This report relates to process learning between September 2018 and March 2019. It has been produced by the local pilot evaluation team, working with local pilot partners.
Greater Manchester’s Local Delivery Pilot (Local Pilot) activity includes work at a strategic cross-pilot level, work in ten boroughs or ‘localities’ and work at neighbourhood level. At all levels activity has focussed on introducing and embedding new intentions or ways of working.
Those working within the Local Pilot are influenced by a range of guidance documents and principles of working. These include the Local Pilot investment principles, the Sport England / IFF community of practice learning themes, the GM Moving ways of working and the Pointers for Leadership Practice emerging from the recent initial process evaluation of GM Moving. There is a great deal of synergy between these guidance documents. This report highlights three themes which are featured in these documents and which represent where a great deal of the work over the last six months has been focussed. We have titled them ‘working together’, ‘reducing hierarchies’ and focussing on ‘what matters to people in place’
The document itself consists of a series of distinct sections:
- What has been happening: Describing some of the key events and actions that have taken place and why they are important for system learning
- Ways of working: Detailing key learning around the themes introduced above with a focus on intentions, example activity and the ‘so what’ or how these examples have contributed to change at system and locality levels.
- What might have been done differently: Providing reflections on how both the Pointers for Practice and experiences over the last 6 months might help to shape a different approach in the future
- Where next: Sharing thoughts on the future direction.
2.0 What has been happening?
The above timeline provides a summary indication of important and critical moments in the emergence of the Local Pilot and progress up to September 2018 as well as highlighting (in orange) some of the more significant events from the last six months. These include:
In November 2018 Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester set out a public service reform agenda that aligns well with the whole systems approach towards addressing physical inactivity being adopted by GM Moving and the Local Pilot
Following a thorough market engagement process in January 2019 an evaluation consortium was appointed to develop an evaluation of GM Moving and the Local Pilot up to March 2021.
In March the results from GM Moving’s initial learning journey process evaluation, Journeying Together, which ran from the summer of 2018 were released. Whilst focused on GM Moving as a whole, the work actively references the inter connections with the emergence of and relations with the Local Pilot. It also led to the production of the associated Pointers for Leadership Practice which aim to actively influence the ways of working adopted by both GM Moving and the Local Pilot at system and locality levels.
Each of the localities involved in the Local Pilot have been actively focused on the gathering of data, evidence and insight, often through active engagement and consultation with communities at neighbourhood levels as they developed their plans for activity over the coming year. This has directly contributed to the submissions that were made on the 18th March.
Emergent learning has been shared through the introduction of monthly Local Pilot Network events which provide an opportunity for localities to share their progress and experiences as well as to gain further insight from guest speakers at different levels of the system and other Local Pilots. External visits to experience the Local Pilot in action have also been facilitated with the new Chief Executive of Sport England, Tim Hollingsworth taking up the opportunity to come to Greater Manchester, meet with the Public Service Reform Board, GM Moving and experience the Local Pilot first hand in Oldham. Following the event, he has expressed his interest in visiting again soon.
3.0 Ways of working
3.1 Intention: Working together
A clear area of activity has been efforts to join up work across the system. This has occurred at different levels within the system: both across GM and, across each of the localities.
3.1.1 Rationale: The main reason stakeholders gave for working in this way is that the barriers to being active will require whole system approaches; everyone from community members and groups to agencies and service providers. Inactivity is ‘too big’ a challenge for anyone to tackle alone. The intention is to work together collaboratively and ensure coordination across systems, making simultaneous changes which together can have an impact.
A second reason recognises that expertise from communities and different sectors can stimulate innovative solutions; from individuals and communities and community groups, VCSE organisations, public and private sector.
A third reason relates to working effectively and efficiently, the rationale being that by knowing what work is going on where and for what reason the local pilot teams can tap into opportunities which already exist (and avoid duplicating effort).
3.1.2 Threats to these assumptions being realised/unintended consequences: The key threats identified include the sheer number of people and stakeholders who could be involved and keeping track of their interactions which requires a great deal of continuous effort. Stakeholders recognise that there is a need to let go of ‘control’ and trust that conversations to join up the system will happen without them instigating it or even being aware of it.
