A Blueprint for Change
We formed a working group. Steven agreed to chair it, and because of that, people came. We had the lead Director of Public Health, Transport for Greater Manchester, involvement from New Economy, and Sport England… and that became the GM Moving Leadership Group. Over many months that group convened to draft the GM Moving Blueprint for Change.
This was a significant step forward. An articulation of the cost of inactivity, the case for change, and the shared purpose brought the system together with a plan to deliver.
The key influencers were the politicians and the Chief Executives of the ten councils Together the Greater Manchester system hosted an event where every GM leader and every Chief Executive signed the 10 pledges.
"The Blueprint was launched in the Velodrome, about 18 months after it was first thought of. Jennie Price (Sport England CEO) was there, Charles Johnson (Director) too. I'd never seen such senior buy-in around physical activity, and we were keen to build on that momentum. People had come together by choice; normally they come together around a pot of money. There was no money here, just senior leadership. Devolution hadn't happened yet, it hadn't quite landed. But we all got on the same bus to go the same way - I'm proud of how we got everyone on board."
Formation of GM Active (Nov 2015)
"The 13 cultural and leisure trusts across Greater Manchester responded to the opportunities of devolution and GM Moving, in an unprecedented move to collaborate with one voice as one team. They formed GM Active under the leadership of Mark Tweedie (Chief Executive, Active Tameside) in November 2015".
As leisure providers, there was an understanding from the member organisations of the key role they should play in Greater Manchester devolution and in particular health and social care transformation through their existing assets and role as prime deliverers and facilitators of physical activity in localities, communities and neighbourhoods. There was also a recognition that to develop this role and scale up best practice and learning there needed to be more formal collaboration between the organisations, leading to the formation of GM Active.
Soon to be a legal entity, GM Active is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding between its member organisations providing commitment to working together on a number of key objectives spanning profile and engagement, service development and capacity and resilience all working towards shared outcomes and a vision:
GM Active’s vision is for a network of innovative, responsive, resilient and high performing Greater Manchester Leisure and Cultural Trusts that deliver transformational outcomes across Greater Manchester’s communities.
System Architecture and Strategy: Taking Charge (Dec 2015) and the Population Health Plan (Feb 2017)
From here on, there was a huge amount of work to do. It was the beginning of something exciting, but came with plenty of challenges too.
[My] previous experience of sport was that it didn't connect with anything else. It was filled with enthusiasts. All of them brilliant, but the system didn't reach out to even the obvious places like health. Physical activity rates were low, there were no collaborative models, and no system leadership for increasing physical activity....so this (just) became a kernel of system leadership.
But outside of this group there were still high levels of scepticism for example among the health commissioners. ‘We don't do physical activity, we commission beds in hospitals.’ They also said ‘What are you trying to do? Get the active more active?’ They had doubts that the sports sector was connecting with the less fit. So it was a difficult proposition to land.
The critical moment came from health and social care devolution. The ‘Taking Charge’ document put physical activity right in the middle, and it called for a Director of Public Health for Greater Manchester. GM Moving was then located within Taking Charge, and inside the governance of GMCA[iii] - before that it didn't have a home. Now there was a route. Some authority, and a funding stream. That was a big step over moment.
"Jon Rouse was Director General in the Department of Health and he had previously been Chief Executive at Croydon Council. He had a wide support base in the NHS, and now he was heading up the Health and Social Care Partnership. He sponsored the GM Moving work and linked it to Taking Charge. The focus was on population health outcomes, and on moving money from acute services to community...
[We] developed the Population Health Plan and embedded physical activity in it. The gain was legitimacy in public health, and this was significant...
“You won't see Jon around much [in GM Moving work] now day to day, but his work was fundamental. So that [we] could go into rooms and cite the Population Health Plan. [We] didn't have to make the business case anymore”.