When we confirmed the location for the 12 local delivery pilots (LDPs) in December 2017, we were clear that there would be a very different form of relationship, approach and investment.
There wouldn’t be the usual coaches, facilities and equipment being rolled out within a few months – in fact, there might not be anything very visible for quite a while. But we were clear that this didn’t mean nothing was happening. Far from it. We were doing things differently.
What on earth did we mean by this? Building on our collaborative work with change experts and shared knowledge from other public sector bodies, we were certain that giving sufficient time and space for the natural development of the pilots was absolutely crucial – planning and preparation had to be absolutely thorough and authentic before we could talk about ‘doing’.
To do this, the pilots needed energy and resources to translate their aspirations into a burgeoning local movement with a common purpose.
During this past year, we've provided sufficient resources for each pilot to build their capacity, insight and local presence at the right speed for them. Each pilot was passionate that one of those first steps had to be immersing themselves in the reality of people’s daily lives; equally, they also wanted to deepen their understanding of how the ‘local system’ really operated – good and bad.
Understanding the reality of this ‘system’ – the myriad of public and private sector bodies, community organisations, leisure providers, even key individuals – became an essential early step for the pilots. Piecing together and making sense of those first steps became a critical focus.
Drawing on our pilot experiences and the support from others, we developed a ‘pathway’ to help explore how to go about this work, and the pilots have spent a lot of time building a richer picture of their local communities – talking, observing, but most importantly listening.
This goes far beyond the realm of attitudes to sport and physical activity, it's about the reality of living and working in a pilot area. Our work, and that of the local teams managing and running each individual pilot, cannot be done without a deep understanding of the issues impacting on the lives of local people.
How have they been getting on?
For Mal Fitzgerald, programme director of the South Tees LDP, the initial phase has been all about scoping the scale of the project.
Twelve pilots were chosen with around £100 million being invested in significant learning
“Our approach has been to work with people in communities,” he said.
“I think we’ve always seen the LDP process as an ongoing programme. Within four years we’ll start to scratch the surface on some of these issues, but they’re really, really big issues.
“They’re not going to go away overnight. We want things that will last generations.”
Janpal Basran, manager of the Southall Community Alliance, is exactly the type person the pilots are looking to engage with.
He has been involved in the Southall pilot from the start and views the programme as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a lasting difference in his community.
Born and bred in the area, he is involved in a planned research project aimed at working out why people are inactive in Southall.
So when this opportunity came up, and when we were successful, it’s not an overstatement to say we were jumping around and really excited
Janpal Basran, manager of Southall Community Alliance
Local residents will be trained up as community researchers, working alongside academics, with the aim to up-skill the community and create a lasting change.
“We’re building local capacity and using the programme as a stepping stone”, he said.
“When I started working in Southall about 15 years ago, one of the shocking things for me was, every year, reading statistics about how bad people’s health was, how low people’s life expectancy was, how high diabetes rates are, how terrible heart disease rates are.
“It struck me that we don’t actually have much proactively happening. We have lots of reactive services.
“So when this opportunity came up, and when we were successful, it’s not an overstatement to say we were jumping around and really excited.”
While Southall may be one of the smaller pilots with a population of 71,200, Hayley Lever’s pilot in Greater Manchester is the largest at almost 3 million.
Greater Manchester is the largest LDP with a population of 2,756,200, while Withernsea is the smallest with just 6,000
The strategic manager of GM Moving, she has been working with her team to make sure that, in trying to address the entire population of Greater Manchester, the needs of individuals are not forgotten.
“We’ve got strands of our work to embed physical activity in the social prescribing approaches that are developing across GM, to really build assets within communities, and so there is a really rich tapestry of physical activity opportunities and an environment that supports it in the community,” she said.
Working alongside the teams in each pilot area, we've provided a dedicated manager to support, challenge and connect the local pilot into the overall programme. We all want the pilots to succeed by wrestling with the challenges of fundamental change and drawing out valuable learning.
Throughout the year the pilots have developed the outcomes they want to achieve.
Many pilots are understandably focusing on health-related and social outcomes, some have economic goals such as showing how being active can improve confidence, self-esteem and to be more job-ready. Some want to actively reduce isolation and loneliness by getting people out of their homes and engaged in the community or tackling barriers to community integration. The potential reach of the pilots is becoming evident.
For Shimul Haider, our pilot manager working with colleagues in Birmingham and Solihull, as the year has progressed there's an increasing sense of ambition about what can be achieved.
“Each have niche target issues, but as a collective, the opportunity that we have as a national organisation is huge,” she said.
“I didn’t get a real sense of the scale of the opportunity until we started to come together as a collective, as we have done a few times over the first year with workshops.”
For the next few months the pilots will continue to explore their local systems, build up their local presence and maintain and strengthen the buy-in of local leaders and communities.
The rich conversations which underpin all of this work will naturally sharpen the focus on what to test and implement first. Some pilots are already in this position so they're in dialogue with us around unlocking further resources.
Talking about and sharing the experience of the first year is a key element of our Community of Learning and the first chapter of the overall evaluation of the pilot programme will emerge soon.
This will contain plenty of food for thought from the first year of work. We'll begin a programme of webinars and produce further learning events to really share the impact of what is happening.
One of the most important tasks of the next phase of the programme is to maintain the excitement and positive momentum generated in the first year – feelings best summed up by Steve Rose, director for insight and knowledge at The Active Wellbeing Society, responsible for the Birmingham and Solihull pilot.
“It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity for me, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the people we work with,” he concluded.
“We’re really excited about this and it’s a proper opportunity to make a difference where we all really care about, and that’s the communities where this matters most.”