As this work has developed, stakeholders have become more attuned to the different structures and cultures which influence how parts of the system work which may not always be compatible. For example, one locality lead highlighted that whilst the local pilot doesn’t require them to work to KPIs, they still need to justify the time they are spending on local pilot work to their colleagues who maintain traditional approaches. This can increase workload and create an air of mystique which may not be conducive to good working relations locally.
3.1.3 System example: Stakeholders suggest that collaborative working has been enhanced because of a) the wider reform agenda in Greater Manchester and b) recognition that (higher levels of) physical activity can support partner objectives. The reform agenda appears to be a key facilitative context with a common cause (around systemic change to reduce inequality across multiple spheres). This has provided ‘evidence’ for the effectiveness of new ways of working and ‘permission’ to challenge systemic barriers and open doors to work across previous silos. This conducive context appears to be reciprocal, for example, the GM Moving Journey and Learning has highlighted the importance of relationship building, which is supported by the same messages that came out of Further Faster, at the GM Public Service Reform event in November. This ‘permission’ to prioritise relationship building in the work has spread further, with other GM leads using the same language to describe other aspects of systems change, which further embeds the principles into practice across GM.
3.1.4 System indicators of change and learning: The last six months have seen an increase in the number and range of incoming enquiries from a variety of different sectors and requests for GM Moving and Local Pilot leads to present and engage other system leaders at meetings, events and conferences etc. This may indicate that the work to join up the system is beginning to reach a critical mass with more people having the physical activity on their agenda. This raises the question of how to develop capacity further to respond and react to growing demand, without relying on a few key people in the centre. The ambition over the coming months is to develop a whole range of system leaders who can share the narrative and messages with their peers, for example, clinical leads engaging with clinicians, planners engaging with planners, which stakeholders believe would be more powerful and have more potential for exponential growth.
3.1.5 Locality example: Locality leads have spent a great deal of time in cross system meetings and with community and voluntary sector agencies. Activities such as asset mapping have identified large numbers of organisations, some of which have physical activity as a primary or secondary focus.
In addition, some localities have formed or tapped into mini steering groups. One mini steering group brings together voluntary sector organisations with an interest in food and nutrition, social prescribing, community games, a housing group with local authority and healthcare staff. This helps to maintain a whole-systems approach by keeping key voices in the room when decisions are being made as to deliver the pilot.
3.1.6 Locality indicators of change and learning: Meetings and engagement of local partners can be seen as early indicators of change, and we will continue to observe how, if and when this translates into change on the ground. All locality leads have expressed that the time it has taken to engage and join the system has been far more than they anticipated. They are also beginning to realise the extent to which engagement is an ongoing process. At least one locality has taken action around this by drawing down funds to employ a community liaison lead in order to increase capacity. Others may not have done so, with the belief that the Local Pilot money should be used for more material expenditure or the delivery of ‘events’. There is growing recognition across the localities, through enhanced networking at the local delivery events and interaction on KHub, that ‘doing’ can include ‘relationship building’ and that they can enhance their capacity to do that via directly employing new staff.
Furthermore, the local contexts mean that different localities started from different points. In some localities, pre-existing cross-system working was already established via other initiatives. In these cases, the Local Pilot activity has been able to connect into existing networks. In other localities this was not the case. This means that progress towards genuine collaboration is at different points in different places. This may have a knock on impact on community engagement and trust, for example, in one locality they have recognised that there are gaps and lack of consistency across their own system partners which have had a detrimental effect on engagement with communities.
‘There is an impression of uncoordinated and inconsistent range of services provided for the community. There is no sense of permanence, continuity or progression for individuals which reduces motivation and trust’
This has stimulated renewed efforts to find meaningful ways to join up the system but also recognition that this takes time and will take more time to build trust with communities. We will continue to explore these differences in our evaluation and following the level of engagement and quality of ideas which emerge from the localities where there is strong cross-system working.
3.2 Intention: Reducing hierarchies
In addition to working better across the system (at both strategic and locality level), efforts have been made to reduce the power differences between and within levels of the system. Stakeholders describe efforts to flatten hierarchies between Sport England and Greater Manchester, between Greater Manchester and localities, and between localities and the people that live and work in communities across Greater Manchester.
