In our current strategy – Towards an Active Nation – we set out a vision for what we wanted to achieve from investing in a range of local delivery pilots.
We took as our starting point that every individual doesn’t live in a vacuum. They are connected to a place and its community, each with its own unique structure, relationships and geography.
Through the pilots we wanted to understand how we can use those local identities and structures to deliver sustainable increases in activity levels across the country. We wanted to test whether taking a behaviour change approach in a place could really unlock something groundbreaking for the whole country.
There's a real need to do something different. Despite many successes in getting the nation more active, there still exist some stubborn and stark inequalities in who is actually active.
Certain groups of people do not take part in sport and physical activity as much as others and may not have done so for quite some time – older people, people with a disability and people from lower socio-economic groups are three notable examples.
We needed these pilots to really get under the skin of why this was so persistent by focusing on the daily lives of people within their communities.
Another driver towards piloting new and different approaches was financial.
Within the past decade, it's clear that continuing financial pressure on local communities means local services, networks and connections are going through a necessary period of rapid change. The long-standing ways of doing things are no longer sustainable.
It's incredibly challenging to genuinely experiment and find new solutions unless there's a concerted focus and adequate resources.
Selecting the pilots
In December 2017 we announced the 12 selected locations. This was the culmination of a year of intense work where we discussed with many communities and organisations across the country what we were seeking to do and if they could help us in our challenge.
After a series of workshops, engaging more than 700 people, we invited applications.
A rigorous assessment and selection process was developed which involved in-depth visits to the places themselves. Here we met leaders, organisations and individuals with the aim to understand why they wanted to become a pilot and how we could collaborate. Other national organisations working on similar challenges, such as Public Health England, assisted us in the process.
We said we would select a diverse range of places – locations, sizes, demographic make-up. They range from Greater Manchester at 2.75 million people, to Withernsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire with a population of just 6,000.
The starting point for some pilots are entire counties or local authority areas; others are very clear about focusing on specific locations or groups of people within such areas.
Some reflect the reality of inner city living, some are coastal communities and some are predominately rural. We feel all of this diversity is a real strength to what we can learn from our local delivery pilots.
Getting the pilots started
Once the pilots were selected it was important not to lose the goodwill and momentum. We faced a large challenge as this was largely uncharted territory for us and all those involved in the pilots – we had never done anything like this before.
We all pledged to do things differently and avoid defaulting to the norm. Working collaboratively with the pilots to understand their needs and for them to understand how we could change our approach was critical – having the critical support of expert partners was also essential.
So far the first year of our pilots has been about scoping the scale of the pilot, building capacity, developing relationships, listening to the communities and formulating plans.