The Natural Health Service – focusing on what the great outdoors can do for our bodies and minds

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The Natural Health Service – an innovative
collaboration focusing on what the great outdoors
can do for our bodies and minds
 Conference, lead-in and follow-up webinars, and networking

The outdoors is playing an increasing role in our health

There is a growing movement towards using the outdoors in the prevention and treatment of physical and mental illnesses and it can also add significant social benefits.

People who spend at least two hours a week in nature experience better health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who do not visit nature at all during an average week.

More widely, patients often benefit from non-medical interventions such as an exercise class, learning a skill or joining a community group – often referred to as ‘social prescribing’ – and this takes place outdoor as ‘green prescribing’.

Green prescriptions could also save the NHS money – 2019 research by Leeds Beckett University and The Wildlife Trusts suggests that for every £1 invested in health or social needs projects that connect people to nature, there is a £6.88 social return.

Environment Secretary George Eustice announced on 17th July a £4m pilot project to test whether getting patients to join outdoor activities and spend more time green spaces could prove an effective treatment for a range of physical and mental ailments.

The scheme, which is due to start in the autumn and run for two years, will see patients in four English locations encouraged to join cycling or walking groups, take outdoor exercise classes, join tree planting projects or take up gardening.

Green prescribing already up and running in New Zealand 

Green prescribing has been up and running in New Zealand since 1998, and eight out of ten GPs there have issued green prescriptions to patients.

Patients are allotted a support worker who encourages them to be more active through phone calls, face-to-face meetings or a support group. Progress is then reported back to the GP. 

One survey found that 72 percent noticed positive changes to their health, 67 percent improved their diet and more than half felt stronger and fitter.

 

It’s fascinating to see this link between exposure to nature and better health and wellbeing.

Outdoor exercise is good for people of all ages

Even the shortest walk can do you good

However, with the pressures currently facing primary care, many GP practices can’t spend the necessary time with a patient to link them with the most appropriate activity.
Research also indicates that many GPs are not familiar with local opportunities for prescribing outdoor activities

One can then discuss whether the providers should develop a higher profile and a better relationship with prescribers and/or should improve their outreach to providers?
Research into shinrin-yoku – Japanese forest bathing – for instance, suggested that various psychophysiological benefits can be gained from merely sitting passively in natural versus urban settings.

There are many ways of motivating and taking physical activity specific to local people in their local parks, green spaces or waterways.

There is no generic template for a good park or green space. The connections between experiences of nature, including diverse trees, plants and wildlife and mental wellbeing are strong. A green space that only serves as a children’s playground or a football training ground is not fulfilling its potential,
Also, while green spaces are important we should remember that ‘blue space’ matters too. Rivers, lakes and canals are all great places for people to enjoy paddlesports, swimming or just being near the water.

Running in Burgess Park in Southwark, London

Wild swimming has become increasingly popular during the pandemic

The possibilities for our green space as places where local people engage and are active are numerous and there is considerable scope for residents to share their experiences of using the outdoors, to help people come up with ideas. It is also important to recognise that visibility in the outdoors makes it easier to see people like being active – reducing the fear getting involved. 

There are also many ways that local groups and community entrepreneurs can become involved and develop bottom-up initiatives which can have a real impact due to their understanding of local needs and people.

Powering The Natural Health Service together

For too long, the providers and prescribers within the health sectors, activity providers have simply been a sum of its parts. The result is that the ecosystem that supports a Natural Health Service is fragmented. We are proposing that we should focus on collaboration and connecting the diverse players to enable them to review, reflect and learn how they should together more efficiently as a system today and in the future.

This innovative collaboration is aimed at representatives from wildlife trusts, parks, social and sports development and other departments at our local authorities, social prescribers, public health, trusts, social enterprises, community groups and health and wellbeing bodies.

The Natural Health Service – the Collaboration

An innovative collaboration, through a conference with lead-in and follow-up webinars and guides designed to develop a genuine partnership between private businesses, social enterprises, charities and public sector bodies engaged in using the outdoor to get people engaged and active.Our objective is to facilitate collaboration, debate, learning and connections to shape system-wide and nation-wide solutions.

We also believe that this post-COVID-19 period is the time and a huge opportunity to encourage change and innovation to help facilitate an exciting future for The Natural Health Service.

Kickstarting The Natural Health Service after the pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has presented us with challenges and changes to all aspects of our lives and the way that the providers and prescribers within the outdoor activity sector will be operating in the future.A key question is how the new ‘normal’ going to look like and how you will respond. Will the way that we enjoy being active, in all sorts of ways, be changing and, if so how can we adapt to that?  We are already experiencing many changes in people’s behaviour in the way we exercise (or not) and we are also seeing many great examples of community spirit, some of them, but perhaps not enough, coming from the outdoors providers.

