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Research: Gloucester Community Building Collective

NIHR ARC West, April 2022

Exploring the wider impacts of community building.pdf

Executive Summary

1. Background

As part of we can move, Active Gloucestershire (AG) had previously trialled ‘place-based’ working in the superdiverse Gloucester city ward of Barton and Tredworth. Place-based working is a bottom-up approach which sets out to meet the unique needs of the people living in a particular place, by working together with local people to make best use of local resources.

Following the successes of AG’s place-based work in Barton and Tredworth, AG sought to build on their placed-based community engagement and to strengthen the role of communities as part of their whole systems approach to physical activity. To do so, they formed a partnership arrangement with a local place-based community building social enterprise, the Gloucester Community Building Collective (GCBC).

2. Aims of the evaluation

Active Gloucestershire commissioned NIHR ARC West to evaluate the impact of this partnership work in two wards of Gloucester (Barton and Tredworth, and Kingsholm). There were three main evaluation questions:

  1. What are the impacts of AG’s partnership with Community Builders in the wards of Barton and Tredworth, and Kingsholm?
  2. How do identified impacts relate to we can move and to AG’s vision to increase physical activity in Gloucestershire?
  3. What mechanisms and contextual factors underpin and influence these impacts?

3. How the evaluation was conducted

The evaluation was conducted over the course of 18 months (from July 2020 to December 2021). The research team facilitated four Ripple Effects Mapping workshops, involving members of GCBC, AG, and 21 residents who had contact with GCBC and were involved in local community projects. Eighteen interviews were completed with a range of different stakeholders (e.g., residents, community builders, involved organisations).

4. What was found?

4.1. What did local people connected to the community building project achieve?

i. Local people were successful, inventive, and prolific organisers

Local people organised a wide array of activities and events, involving hundreds of local people, from digging and tending neglected community gardens, to tree planting, arts trails, an open garden event, street social events, sports activity sessions, litter picking, and local music events. This was all achieved despite the COVID-19 restrictions in place during the evaluation window.

ii. Positive local impacts

The activities and events that local people organised were seen to have positive impacts through:

  • increased and promoted physical activity (e.g., walking trails, open access sports sessions)
  • increased the visibility and attractiveness of the outdoor leisure culture (e.g., open gardens, tree planting, litter picking, gorilla knitting)
  • connected people to their local place in social and physically active ways.

4.2. How did the Community Builders work with local people?

Community Builders were found to have five core roles when engaging with communities, including:

Encouragement – source of encouragement, enthusiasm, and increased confidence in ideas
Connection – connecting local people with shared interests and useful skills or experience
Direct Community Consultation – building relationships, knocking on doors, finding people
Access to funding - support access to local funding opportunities to help projects to work
Symbolic contribution – energising people through positivity and bringing hope to people

4.3. Who did Community Builders work with?

The evaluation identified three clusters of local organisers who had contact with Community Builders:

Emergent Organisers were people who the Community Builders had encouraged to build on their interests or passions and to develop ideas for community activities and events. Some organised one-off events, some had plans to begin group activities.

Experienced Organisers were experienced volunteer community members who actively sought opportunities to support their community, to contribute to the vibrancy of community connections, social opportunities, to the aesthetics of the community  environment, and to support those experiencing difficulties.

Movers and Shakers were community leaders, workers, and social entrepreneurs, who often had years of experience working and organising, in and with, their local communities. Community work for this group was no longer primarily voluntary (though considerable voluntary activities often continued) but paid work.

Community Builders engaged in similar activities with people in all three clusters, strongly performing all five of their core roles. These activities were strongly valued by local organisers in all three clusters.

4.4. Did the Community Builders meet the needs of those they connected with?

  • There was a good match between community building activities and the needs and aspirations of the ‘Emergent Organisers’.
  • There was a gap between community building activities and the needs and aspirations of Experienced Organisers and Movers and Shakers.

Experienced Organisers, and especially Movers and Shakers, were often already locally wellconnected, highly committed to their community work, and skilled and experienced in community organising. These local organisers had bigger concerns and ambitions for their area and hoped Community Builders might support these in the future (e.g., Local Plans, or long-term funding for youth services). They hoped to engage their local communities to achieve community-led objectives.

Community Builders appeared less engaged at this time with supporting the strategic work required to meet more ambitious community-led objectives

4.5. Who was missing from the Community Builders’ connections?

Some groups were less well represented, particularly young people, those with chronic mental or physical ill health, some ethnic backgrounds (among those best represented were White British, African Caribbean, South Asian), unemployed people, people living with disability, people identifying as LGBT+ and people without strong beliefs and values about the importance of community and of contributing to community.

Without involving these “missing groups”, the interests, needs and issues of more typically marginalised community members may be insufficiently heard and addressed.

5. Recommendations

5.1. A model for partnership working in community building

Using these findings, a model was proposed for Community Builders and partner organisations to build on their successes and more fully meet the needs of local communities.

