Summer offered me a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect, which is time that I really valued. I also spent time visiting our important work on the ground, in particular a number of Find Your Active funded groups as well as some of our 200 HAF ActivAte summer clubs. It was inspiring to see first-hand the impact of this work on children, families, and communities.
Find Your Active celebrates the fact that everyone can enjoy the huge benefits of moving more. The behaviour change campaign launched in July 2021, in line with the systems new Fit for the Future (FFTF) strategy. Physical activity was placed high on the Governments agenda throughout the pandemic, and it was important that Essex capitalised on this momentum, introducing a new campaign to increase activity levels and support clubs and organisations through the Find Your Active fund.
It was wonderful to meet the Walk Motivator group in Colchester and the Ghana Union group in Harlow. Both are excellent examples of how local providers can provide activities that reflect the needs and circumstances of the local community, moving away from the traditional one size fits all approach. The Find Your Active small grants helped over 300 local organisations to provide an eclectic range of activities across Essex, most free or at a low affordable cost. I also visited a ParkPlay session on a Saturday morning in Basildon which is a wonderful initiative popping up in parks across Essex, offering families the opportunity to get active together with other like-minded individuals.
As I met with the local providers, it was clear that the trust and understanding that they have with local people in their community is paramount to their success. For me, it shows the importance of place-based working to help residents find their active, using our community assets to drive the inner workings of the Fit for the Future strategy and Find Your Active campaign. The Sport England Local Delivery Pilot in Essex has taught us that we must start with the assets in local communities – the local people, groups, clubs and organisations who have the passion to want to make a difference. All we can do in the public sector is provide support as and when it is needed. A fantastic example of local people using their passion and power to make a difference is the way local people saved the outdoor swimming lido in Brightlingsea, and now the local community run that important asset very successfully.
Active Essex will be publishing an important report soon about the first year of Find Your Active which is by far the biggest and most innovative physical activity behaviour change and social marketing campaign ever undertaken in Essex. The report explains the latest science and methods that were used to design Find Your Active, resulting in thousands of people, organisations and senior managers and politicians in our eco-system adopting the Find Your Active message to meet their own purposes. I reflect on the fact that Find Your Active has grown and developed into much more than a time-limited campaign, and rather into a strong Essex brand that underpins all of the aspirations of the Essex system strategy Fit for the Future.