The next step

We will be launching The Natural Health Service as soon as we know that we can safely run public events in the UK, hopefully soon.  In the meantime, we will start highlighting best practice in the UK and beyond.  So, if you want to learn more, share story or some of your thoughts on the matter, please get in touch

We are very excited about the Natural Health Service project and we hope that  you will want to become involved

The only person in charge of the ‘new normal’ is the customer, the participant

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The only person in charge of the ‘new normal’ is the customer, the participant

The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour has been sweeping and immediate which has already had a profound impact on our sports and fitness habits and will continue to do so.

‘Small Sports’ (social running, cycling and walking) have attracted many more people out on the streets (with fewer cars), online fitness classes have become increasingly popular. Also,  many people are still nervous about going back to their leisure centres and sports clubs. In the countries, which are furthest ahead with easing after lockdown leisure centres are reporting that only 50% of customers have come back during the first weeks of opening.

As centres and clubs prepare for the long haul – what we call the ‘new normal – the situation continues to change by the week and vary dramatically by region. Among the most vexing challenge is determining which consumer behaviours and trends are here to stay and which ones will eventually recede. Sports bodies and clubs and leisure centres which invest in the wrong capabilities, or even worse, in none at all could find themselves on the outside.

To win in the ‘new normal’ providers need to identify the current behaviours that will define customer experience in the near term.  They must then ensure that these opportunities are aligned with their strategies and capabilities

An example: 45% of people work out at home do so as a family.  What kind of family sessions (online and offline) will you be offering in the ‘new normal’?
We believe three priorities will define customer experience post-pandemic within community sport and active leisure:

  • Digital excellence
  • Safe and contactless engagement, whenever possible
  • In-depth and dynamic consumer understanding

Some providers (but not enough) are already demonstrating their understanding of what matters to their consumers as well as innovative ways to meet their old and new expectations. Do you try and meet customer expectations?

Less spending available for sport and leisure  – at least for a while

Consumers are also scaling back their spending on discretionary items, anticipating tougher times ahead, which will also impact on spending on community sport and active leisure. Why pay for a club membership, when you can run/walk/cycle with your mates/family for free?
Are we going from sports clubs to ‘sports communities’ where people get together socially, get active and enjoy a great social life?

 

Social running is getting Wales moving – here’s a story from Cowbridge: 

What do you call a social running group based in Cowbridge, Glamorgan, Wales?

The Moovers, of course 😊

And what’s their hashtag? #getmooving, what else?

The group was set up in October 2018 and is a free over 18s running community that meets three times a week come rain or shine.

They don’t take themselves too seriously and always meet at the same place and publish updates through a monitored Facebook group.

The group has 9 passionate Run Leaders who support people of all levels through tail walkers and tail runners from Walkers to Runners.

 The group operates a concept called, “Chatty Running”, which means that you should not run faster than you can have a chat while running.

 The question, therefore, is how other sports and sports bodies can learn from the social running phenomena?

Should football encourage ‘jumpers for goalposts’ initiatives? 
Should canoeing run social sessions called SocialPaddle?  
and so on...

Behaviours that are here to stay

The most successful providers of community sports have been adept at understanding which behaviours and experiences are picking up steam and are working hard to address them.
This approach is easier said than done: To monitor consumer trends, adapt the way they operate, plan for business continuity, and ensure that everyone are safe and healthy – all while managing the chaos and ambiguity of the crisis.

The wave of services and apps to meet coronavirus-specific demand may soon oversaturate the market and we are likely to see standout offerings to the top while others fail to capture significant traffic.

To get a better understanding of the ‘new normal’s’ contours we analysed consumer trends along with two criteria: user growth since the pandemic hit and the likelihood that these behaviours will continue. Using these lenses, we segmented community sport and physical activity into four quadrants:

Return to the old normal – mature or less-relevant experiences which may not survive COVID-19 in its existing formats.  Team sports or traditional gyms are some examples

Exciting…for now – stopgap solutions with potential for user erosion after the pandemic.  Online fitness classes are one example

Potential to stick – new experiences with momentum and the potential to be cemented in the ‘new normal’

Fast accelerators – high-performing replacements for traditional activities. One example is what we call ‘Small Sports’, ie social running, walking and cycling with friends and family

