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Challenge Innovate: a Christmas event with a difference

The annual staff celebration is as much a part of Christmas as tinsel and turkey, but organising the event can prove a major headache for the ‘unlucky’ person who’s handed the task.

One simple and fun solution is to choose a Challenge Innovate event from City Challenge, available in a choice of cities across the UK and Europe.

This self-run event combines teamwork and brainpower as groups work against the clock to solve a series of cryptic clues and there are prizes in store for those who gain the most points. Typical events last between two and four hours – making it a great way to work up an appetite for a fabulous Christmas dinner*.

The clues are to be found in the streets of such fantastic cities as Oxford, Edinburgh, Bath and the City of London – and it’s a great way to see the sights and take in the fabulous Christmas decorations at the same time.

Challenge Innovate is also available in European destinations, including Prague and Amsterdam.

Suitable for groups of six to 16 and catering for all ages, abilities and levels of seniority, Challenge Innovate costs just £50 per person, with a minimum spend of £500. City Challenge supplies all the necessary information for groups to run their own event or, if required, an external event manager can be supplied for an additional cost.

Companies including RBS, Mars and Golley Slater have all chosen Challenge Innovate events in recent months, so why not take their lead and make it a Christmas event to remember.

For more information, click through to Challenge Innovate.

*Note: Dinner is not included in the Challenge Innovate fee but can be arranged at additional cost.

Royal connections boost City Challenge portfolio

Two of the UK’s best-known destinations have been added to the increasing number of training locations offered by team development specialist City Challenge.

Windsor and Brighton both boast royal connections and teams taking part in the different Challenges will be able to explore their historic links with the past as they tackle the clues on a day’s urban orienteering.

In the shadow of spectacular Windsor Castle, teams will be able to visit the ancient Guildhall Island area, where the cobbled streets boast buildings dating from as early as the 17th Century. There, the Old King’s Head bears a plaque on its wall recording the execution warrant for Charles I in 1648, while close by is the house where Charles II is reputed to have housed his famous mistress, Nell Gwynne.

Crossing the River Thames, the Windsor Challenge takes teams into neighbouring Eton where on school days, participants can rub shoulders in the High Street with pupils from the famous Eton College and also visit the college chapel.

Teams choosing the famous south coast destination of Brighton complete with its cosmopolitan reputation and magnificent Royal Pavilion, former home of King George IV, will be enjoying the sights and sounds of the seaside.

Highlights of the day include finding solutions to the challenges in The Lanes, the city’s famous shopping streets, and visiting historic Brighton Pier, one of the most famous film and TV locations in the world. Teams can also delve into the city’s fishing heritage at Brighton’s Fishing Museum on the seafront.

City Challenge events, where participants have to work against the clock to solve a variety of questions based on their chosen city, are designed to promote teamwork, boost communication and leadership skills and build morale. They are suitable for a wide variety of age groups and professions and trained facilitators are available to help businesses translate the benefits achieved on the day back into the workplace.

See our Windsor and Eton page

Trading event adds up to a whole new Challenge

A dedicated teambuilding event, aimed specifically at graduates working in the financial sector, has been developed by team development experts City Challenge.

The Trading Challenge not only gives participants the chance to explore the financial heart of the City of London, but also the opportunity to budget and trade "Euro" for information with opposing teams in a bid to come out on top.

The Trading Challenge has already proved a success with teams on the graduate development programme of one major bank, and City Challenge managing director Jane Read believes it has the potential to help others improve their team working skills.

"We've worked closely with several financial institutions and came to recognise that their requirements for team development within their graduate programmes were often different to those of other sectors," said Read.

"These graduates really are the cream of the crop, highly intelligent and articulate. They will be working in a very competitive environment, so it's important that they learn about issues such as building relationships with colleagues, team working, communication and the importance of planning.

"The Trading Challenge was developed to do exactly that and combines a high excitement and high energy event with serious messages."

Based on similar lines to other City Challenge events, teams have to tackle a series of challenges, working against the clock, in a form of urban orienteering which enables them to explore the backstreets and hidden corners of the City of London.

Unlike other events however, banking graduates are then given the chance to buy and sell answers at a dedicated trading session, with each team being given "Euro" to barter their way to the best information.

Read added: "Adding the Euro trading element makes the event more realistic for the graduates and they recognise that to achieve their goal of getting as many correct answers as possible they need to be able to bargain hard on the one hand, while protecting their assets on the other.

"It's the perfect training for their new working environment and provides valuable feedback for graduate programme managers on how well teams and individuals are performing."