Using this model, Community Builders and partners can plan work that:

1. Continues to perform and strengthens core activities (encouragement, connection, direct community consultation, access to funding, symbolic contribution);
2. Continues to bring new people into the Emergent Organiser cluster;
3. Extends the reach of community building activities to include missing groups, and works with community members on strategies to address barriers to engagement among marginalised community members;
4. Links Emergent Organisers, Experienced Organisers and Movers and Shakers to skill-share, mentor and overcome barriers to success and to sustained engagement in community events, activities, and issues;
5. Works strategically with community organisers to map community assets and attend to community-identified issues and objectives;
6. Explains and promotes community-led objectives and values;
7. Is clear about the community building project and role;
8. Links community groups to make progress towards becoming a ‘community powerhouse’, informing, guiding, and ultimately taking ownership of local planning and resource allocation.

Agreements at the outset of future partnership projects should consider which aspects of the community building work is best suited to which partners, and the ways in which partners can best
support local community organisers to achieve their objectives.

5.2. Future evaluation

The evaluation of future community building work should better consider (and capture information on) the objectives and ambitions that are important to community organisers. As early as possible in the partnership process, evaluators should determine who is, and is not, being engaged in the community building work, and together plan a process of engagement and support towards the achievement of community-driven objectives.

6. Conclusions

Active Gloucestershire sought to extend its place-based work in two wards of Gloucester city by partnering with GCBC. This work led to engagement with local organisers, who created numerous events and activities, many of which involved physical activity, or improved the conditions for physical activity.

Community Builders worked effectively with Emergent Organisers, but the community building project fell short of some of the broader aspirations of more established and experienced community organisers and leaders. A number of recommendations were made to attend to this gap and to better support community organisers to meet their goals.

Some groups of people were less visible as community organisers (especially young people and members of some typically more marginalised communities). Future work is recommended to improve engagement with these community members.

Community building work strengthens AGs ties to the local communities, which form a core strand of we can move. There may be questions about how committed AG is to a model of system change that challenges and upends the system, intending to place local people at the heart of resource allocation decisions that affect them and their place. If AG is committed to this model, then these recommendations offer clear ways to further this work, in partnership with local communities, and through partnership working with community building organisations such as GCBC.

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Impact report: Children and Young People

Active Gloucestershire 2022

Active Gloucestershire - CYP Impact Report 2022.pdf

Our Children and Young People impact report gives us the chance to look back at our work over the last 12 months and our changing role within this. Looking at new and emerging work.

The report looks at the following:

  • How we are working now
  • What we have done
  • Emerging areas

How we are working now

Since September 2020, we have been moving from programme management towards system change. With complex systems, collaboration and co-defined outcomes

What we have done

Examples of the collaborative work and the success of these programmes, such as:

  • Gloucestershire Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF)
  • Play Nuture Plus
  • Yoga in Schools
  • Opening Schools Facilities

Emerging areas

Examples highlighted include:

  • Creating Active Schools
  • Supporting young people in community settings
  • Supporting families to be more active
Read more…

Research: Tackling Inequalities Fund

Shephard and Moyes, March 2022

TIF Evaluation Short Report.pdf

Executive Summary

Active Gloucestershire distributed £150,000 through the Tackling Inequalities Fund. This funding provided by Sport England aimed to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the physical activity levels of under represented groups.


Active Gloucestershire distributed funding through three rounds of support. Through this work they:

  • Received 107 applications and funded 65. Only 4 were rejected with the remainder supported to further develop their project or seek funding from elsewhere
  • Supported new relationships and new organisations with nearly half of the groups who received funding being new to Active Gloucestershire
  • Funded a wide range of organisation. 66% of funded organisations did not offer sport, physical activity or movement as a core part of their offer and instead offered a broader range of community activities. Active Gloucestershire also funded opportunities that put foundations in place for people to move more
  • Reached smaller organisations with 60% of grants for less than £2,000
  • Provided excellent support. 100% of grant receipients valued the support and flexibility offered by Active Gloucestershire


The funding has created more opportunities for people to move more and to gain the benefits that being more active can bring.

  • 100% of funding went to priority groups including 51% of projects supporting lower socio-economic groups and 25% for people with long term health conditions
  • An average of 160 people benefited in each organisation that received funding
  • Organisations gained new relationships as a result of the funding and also increased their confidence to deliver sport and physical activity opportunities alongside attracting new participants

"Individuals became more connected to their local community and the opportunities helped people manage their mental health‘It has been so helpful and valuable. Thank you. People have really appreciated being able to connect together. Our funding was used towards running outdoor family trails during the pandemic with prizes for the children. Everyone who took part was so grateful to have an organised event to go to (at a time when so much was cancelled) and an opportunity to connect with others. It was very important and positive for people’s mental and physical well being"  Funded organisation

Key Learning

The insight from funded organisations and participants has shown how important it is to have a local offer that is delivered by relatable people.

For people with more complex lives it is also important to offer opportunities to move more in a safe, non-judgemental space. Funded organisations showed the value of listening to participants and making sure activities are delivered at a pace that suits them but which also gently challenges them to move outside their comfort zone.

Physical activity by stealth and fun days out were also identified as effective engagement tools.

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