How It Started
The Initial idea for Nothern Soul Mates arose from North Glasgow (NG) Healthy Living Community, NG CHCP Health Improvement Team, and Keep Well who were looking to increase physical activity levels in the area. The group were particularly keen to involve community based organisations from the beginning so that the programme would be rooted in the local community and to make it possible to apply for grants.
NSM initially started with walking when they held a local event “Lets Get North Glasgow Walking” in March 2009, and using partnership approaches, ensured that everyone they thought might be interested or that had a remit for physical activity in the North was invited. They also ensured that local people were aware of the day.
The aim of the day was to find out whether there was a need or want for local walking groups and to ascertain what the local community wanted this to look like.
Key funders of NSM are Keep Well and Paths For All, with NG Healthy Living Community funding all 3 areas.
A steering group was established to progress the ideas from NSM. Lots of people were keen to be involved as walking and physical activity is key to the outcomes of many agencies e.g Land and Environmental Services were keen to see people walking more in the parks, Waterways Trust were keen to get people out on the towpaths.
The steering group meets every 6 weeks to oversee walking, jogging, buggy and the buggy exercise pilot. In addition to this, regular meetings of the voluntary walk leaders take place. Steering Group members are encouraged to attend these and vice versa to ensure a link between the planning partners and volunteers.
Coordination of the scheme lies with NG HLC.
The NSM Steering Group oversees all of the networks and provides support and resources for all of the walk groups.
The walking programme offers activity opportunities to the whole community, regardless of ability and also has some groups that are specific to service users of other local projects such as Glasgow Association for Mental Health and Learning Disability Services.
North Glasgow is predominantly an area of multiple deprivation therefore the groups are mainly targeted at people who are physically inactive. They target all local residents in North Glasgow via direct referral and via local organisations and services – statutory, voluntary and community organisations. The activities offered ensure that there are options for all ages, abilities and preferences with a pathway between groups.
Poster shells have been produced to ensure brand awareness and recognition of NSM within the area.
They develop walking programmes that are promoted through Health centres, GPs, Pharmacists and via Keep Well health checks. They are promoted in Glasgow Life community centres, sports facilities and libraries and in all local Social Work and Health offices.
Biannual events are held to bring walkers from different walks together to encourage networking between groups.
Through good links within North Glasgow and Walk Glasgow they have been able to provide walk leaders with additional training such as First Aid, Safety Outdoors and refresher walk leader training.
Results and Impact
NSM has encouraged over 400 local people and workers to take part in walking, jogging and buggy groups. The ‘brand’ is now recognised across the city. Over 70% of their walkers joined a group for health and social benefits because they prefered walking to other forms of exercise.
NSM have also developed local map packs to encourage independent walking.
Their initial aim back in 2009 was to have 5 local walks and within a year they had grown to 10 groups and over 40 walk leaders.
Qualitative feedback from walkers, joggers and leaders indicate that wider health benefits are being received. Some examples include:
“I started attending one of the groups as I wasn’t enjoying failing at the gym. I couldn’t believe I had walked for 45 minutes on my first walk, I had never done anything for that long before, I have now started going to one of the jogging groups too and my husband says he hardly recognises me now that I love running.”
The programme has received national recognitions, with one of the Walk Leaders winning the Paths for All Community Volunteer Award in 2009 and NSM was awarded the Evening Times Community Champion Award for North Glasgow.
Previous work found that a lack of support was a big issue in the ongoing development and success of walking groups so rather than applying for funding to secure a Scheme Co-ordinator post, NSM opted to use a partnership approach bringing together a number of agencies.
The network approach allowed two pre-existing walks to come under the banner of Northern Sole Mates, which resulted in shared resources and efficiency savings.
Using this unique approach ensured that they could provide support for a network of walking groups and utilse the partnerships already formed in North Glasgow to ensure that the walks were sustainable.
North Glasgow Healthy Living Community and North Glasgow CHCP had members of staff with a physical activity remit who initially shared the role of scheme coordinator and provided the link between the networks and the Steering Group.
By embedding the walks into the local community, the volunteers have additional support of local organisations which ensures that the walks and leaders are fully supported and have a continued source of support. Having local people and volunteers as members of the steering groups also ensures that despite organisational structure changes and boundary changes the steering group will still be active.
The Steering Group approach has been shared and they have provided informal support to a number of areas looking at setting up similar groups including other localities. Strong links with Walk Glasgow allows shared learning with other areas in Glasgow, as well as access to wider training opportunities.
NSM developed a Walk Leader Starter Pack that has been shared with projects all over Scotland and has been adapted by a number of projects, starter packs have also been developed for Jog Leaders.
An important lesson is that it is worth investing time in people who are interested in walk leader training so that they understand what they are volunteering for.
They found that word of mouth and “community champions” are the best ways of getting people along to groups and their most successful approach has been tappping into existing community groupings of well connected individuals.
What's next for the project?
This year NSM has identified the need to maintain the existing groups, as well as ensure that they develop and promote existing brand.
They also want to continue to make all of their groups accessible, continue to work on developing follow on activities and encourage attendance from specific target groups – men, asylum seekers, BME and young people.
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Lead Contact Name
Northern Sole Mates
North Glasgow Healthy Living Community, 59 Charles Street, Royston, Glasgow, G21 2PR
0141 336 7000
North Glasgow Healthy Living Community
59 Charles Street
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