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Jul 18, 2016

Sustrans- Systems change through developing volunteering skills

  • Portfolio total project costs: £5,403,158
  • Total funding received from BIG: £3,615,000
  • Total number of beneficiaries: 113,989


Sustrans’ Active Travel Consortium delivered a portfolio of 19 projects, in partnership with Living Streets, Ramblers, the London Cycling campaign (LCC) and CTC, the national cycling charity. The overall portfolio engaged 113,989 beneficiaries, against a target of 53,450.

The Sustrans Active Travel Consortium provided an opportunity for local people to become Travel Champions. The Travel Champions project recruited volunteers via a local cycle forum, who were keen to lead cycle groups. Staff found that recruiting volunteers with a passion for physical activity worked particularly well.

Sustrans also joined up with Mind to deliver walking groups for people with mental health issues. This helped sustain activities:

“You need someone to value the activity to then take it on, and have the passion to continue with it.”

(Travel Champions project lead).

The project was designed to support this process by gradually transferring ownership to volunteers. The project officer worked closely with the groups for the initial six weeks but then stepped back to encourage others to take it on.

“You give them something and then once they value it they will carry it on. But you need to pull back staffing otherwise they [volunteers] will not step forward.” (Travel Champions project lead).

Participant/community impacts and sustainability

The portfolio reported good outcomes in relation to the physical activity theme. The portfolio reported that 29,901 beneficiaries had become more physically active by the end of the grant, compared to a target of 15,431 beneficiaries.

In terms of the portfolio’s change indicators, the portfolio aimed to actively involve 4,070 people in their community, and had recruited 4,170 individual volunteers by the end of the grant. The portfolio also aimed to increase the awareness of at least 1,880,000 people around opportunities to become physically active through active travel. The portfolio over-achieved on this target, reporting that 2,086,804 individuals had increased awareness of the opportunities and benefits of active travel by the end of the grant. 113,989 people participated in walking, cycling and other activities organised by the portfolio.

The project highlighted the impact of volunteering on participants through the example of a volunteer who was generally unfit and trying to reduce his alcohol and tobacco intake following a triple heart bypass. The volunteer was trained as a bike leader and bike ability instructor through the Travel Champions project. The volunteer was subsequently employed by the local authority. His personal health has been transformed; he has lost weight and stopped drinking alcohol.

Volunteers are continuing to run local cycling and walking groups; increasing accessibility to local physical activity options. Volunteers have been equipped with the tools and facilities to enable them to sustain activities, such as use of a gazebo for events. To support sustainably, the Sustrans project lead will continue to lead on insurance and risk assessments, a system which is already in place for the established walking groups.

→Further details and references in the Wellbeing 2 evaluation.

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