Community Leisure: A pivot to active wellbeing in Greater Manchester - Part 2

Organisations are working together to respond to the challenges of the pandemic, and re-design systems, processes and services to support Greater Manchester's people and communities through public sector leisure.

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By GM Moving / GM Active | 01 March 2023 | TAGS: GM Moving, Leisure, GM Active, Wellbeing

This blog shares the journey and learning so far as Greater Manchester partners work together to respond to the challenges of the pandemic, and re-design systems, processes and services to support the people and communities of Greater Manchester through public sector leisure.

Read the first update from January 2022 here.

The Future of Public Leisure

Sport England has recent published its report The Future of Public Leisure.

This aims to provide a co-ordinated national vision at a time of challenge. It maps out the medium-term goals for the public leisure sector alongside commitments to provide support to services on the ground.

The report reflects the findings and learning from the Build Back Better/Pivot to Wellness work undertaken on behalf of the Greater Manchester Local Authority Chief Executives since 2020.

The pandemic, energy crisis, and cost of living crisis has accelerated the appetite for local authorities and their partners to look at leisure services more broadly and re-examine the purpose of their provision.

This includes considering their alignment with broader strategic outcomes, particularly health.

The Sport England report recommends expanding the traditional offer of public leisure into an active wellbeing service, doing more to create healthier and more active communities.

The sector has already seen good examples of the shift in approach across the country, specifically within Greater Manchester, but also recognises the need for national momentum.

Introducing the Pivot to Active Wellbeing Programme 2023-2025

Following funding and in-kind contributions from the 10GM, local authorities, GM Active, Sport England, GreaterSport and connected partners, the Pivot to Active Wellbeing Programme was launched in late January 2023.

SLC and the University of Salford are the key delivery partners for the programme.

Vision: Sustainable public leisure services working collaboratively within Greater Manchester to support improvements in wider population health through active wellbeing.

The Pivot to Active Wellbeing Programme

Partners across Greater Manchester are working together to transform public sector leisure, with a collaborative, whole system approach that changes culture, systems, policy and practice and supports the collective GM Moving mission: Active Lives for All.

This will be achieved through a focussed programme of work, supported by a community of practice and learning approach to spread and grow what is good.

The key aim of the programme is to support public leisure services in Greater Manchester to pivot to active wellbeing through:

  • Identifying what is needed to target services and transform the leisure workforce and physical assets into an integral partner within the GM health and care system
  • Identifying how the public leisure sector can pivot to support prevention and self-management of priority long-term conditions through active wellbeing
  • Bring together the knowledge from all parts of the system, all roles, and localities so that solutions are designed by the many for the many in order to maximise best fit for the range of GM needs (scalability) and optimise uptake (sustainability)
  • Using data to articulate service usage and capture effects (benefits) of usage in health and social terms that are meaningful to stakeholders – establish an agreed set of key performance indicators (KPIs) reflecting desired role in supporting prevention and self-management of long-term conditions
  • Articulating the current state position of indoor sport, physical activity, leisure and wellness facilities and services
  • Articulating issues, immediate risks and opportunities facing public leisure services locally and GM wide
  • Identifying practical steps to reduce costs, improve efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of local services and support for local systems through greater collaboration
  • Providing a suite of practical guidance and support to articulate the opportunities from the pivot to active wellbeing

Programme Outcomes

The programme is expected to deliver the following outcomes at the following levels:

  • Neighbourhoods (as part of the broader Live Well work across GM)
  • Individual local authority
  • Clusters of local authorities
  • GM wide
  • Nationally, as learning about how to implement the Future of Public Leisure ambitions will be shared openly.

This will be achieved through:

  • Using active wellbeing as a catalyst to support transformational change
  • Codesign with stakeholders and workforce: a roadmap for workforce transformation to support active wellbeing
  • Public sector leisure providers collaborating to reduce costs, improve efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability of their local services
  • Ensuring active wellbeing becomes an integral and valued contributor to the wider health and social care system
  • Securing additional local and external investment to support transformation

The wider long-term ambition of the programme is also to provide a flexible, scalable, and replicable framework in England to support active wellbeing in localities.

This recognises that population scale change is best served by an organic spread and growth of practice based on learning.

Knowledge to Action framework

The University of Salford will support GM Active, GM local authorities, and connected partners, to use the Knowledge to Action (K2A) Framework (as used by the World Health Organisation) to develop their bespoke approaches for the Pivot to Active Wellbeing. 

This allows a common methodology to be used by all localities. This is essential to share and level-up gains made differentially across localities. It also prepares people to sustain changes.

It provides a common, systematic, evidence based approach and allows us to understand which elements work in which contexts and adapt as necessary to share and sustain.

University of Salford’s mission is to facilitate the use of best evidence in practice, research, and policy to improve the support and treatment for people with (or at risk of) long-term health conditions.

Research indicates a vast majority of change initiatives don’t work, largely because they fail to:

  1. Utilise sources of knowledge from all sources and perspectives in the system to design complete solutions: this means mistakes that have gone before are repeated and/or solutions designed from partial knowledge solve only part of the problem (leading to perpetual piloting).
  2. Involve and prepare people in all roles needed to sustain the innovations: this means that the people who are needed to keep the change going and evolving don’t have the support they need to sustain the initial change energy/investment.

A synthesis of knowledge (i.e. from practice, lived experience, and research) and effective, (i.e. stakeholder led, locality specific, strategically planned), implementation has the power to solve our most pressing health and care challenges.

Using the K2A framework provides a rigorous and replicable process that will support individual localities and communities to improve outcomes in ways that are specific for that locality.

It is important that we all use the same process because this is what makes it possible for us to share with one another and share on national and global scales our success.

However, the process needs to allow us all to find our own solutions that acknowledge the specific needs of the communities we work with.

Lastly, it is important to use tried and tested processes to reduce risk and improve value for money. The K2A framework provides these tools we need to navigate highly complex challenges and formally capture learning on which to build robust business cases.

The K2A work will sit alongside and complement the overall GM Moving evaluation, and specific evaluations attached to investments from the Local Pilot and health investment into GM Moving. A collaborative approach between evaluation partners will model the best in open, iterative, realist evaluation and learning.


If you would like to follow and engage with this work as it develops, please follow @GMMoving and @GM_Active on social media. Look for the hashtag #PivotToActiveWellbeing

Partners will continue to share via the GM Active and GM Moving websites as well.

For more information, you can also email: GM Active Chair [email protected], or GM Moving Exec Lead  [email protected] or Sport England's Strategic Lead - Place [email protected].

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