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Connecting communities

This page is all about one of the five big issues - keep reading, or go to our main strategy page.

Uniting the Movement

We all want and deserve to live, work or go to school in a place we love. 

Our definition of what makes us love where we live may vary, but factors like opportunity, safety, feeling we belong, and that people care for each other are common. 

Sport and physical activity isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when people consider what makes a great place, certainly compared to some of the bigger concerns in life, but we believe it can be a huge force for good. 

It can develop confidence and self-worth, and help create more resilient, inclusive and connected neighbourhoods.

It can grow the local economy, provide jobs and purpose, integrate different groups, help tackle antisocial behaviour, respond to the threat of climate change and save public expenditure. 

It can be a big part of loving where you live – or not. 

We believe communities across our nation can benefit hugely by using the power of sport and physical activity – that’s why we want to support national and local decision-makers to do just that to help people and places thrive.

A group of women doing some balance exercises in an indoor hall.

Crucially, we need to make sure we do that in collaboration with each place: the people within them and the organisations relevant and trusted by them. No lesson has been learned more from our last strategy than this.

It’s in communities, and the clubs and organisations within them, where the inequalities specific to that area can be best understood, and where the best prospects of tackling them lie. The ‘level playing field’ is a term originating in sport, and here it means everyone should be able to feel the benefits of an active life.

We know there’s a huge network of trusted sports clubs, community organisations and charities out there striving to create better places to live and work.

Some are using sport and physical activity as a tool to improve lives and strengthen communities, or because they know how important it is to tackle inactivity. All know they’re providing a direct benefit in bringing people together to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. With more support, resources and trust, they can do even more to improve their area and the lives of people in their community. 

It’s in communities where the jigsaw pieces can best come together. Investment into an approach that builds on assets in an area like its people and their skills, or buildings and facilities, is important, but it’s not enough: we need the social and physical environment we live in, the organisations that serve us and local and national policies to join up more if we’re to help communities to be active, to thrive and to connect.

Our ambition

We want more communities to enjoy the benefits of what sport and physical activity can do, both for individuals and the place where they live and work. 

Those benefits will come from a more bottom-up approach to our work and investment. Working with – not doing things to – communities, and helping those affected to play a role in what happens in their neighbourhood and how it gets done. 

Active communities can be such a powerful tool in building great places to live, and we want these benefits to be better understood - more local and national leaders seeing the value of sport and physical activity and investing more in it would have a profound effect. 

We’ll build on the successes we’ve seen in the places we’ve worked most intensively in. Through sport and physical activity, we’ll seek to connect other policy agendas in the places we work, with the driving force being what’s right for that place and its residents. 

We’ll pay equal attention to how we work and the true power of collaboration, with lasting change the result.

What we'll focus on

Learning lessons

No lesson has been learned more from our last strategy than how we need to make sure we work in collaboration with each place to help bring the benefits of sport and physical activity.

That means working with the people within each place and the organisations relevant and trusted by them.

  • Investing in the people and capacity of community organisations such as clubs and charities, who know their area and its needs best. We’ll also work with national partners and coalitions that have relationships with clubs and community organisations and are able to address gaps in support or knowledge, or help in places where the right kinds of organisations don’t currently exist - this will be to collaborate on local solutions and not default to top-down national programmes
  • Expanding our place-based working by collaborating with more places and their decision-makers on their local priorities and partnership opportunities, helping them use sport and physical activity to deliver the outcomes they want and their communities need. In the places we’re working intensely already, we’ll do more to join-up our investment and use what we’re learning to influence others
  • Increasing leadership capacity and capability locally to help grow and sustain change. Leadership that can adapt and is spread across communities will be needed to enable system and social change at scale. We’ll expand a system to develop and share what we all learn from place-based working so it can be seen and used by all leaders
  • Advocating the value of sport and physical activity as not only an essential tool to improve lives and strengthen communities, tackle inequalities and create great places to live, but as a tool that both national and local leaders can use to confront other issues.
Connecting communities

Active Calderdale

Empowering local people who know what their community needs best has been vital in increasing activity levels in Calderdale. 

Active Calderdale, the local delivery pilot (LDP), has worked with more than 80 voluntary sector organisations to find practical solutions to the challenges faced by people living in the West Yorkshire borough. 

Move the Calderdale Way has prioritised helping people who traditionally face barriers to physical activity, such as those from lower socio-economic groups and people living with long-term health conditions. 

The LDP worked with 88 teams that included just under 2,000 residents who were offered regular walking and cycling opportunities. 

People who’ve taken part have felt better, happier and more connected with their local community. 

Meanwhile, the Basement Project supports clients dealing with drug and alcohol misuse. 

It uses easy-to-access local facilities and sports clubs to help change clients’ behaviours through sport and activity. 

Investing in activity has changed the culture of the area, with senior leaders building physical activity into local public services in other ways, such as the adult care system. 

Those running the service were empowered to redesign the approach, be flexible and put residents at the heart of their thinking. Understanding the richness of a life with physical activity as a part of it has become important for all parts of the social care systems – top to bottom. 

This new approach is leading to a change where strong leadership, building the capacity of community organisations and embedding physical activity in services is coming to the fore.

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