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Bridging the gaps

How policy-makers, grassroots-providers,sports bodies and health professionals could benefit from collaborating
Answer: Go on a DIET (see more below)

 Increasingly, we are experiencing two serious gaps that are affecting how we fund, develop and deliver community sport and physical activity.
One is the gap between our policy-makers/strategists and the people and bodies who deliver at the grassroots level. The other gap is the one between those who deliver community sport and the health sector.

Policy-makers and grassroots-providers need to engage

Often policy-makers/strategists are working in splendid isolation from the groups whose lives they are trying to improve and, and as consequence, produce strategies and policies which are less effective than they could be.  We experience many cases where policy-makers then run consultation processes to engage their stakeholders, but in most cases, it is ‘the same old’ who turn up at those consultations – this may explain why many of those policies are not getting the results that were expected. And, why we don’t learn and improve.

At the same time often grassroots providers, many of whom do a brilliant job often do not understand, or even bother trying to understand, how the strategists think and operate and therefore get left out when it comes to deciding on strategies and allocating funding.

It’s no good to say, ‘we are doing good work here, so give us some money’ and to be in constant campaigning mode and not be in a dialogue with the policy-makers.

Sport and health need to develop a better understanding

Often people involved with sport, whether as volunteers or staff, do so because they love their sport and are struggling to understand why the rest of society, and especially health, can’t appreciate the work they are doing and why it is so difficult to attract the funding they feel require.

We also experience coaches who feel that their quest for their under 11s  football team to win the league deserves free pitches, subsidies, etc. because ‘it is a good thing’. And no other questions should be asked.  There is a lot of focus on performance and pathway and not enough on participation, and the latter is exactly what the health people are focusing on.

You can almost say that community sport is having a ‘battle of the Ps’ as illustrated below;

The battle of the Ps…or Go Pro or Go Home 

Too often traditional sports coaches focus on winning and getting the best player up through the pathway and don’t really of those they leave out. (We do offer a workshop called the Welcoming Coach – see to the right).
That does deter bodies like public health and social inclusion from supporting most traditional sports providers.
So, sport has to realise that if they want access to health other non-sports partners they can’t use the ‘winning’ and ‘performance’ argument. it simply does not work.

Social prescribing – a way for sport to engage with health and the community

Social prescribing is one one of the new buzzwords in public health and it enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services. It also to support individuals to take greater control of their own health.

Social prescribing schemes can involve a variety of activities, which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Examples include volunteering, arts activities, group learning, gardening, befriending, cookery, healthy eating advice and a range of sports.

In Wales, there are 20.000 members of athletics clubs but 300.000 social runners. 15% of GP surgeries in Wales prescribe social running groups, such as Parkrun.

So, how do we bridge the gaps and create a more coherent, efficient and innovative partnership between policy-makers, community-providers, health and sport? The solution sounds perhaps a bit corny, but we are certainly serious.

Go on a DIET

Dialogue, Innovation, Engagement, and Training is the best way to bridge those gaps.

As we visualise below sport and grassroots need to stop campaigning for more money and support and develop a dialogue with policy-makers and health and other non-sports bodies. Inform and educate them of the great work they are doing and could be doing to help them to meet their targets and mission. (I am sorry, but if you still just want money for your juniors to win that tournament there isn’t much I can do for you, you are on your own).

Tell stories of the great work you are doing on social media and by staging Community Days and Open Days you can invite the whole community to your place

Our advice to policy-makers and health and social inclusion professionals is that you should spend some more time out of the office with the people you are trying support and work with them to get a better understanding of their world, their needs and capabilities. 

Listen and learn: then you can develop better relevant policies.

You will also getter better understanding of the Innovation that is taking place at grassroots level and how local people can develop and deliver services that best suit other local people.  Many of the great physical activity projects that are now spreading across the UK was started somebody with a local need and some drive: Just look at Our Parks, GoodGym and Parkrun.

This way we can also start develop stronger Engagement between these parties and begin to build deeper trust and understanding of what each party requires and can deliver.  Yes, this takes times and requires patience, tolerance and learning but we have seen many examples where it is worth it.

Finally, we should then develop Training programmes, using workshops, webinars, guides and case-studies where we spread the message and skills and knowledge to a wider audience. 

So, there you have it…go on a DIET and bridge the gaps between policy-makers, grassroots-providers, sports bodies and health professionals

If you need a hand or just want to have a chat, please get in touch.
Svend Elkjaer, 01423 326 660 or svend@smnuk.com

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