Yes, behaviours have changed and trends have accelerated so we are convinced that it is futile for sports clubs, leisure centres and others to expect that we will go back ‘to the good old days’.  We simply have to work harder and better to exploit these three key trends:

  • Increased use of digital media
  • Accelerating of anticipated trends
  • The emergence of new trends

Complete reversal of some long-held routines
I have personally seen community sports being very capable indeed when it comes to developing a stronger digital presence, often through volunteers who are working in this field, in their day job.  Unfortunately, we have heard (too) many examples of providers who are afraid of change and too conservative to embrace these new trends. 
To accelerate change within your place why not run a workshop where some of your 16-18 year-olds take the rest of the club/centre through of some of these changes and developments and demystify them

The most successful providers of community sports have been adept at understanding which behaviours and experiences are picking up steam and are working hard to address them.
This approach is easier said than done: To monitor consumer trends, adapt the way they operate, plan for business continuity, and ensure that everyone are safe and healthy – all while managing the chaos and ambiguity of the crisis.

The wave of services and apps to meet coronavirus-specific demand may soon oversaturate the market and we are likely to see standout offerings to the top while others fail to capture significant traffic.

To get a better understanding of the ‘new normal’s’ contours we analysed consumer trends along with two criteria: user growth since the pandemic hit and the likelihood that these behaviours will continue. Using these lenses, we segmented community sport and physical activity into four quadrants:

Return to the old normal – mature or less-relevant experiences which may not survive COVID-19 in its existing formats.  Team sports or traditional gyms are some examples

Exciting…for now – stopgap solutions with potential for user erosion after the pandemic.  Online fitness classes are one example

Potential to stick – new experiences with momentum and the potential to be cemented in the ‘new normal’

Fast accelerators – high-performing replacements for traditional activities. One example is what we call ‘Small Sports’, ie social running, walking and cycling with friends and family

There is a strong local need, and we are slowly filling the gaps but we still feel there are great
So, wherever you are in this matrix you will have to look at the high user growth and high intent to use activities in your field and see what you could learn and implement.  For example, how can a traditional football club introduce ‘come and play’ and ‘family football’ activities? Or how can a traditional leisure centre link up with fitness apps and online classes?
To conclude:
Now is the time to listen to consumers and adapt to their needs – if you don’t do that, someone will. Remember, the fax machine, Woolworths or Blockbuster?
Good luck

Are you ‘just sport’ or are you #MoreThanSport?

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Are you ‘just sport’ or are you #MoreThanSport?

That distinction determines your Scope, Partners, Income and Impact –
in other words: Grow your SPI²

Sadly, we still come across (too) many sports bodies, clubs and coaches who only see the world through the lens of ‘sport’, ‘winning’ and ‘performance’.  They think that the whole world should support and play the real, traditional versions of their sport that they have been practising and training for ages.

They only see their players as ‘sports’ people and have little interest in the rest of their lives. The notion that sport should play a wider role in our communities and in people’s lives is an anathema to them.  And yet they are the first to call for more funding and support for their sport and they are convinced that if only the BBC showed their sport day in and day out everybody would be really excited and rush down to their clubs.  Forgetting that the environment they provide to newcomers is often rather unwelcoming, especially to the less talented and able.

The good news is that we are experiencing an increasing number of bodies and clubs and other providers of sport who are benefetting considerably from adapting a broader outlook and deliver more than sport.

So, how they do that? 
What is the process like?

Firstly, broaden you must broaden your scope and get everybody behind that you are a place for everybody. 
Yes, you will have people within your board who don’t like change. 
But as the quote below states

 

 

 

 

A couple of examples from the real world

 

Are you player-centred? Or are you being run for the benefits of the coaches?

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Are you player-centred? Or are you being run for the benefits of the coaches?

Many traditional sports providers are struggling to attract and retain participants and players as they often focus on the talented and dedicated people and, sometimes deliberately, ignore the less talented and motivated.

 


If you want to learn more about to become more inclusive and diverse and engage with inactive people, get in touch

Sport for Change and Social Good

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Sport for Change and Social Good Workshops 

 

How you can change people’s lives through sport and physical activity
in a vibrant, visible and viable way

 

A series of workshops for professionals and volunteers held across the UK

 

Providing thoughts, tools and to-dos in an inspiring and effective way

 

Sport for Change and Social Good Workshops will run from 9.30 am – 4.00 pm

21st November 2018
University of Stirling
Stirling

22nd November 2018
Sheffield Institute of Sport
Sheffield

27th November 2018
University of South Wales, Treforest Campus
Cardiff

28th November 2018
Trailfinders Sports Club, Ealing
London

30th November 2018
Deal Cultural Centre, Ladywood
Birmingham

From sport for sport’s sake to sport for change and social good – how?

