System change relies on leadership at all levels

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Helen-Louise Smith, Marketing Communications Manager
15 Feb 2021

Stockport local pilot system leadership

Building momentum and directing energy from the bottom up is vital, but without the support of senior stakeholders it can quickly fade. Promoting distributed leadership can be a challenge, but its one that is essential to enabling system change.

Stockport LP operates across layers of overlapping influence and leadership. The Public Health Strategic Lead for Physical Activity & Healthy Weight chairs the LP steering and ops groups and is represented at the Active Communities Board, alongside other senior system leaders. The LP Lead and practitioners representing the SEND community at Seashell Trust, sit on the LP steering and ops group and the hyper-local Brinnington ‘That Counts’ community forum. As such there is a direct flow of influence from the resident/VCSE levels through to the more strategic levels via these overlapping channels.

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The GM Moving workforce development opportunity centered on leadership training is seen by attendees as a ‘mantra they endorse across the system’ or a way of empowering people to have the skills to lead change themselves. The training acted as a catalyst to drive and influence across their spheres, taking learning from the community voice right up to the LP Steering Group and Active Communities Board via the Public Health Lead. LP team were keen to explore ways of taking the learning and irradicating any fluffy language to cut to the core of their message, that is to influence changes in commission structures and internal strategies that will facilitate the reduction of health inequalities for SEND population across Stockport. The ability to influence strategy through overlapping conversations and forums has resulted in physical activity being aligned and integrated across the borough-wide change which includes a new outcomes framework and Stockport Borough Plan.

Stockport LP SEND officers have embraced the wider GM Moving system leadership training. Whilst acknowledging that they personally were already ‘bought into this ideology’, the training affirmed their beliefs, providing them with the confidence to attempt to share their ethos across the system.

The GM Moving workforce development opportunity centered on leadership training is seen by attendees as a ‘mantra they endorse across the system’ or a way of empowering people to have the skills to lead change themselves. The training acted as a catalyst to drive and influence across their spheres, taking learning from the community voice right up to the LP Steering Group and Active Communities Board via the Public Health Lead. LP team were keen to explore ways of taking the learning and irradicating any fluffy language to cut to the core of their message, that is to influence changes in commission structures and internal strategies that will facilitate the reduction of health inequalities for SEND population across Stockport. The ability to influence strategy through overlapping conversations and forums has resulted in physical activity being aligned and integrated across the borough-wide change which includes a new outcomes framework and Stockport Borough Plan.


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Physical activity for the SEND community is a priority for Active Communities Strategy and a standing item at the Active Communities Board (ACB), chaired by Director of Public Health. At the latest ACB, the Public Health Lead (LP Chair) added that he was about to attend and table a paper the forthcoming Stockport SEND Board which brings together senior professional from the council, health and education. This is further evidence of cross-system leader’s influence and reach being broadened around the SEND physical activity equality agenda.

Influence at local pilot level is also evident with LP and SEND practitioners across Salford and Stockport sharing knowledge they gain through close contact with SEND champions in their spheres and communities. Their public social media championing and passion was listened to by those in the system with an ability to influence change. This led to Cllr Eve Holt of GMM executive, championing a system leaders event aimed at SEND people’s led organisations to procure a role for an inclusive workforce initiative. GMM lead Hayley Lever responded to the tweet calling for a collective response to reducing inequalities in activity for disabled people, which further strengthened this thread and its call to action.

Practitioners see the vital next step as a ‘meeting of minds and purses’ with a desire for the commissioners to commit to the ideology and belief that inclusivity by design and co-production is paramount for increasing physical activity levels across the SEND communities. LP has been viewed as a forum that ‘opens doors to meetings and systems that influence change’.