community.
What countries are involved?
Currently, we are accepting pilot programs in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, and Canada as these are the areas that we can directly offer funding and support. Once the pilot programs go through the Challenge, there is definitely an opportunity for them to scale further and operate in more areas.
Are the grants open to groups as well as individuals?
Absolutely anyone is welcome to submit an application. Groups or individuals. We’d also recommend you have a mate or two helping out as this is potentially a 15-month program if you get through to Phase 2, so having a bit of friendly support wouldn’t be a bad idea.
How will the Challenge be carried out?
The Challenge will be carried out in two key phases at this stage. It’ll be broken down as Phase 1.1, Phase 1.2, Phase 2, and Phase 3. A maximum of 25 grants valued at up to AUD $7,500 will be awarded internationally under Phase 1 of this opportunity.
Step 1 asks applicants to submit an Inspiration Statement. The applicants with the most creative and innovative ideas will be invited to pitch their idea. Successful pitches will be considered upon receipt of a signed, short-form Movember funding agreement which will lead them into Step 2.
In Step 2, development funds will be provided to assist in research, engage with the targeted group, design and create an initiative plan over a 9-week period that has the potential to be piloted. This is the core period where we can really give attention to people’s ideas and see if they can work.
From here, the best candidates will be invited into Phase 2, where we really get into the nitty-gritty of the program. A maximum of ten pilot project grants valued at up to AUD $75,000 will be awarded internationally under Phase 2 to carry out implementation of pilot project plans over a 12-month period. This is where programs will really scale up and take serious shape to test out the ideas and try to bring riders together in the process.
Continued investment may be forthcoming in Phase 3 for those projects that show the greatest promise for ‘scaling up’ at the end of the pilot period. This is an extended piloting phase, so the continuation is really dependant after Phase 2.
The great thing about this is event programs that are not invited into Phase 3 will be in a position to keep working at their ideas. The support that we’re looking to provide over the course of the next 15 months will give our applicants a huge level of insight into how they can scale and succeed their ideas.
How will the grant applications be judged – what are you looking for?
We definitely have a few things we’re looking out for in this. If the name is any indicator to you, we’re looking for ideas that help connect riders socially, outside of the DGR community. This is a really wide-net to men in motorcycling, so it should be something that connects all men, and especially, those guys that may be a little harder to reach when it comes to connecting. With the focus on connections, we are also looking at programs that strength peer-to-peer support and can allow us to provide positive role models and mentors to all riders, and improve everyone’s knowledge about mental health and suicide prevention.
What’s involved in submitting an idea?
All you need to do to get this off the ground is register online HERE and submit an Inspiration Statement by July 6th. From there, you may get invited into Phase 1.1 to pitch your concept with a few other pieces. You can find a more detailed breakdown of this at www.gentlemansride.com/blog/dgr-scc
How soon will the funds be allocated?
Funding will be provided within the Phase stages by Movember, so successful applicants will be able to allocate those funds to areas that will help them succeed best. The great thing here is Movember will be with them all the way to help identify where these funds might be best placed.
Is this something DGR and Movember plan to do on an annual basis?
Who knows?! This is a first-time for us, so once we get through it, we’ll absolutely be reviewing and seeing just how successful the concept is. In some way, I’d like to though. It’s really important that we’re funding programs where our riders need it most, so this will absolutely be a test of that.
Given that the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is a global event, what changes can we expect for 2020 with varying COVID-19 social restrictions worldwide?
Worldwide, we’re looking at a Solo Event for 2020, which will eliminate mass events and have riders taking to the streets on their own to raise funds for the event. It’s a tough one, because some are able to hit the road in groups or alone, and others may not be allowed to ride at all, so we need to find a way to engage everyone. To achieve this, riders around the world will be encouraged to dapper up and either hop on their bikes if they’re able to, or to snap a shot of themselves with their classic and vintage styled motorcycle and join us online. The focus for this year will be to connect riders from all around the world, despite their COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. We want riders to know that we may be socially distanced, but we can still be connected digitally.
We not only need to take people’s local lockdown restrictions into consideration, but we also needed to consider how riders and hosts have been financially affected in losing jobs and security, and how this may have impacted their lives. It’s a three-degrees of separation thing, some hosts either had COVID-19, or knew someone who did, and even have family members who lost their lives because of it. We wanted to be sensitive to those who spend countless hours volunteering to run their ride, who may not be able to get involved. The main thing we’d want people to be aware of here is that we know that some areas of the world might be opened up by the time DGR hits in 2020, but DGR isn’t only a local event – it’s a global movement – and when we have so many folks who are integral in running their rides who have been heavily impacted by this, we need to look out for them and each other.
You can pre-register now or find out more at www.gentlemansride.com.