Sport and physical activity have an incredible power to create social change and across the UK there is an increasing focus on how sport and physical activity can deliver social good in their communities and help people change their lives through sport and physical activity. And many organisations of all shapes and sizes are already delivering great work in this field, having a major impact on their communities.

However, there is also uncertainty across many sports and physical activity organisations as for how best to start on the journey of changing communities and lives through sport.

This is no longer about a debate ‘sport for sport’s sake vs. ‘sport for change/social good but about how sports and physical activity providers can attract more people by working closely with community bodies such as Housing, patient associations, faith centres, Police and education (at all levels) and become a hub for their communities.
By doing so you will also be able to attract new skilled and passionate volunteers and funding from non-sports funders because of your social impact.
So by dealing with inequality in sports participation, helping to create community cohesion, playing a role in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, helping to improve education and employability, and health and wellbeing sport and physical activity providers can grow their numbers, reach and impact.

There are already a number of exciting initiatives taking place across the UK developed and delivered by enterprising organisations from across a number of sectors both within sport and physical activity and beyond and Sports Marketing Network are indeed working with some of them.

We have developed all our material based on best practice and you can now learn from the best.

This workshop will help you to become a Community Sports Change Maker

Over the last 10-11 years, SMN has developed a vast expertise and experience working with a number of amazing community sports entrepreneurs who have developed vibrant, visible and viable hubs for their communities. We have seen what works whether they are based in rural Scotland such as Galloway Cricket Club) or inner-city Leeds, such as Hunslet Club and we have developed a massive library of best-practice studies and built a great toolbox of action plans and templates.
So, we will be sharing all this with you on these five interactive and engaging workshops.

By attending the Sport for Change and Social Good workshop you will learn to develop

  • a sport for change and social approach – understanding what works, how to achieve change, clarity of purpose around connections to the outcomes you want to achieve, learning from others
  • a team of committed, passionate and inspirational staff (and volunteers)
  • an understanding of community and individual needs
  • an inclusive approach
  • a community development approach
  • an ability to work jointly with others
  • consistency and sustainability of approach
  • a clear intention to bring about change through sport and physical activity
  • a clear strategy and action plan for accessing funding
  • links with key priority areas such as community cohesion, playing a role in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, helping to improve education and employability, and health and wellbeing and other
  • a sustainable organisation – building capacity, working with staff and volunteers, finances
  • an organisational structure – to ensure that quality of delivery is high and aligned to the desired outcomes
  • evidence – how to align with outcomes and report against these effectively, providing guidance and tools for different settings, how to measure outcomes and not just outputs
All this will be provided in an engaging and interactive way, using jargon-free language and case-studies from sports and community organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Who should attend this workshop: This workshop is aimed at people who are involved with sports and physical activity organisations interested in developing sport for change and social good initiatives such as governing bodies of sports, Community Sports Hubs, Country Sports Partnerships, community sports trusts, sports clubs, leisure trusts, funding bodes, school sports partnerships and activators

People who are involved with community organisations interested in using sport and physical to engage with people and communities such as housing associations, Police, social enterprises, health and patient organisations, Local Authorities, voluntary organisations, funding bodies, NHS and Public Health,

The presenter:
Svend Elkjaer, the presenter is one the UK’s leading advocates for and expert in the role that sport and physical activity can play in bringing about positive change for individuals and communities.
He has probably more experience than anybody else in developing and delivering innovative and effective services and support for sports clubs and community sports enterprises helping them to change lives and communities.

Having worked closely with a number of major community organisations and sports bodies across the UK and Denmark we also appreciate that there are significant cultural differences from sport to sport, from community to community and indeed from club to club. So we are able and agile to make a real difference.

More than 4,000 sports providers have benefitted from SMN’s services attending our workshops and presentations, being mentored or receiving consultancy. SMN has also advised, consulted and trained a number of organisations and public bodies including the RFU, FA, Cricket Scotland, Amateur Swimming Association, British Gymnastics, Sport Wales, England Golf, England Athletics, sportscotland, etc. and 50+ local authorities from London, via Merthyr Tydfil to Dundee and Copenhagen.

Interested in learning more about this exciting programme and how we can help your club(s) to become Community Sports Change Makers and run vibrant, visible and viable sports facilities and clubs, then get in touch.
Get in touch on +44 1423 326 660 or email svend@smnuk.com