Opinion: Not Another Box!

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By Ben Williams, Sport England.

On the 24/25 October, Active Calderdale joined other Local Delivery Pilots to share thinking and learning about how we can enable inactive people to move more.

At the gathering, Donna Hall – the ex-Chief Executive of Wigan Council – talked about her experiences and learning from developing and delivering the Wigan Deal, which was the council’s approach to transforming how they delivered services to local people and asked local people what responsibility they should be taking for themselves.

The story she shared that resonated with me the most was about the people in most need in Wigan’s communities. She put a slide up which had the person, resident or customer at the centre of the slide and loads of boxes around them. Each box represented a service that interacted with that individual. There were a lot of boxes! Which illustrated that the people who live with the most struggles in life have their lives made even more complicated by the local system. Things are not made easy for that person to get on and ideally improve their lives.

The reason why this resonated with me and Active Calderdale’s approach is that we are not looking to tip more supply or services into the system – create more boxes – that make that person’s life more complicated. The approach of using the people and organisations that already have contact with the desired audience that we want to influence (inactive people, especially those on low incomes) makes sense. So, if there is person who is being supported by Adult Social Care that is inactive, rather than create a new service, why not get their Carers to influence that person to move more and ultimately get them moving?

It is exciting to see in Calderdale that different and unusual parts of the system are recognising the value of getting their clients to move more, whether that is GPs helping to improve their patients physical and mental well-being or local community groups using physical activity to bring people together and tackle social isolation – using existing boxes to get people to live ‘larger lives’.

Donna did talk about a number of other challenges and learning that she had gained from her Wigan experiences – one of which is ‘killing the vampires’ that suck the energy out of and so block delivering customer centred change. That is probably a different story, but for now focusing on getting rid of the boxes to make people’s lives better seems like a worthwhile approach to me.