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Jul 18, 2016

Community Activators championing wellbeing

  • Portfolio total project costs: £1,806,000192
  • Total funding received from BIG: £1,806,00019
  • Total number of beneficiaries: 16,665


The Activate London portfolio empowered participants and communities to develop the skills and confidence to take control of, and improve, their collective health and wellbeing by taking ownership of local projects. The portfolio supported 16,665 participants to improve their overall wellbeing, compared to a target of 10,989 people. The portfolio engaged people from some of the most disadvantaged and socially excluded communities across London .

The Community Activator project empowered local people to champion wellbeing in their communities, by supporting them to develop the skills and confidence to lead community activities. The portfolio recruited 54 local people as Community Activators. The Community Activators ran a wide range of activities including: Zumba, bingo, cooking classes, a chicken club, and toddler groups . The Community Activators projects were designed to promote healthy eating and exercise, reduce isolation, and improve mental wellbeing. Activities delivered by the Community Activators engaged a total of 2,307 participants

Community Activators could initially apply for a budget of up to £800 and also for additional funding to run subsequent activities. For example, ‘Toddlers Inc’ was set up by several Community Activators in April 2014, after attending a Tenants Association meeting where the need for local activities was identified. The Community Activators received £2,000 to purchase equipment for the toddler group, such as soft play mats, cots, bouncers, chairs and an indoor bouncy castle. The grant also paid for marketing materials to promote the group. The aim was to develop activities that could be sustained by local people:

“We are building up the local capacity and capability in those areas so they can then apply for local grants to run the programmes.” (Peabody Director of Community Programmes).

This approach secured the longer-term engagement of some Community Activators, enabling them to plug local service gaps. The toddler group became self-sustaining by charging mums a small fee to pay for fresh fruit and snacks at the sessions. The portfolio found that activities addressing community needs were the most sustainable.

Participant/community impacts and sustainability

Activate London exceeded all its outcome targets in relation to the three key programme themes. By the end of the grant 8,128 people stated that they had improved their mental wellbeing (compared to a target of 4,978), by participating in arts and social projects. 4,569 people reported an increase in their physical activity levels (compared to a target of 2,957 people) and 3,968 people had healthier diets (compared to a target of 3,054 people).

These outcomes were highlighted at the individual level by Community Activators. For example, the Community Activator leading the toddler group noticed an increase in participants’ physical activity levels and confidence, healthier eating and improved communication between children and their parents/ carers:

“Having the fruit time and getting them involved in the tidying up, they feel like they’re part of it, part of a group. It does them good to prepare them for nursery.” (Community Activator).

The activities also supported parent and child bonding, and produced wider community benefits:

“We are trying to get the community involved … it’s not just a playgroup…it is for the community, it’s not just for the children…a lot of it is for the parents and the carers…It can be a meeting place… people on the estate, they’re coming to the group and speaking to people who they’ve never spoken to before and yet are in the same community.” (Community Activator).

In terms of sustainability, Peabody’s Community Development team is working to continue the Community Activators model through work with Peabody residents and management committees.

“Its sustainable because it trains up very local community development workers…so they can champion these activities in their own communities…For example some Activators would receive initial funding for an exercise class, but it would gradually become a pay-as-you-go class, and that would pay the tutor costs and Peabody would provide the venue for free, that would be our in-kind contribution. It was designed to get local people to take responsibility and champion health and wellbeing in their local communities.” (Portfolio lead).

Case study written by Activate London

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