Why City Challenge adds up for graduates.

See our Graduates in Action.

Eurostar arrives in Oxford

Some of the biggest names in business have been queueing up to explore the streets of Oxford with local team development organisation City Challenge.

Eurostar and Nationwide Building Society are among the companies who have chosen the city as their ideal destination for team building events, giving employees the chance to take on the Oxford Challenge.

Jane Read, managing director of City Challenge and Destination Oxford member, said: "Oxford is consistently one of our most-requested destinations and the feedback is always excellent.

"Whether participants have been here before or not, there are always plenty of new and interesting places to discover and they especially love the fact they can have lunch in one of the colleges and gain a glimpse into academic life."

Visiting the city was certainly a highlight for the team from Eurostar's commercial department. Arnaud Masson, head of commercial intelligence and finance, was looking for a motivational event for his staff, many of whom were newcomers to the department, and he wanted something which would be both challenging and interesting.

Taking part in the Oxford Challenge was, he said, a great opportunity to discover the city. "Not only was the day fun, but it was a great excuse to work together on a topic which was very different to what we would usually be doing," he said. "It was very interesting to see the effectiveness of the challenge and how team members co-operated with each other.

"It was also an excellent way to find out about the city and learn all about its history and the curious facts that you'd never see otherwise."

An impressive 79% of the team said the day had been highly effective in helping them learn about teamwork and Masson said he was very pleased with the result from a motivational spirit point of view and delivery.

The chance to explore Oxford was also one of the attractions for the team from Nationwide Building Society.

Lisa White, head of the building society's operational risk unit, brought her 16-strong team to Oxford for a training event. They are normally split between two offices in Swindon and Northamptonshire, and historically only came together when there were problems to sort out.

She wanted a training event where learning would be an integral part of having a good time and said the Oxford Challenge seemed to combine all of their requirements.

"This wasn't about putting people in a classroom, but about getting out there and taking part in the Oxford Challenge, seeing things from different peoples' perspectives, working together in a co-ordinated fashion and really becoming a team," she said.

City Challenge was launched by Jane Read in 1998 and today runs team development events in 21 cities across the UK and Europe. Combing urban orienteering with challenges set against the clock, the objective is to encourage teams to use their communication, negotiation and planning skills to gain the most right answers. Trained facilitators provide support to the groups during the event and also provide feedback to help ensure objectives are met on the day.

Highlights of the Oxford Challenge include the opportunity to visit Alice in Wonderland's sweet shop, track down the hostelries where Inspector Morse solved his most complicated crimes and see where JRR Tolkien came up with his ideas for The Lord of the Rings.

What participants say about the Oxford Challenge
  • A good way to learn about a city, very worthwhile experience
  • Good fun, challenging, good for exploring Oxford quickly
  • Different than anything I have done before and gave us all a chance to see a beautiful city in a different way
  • Fun, challenging mentally stimulating, great location
  • Superb way of exploring Oxford and learning some of its 'history'
  • Very fun day out and a good way to get to learn about the City

City Challenge celebrates 21 cities

The German cities of Berlin and Munich have completed a "coming of age" milestone for Oxfordshire-based team development specialist City Challenge.

By adding these two new destinations to its portfolio, City Challenge now offers clients 21 great cities to choose from for their training events - 13 in the UK and eight in Europe.

The two German cities have shot up the most requested list and managing director, Jane Read, believes each has a very different, but exciting challenge to offer.

"We're always driven by meeting our clients' needs and Berlin and Munich have a fantastic mix of history and culture which make them perfect for team development events," she said. "Marking 21 cities is a great achievement for us and we're delighted to have done so with two such great destinations."

City Challenge participants have to work against the clock to solve a variety of questions based on their chosen city, an exercise that is designed to boost communication skills and build morale while demonstrating the benefits of good teamwork. Trained facilitators provide professional input, advice and feedback.

As the political and cultural capital of Germany, Berlin is a vibrant and ever-changing city.

From the Brandenburg Gate and the fascinating architecture of the Reichstag; to the ultra-modern buildings of the Potsdamer Platz and the city's 175 museums, each housing cultural treasures from all over the world, Berlin has plenty to offer the urban orienteering challenge.

In the south of the country, modern Munich - the capital of Bavaria - offers the perfect combination of Bavarian tradition and 21st Century life.

The famous onion domes of Munich's 15th century Gothic Church of Our Lady are the city's most unmistakable landmark, while other must see places on the agenda are the Hofbräuhaus beer hall, probably the most famous tavern in the world, and the site of the Olympic Games in 1972.