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By Eve Holt | 02 August 2021 | TAGS: Covid-19, Research and learning, Eve Holt, Active environments

Eve Holt, Strategic Director, GM Moving reflects on Covid-19 learning and response in Greater Manchester…

There is no doubting the dramatic and varied impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our lives between 2020/21. Amongst these, the role of the places that we live, work and play has become foremost in our minds. Therefore, it is important to consider the quality, accessibility and safety of these places and how this impacts on how they are used.

During lockdown, people become much more aware of their immediate surroundings and how these affect their wellbeing. This has really brought home the work still to be done if we are to have neighbourhoods that provide everything needed for a healthy and fulfilling life, be it 15 Minute Cities or 20 Minute Neighbourhoods. We cannot and should not go back to 9-5 daily commute and all that entails.

The pandemic underlined just how important our places are to the quality of our lives, our wellbeing and our futures and exposed inequalities in and between places and the impact these have on the health and resilience of people and communities across the city region.  

The local response of people and partners in Greater Manchester has been phenomenal and has given rise to innovation, new learning, relationships, collaboration and an increased conviction to work together for better health and wellbeing. 

It showed how quickly we can change how we do things when we have to, at an individual, organisational and Greater Manchester level - what can be achieved when the conditions enable action to be taken at all levels and parts of a system or place – in homes, on our streets, as a neighbourhood, as a locality and as one team working across a city region with true Greater Manchester spirit.

  • People, families, neighbours, communities and organisations adapted their lives, changed their routines and found ways to support each other to keep moving and keep well.
  • Physical activity, leisure and sport providers transformed their services, repurposing facilities to support mutual aid and the vaccination programme and reinventing their offer with online activities, information, messages and challenges, to support people to keep moving safely.
  • Appreciation grew across the system for the ways communities and the voluntary and social enterprise sector mobilised with pace and care.
  • Organisational and sectoral barriers were broken down as people pulled together around a joint endeavour.
  • Public services were reminded of the importance of nurturing trust, distributed leadership and shared assets and goals.
  • New active travel routes sprung up, and whilst overall journeys decreased, waves of people took to cycling and walking for travel and leisure purposes. 
  • The pandemic underlined just how important our places are to the quality of our lives, our wellbeing and our futures.
  • Political leaders and policy makers were reminded of the importance of investing in parks, quality green and blue spaces safer streets and public spaces.
  • New language e.g. around ‘mutual aid’, ‘WFH (working from home) was formed, metaphors of wartime or boats in storms was adopted and cultural norms shifted almost overnight through a combination of top down messages, including exercise being made one of the three things we had permission to do, and bottom up mobilising.

Going forwards we must continue to build on what we've learnt as we build back fairer in Greater Manchester. 

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