3.2.1 Rationale: Stakeholders proffer a suite of reasons for reducing hierarchies and power differences in order to enable people to become more active. They describe power as being manifest in resources (such as funding), processes (such as accountability frameworks), language (such as technical marketing, management, or research ‘speak’) and ideas (such as intervention design and distribution). Stakeholders consider that years of top-down control haven’t worked so they are keen to try something new. Of particular note is the understanding of the evidence that ideas and issues which come directly from the community are more likely to be genuine opportunities and solutions to problems and/or issues that community members care about. This in turn is more likely to lead to interest in and ownership of eventual solutions. There is also recognition that the sphere of influence in place is actually really small so local, hyper local solutions are increasingly seen as being more likely to work. There is a perception that strict accountability frameworks limit innovation, create bottle necks for resources and are onerous for organisations to comply with resulting in historical experiences such as that articulated by a community group who had applied for funding from a national body, which felt like “£60,000 worth of volunteer work for a £50,000 grant”.
3.2.2 Threats to these assumptions being realised: Stakeholders have observed that entrenched hierarchies take bravery and persistence to overcome. Individuals ‘upstream’ must be prepared to take on risk and responsibility to challenge authority and governance models. Stakeholders have also observed that partnership with local communities is often limited to a few vocal groups (and not necessarily representative of the whole community) where there are existing trusting relationships. This is to the detriment of other people or groups who may provide access to previously hidden communities and groups and which may also fuel local competition (and be a risk to working together across the system).
3.2.3 System examples: Strategic stakeholders have worked hard to create an atmosphere of ‘all one team’ between the GM and locality ’teams’. This has included changing historical ways of working, to genuinely co-design and co-produce the approach, as well as the work at GM and locality level.
Simple steps have been taken, for example to invite all partners to all events and meetings to avoid creating a culture of ‘them and us’. An open approach was developed to locality submissions, so that teams could produce plans in formats that fit with local need, aligned to the principles. The GM Moving Executive and local pilot implementation group have worked together to co-design the governance and ‘sign off’ process for plans. This includes being open about the length and format of locality proposals (recently submitted) saying ‘write what you need to write’.
The strategic team have provided support to locality teams. Deadlines for submissions were positioned as ‘staging posts’ rather than ‘end posts. Rather than place marking criteria on these proposals they adopted a peer review process based on learning from sector led improvement work elsewhere in GM. The intention is to share good thinking and develop together in an ‘action learning’ approach rather than reinforce ideas of experts/non-experts, or right and wrong.
Ultimately there is a desire for communities to decide what is right for their place. All of this aims to encourage the teams to be bolder with their visions.
3.2.4 System indicators of change and learning: Opening invites to meetings has seen an increase in attendance from locality partners and more open discursive conversations about what and how to progress. However, it has been noted that some localities engage in additional meetings more than others, due to capacity. Some locality leads have also taken up extra opportunities, for example to visit other Local Pilots around the country, or become involved in other strategic components of the Local Pilot. Future evaluation efforts will look to see whether these varying levels of engagement affect the success or otherwise of locality plans. It has also been noted that whilst, in principle, engaging in peer review is welcomed as creating an air of collegiality it can also create a degree of uncertainty and additional workload given the openness of the brief and people’s varying confidence that their response will be ‘right’. It highlights that change, however welcome and necessary, can be unsettling for people used to responding to opportunities in a specific way, suggesting the need for additional support and reassurance.
3.2.5 Locality examples: A pre-existing model of distributed leadership was perceived to be a supportive context for the delivery of the Local Pilot at a locality level. In one locality a community group been developed to make suggestions. The public health team recognised the need to be patient to allow the group form and for them to develop a sense of what their important issues are and what they need from public health. Similarly, in other localities public health teams are aiming to work with community partners by directly investing in them – building capacity and allowing them to work in a way which is true to their skills, capabilities and cultures (as stated by a community lead ‘don’t make us like you’!). This requires trust, flexibility and time to evolve. Stakeholders ‘higher up’ the chain have been open to changing processes, for example, Sport England are working hard to support change internally that enables the co-design and working alongside each other approach with the twelve local pilots to translate into legal and contractual practice. This hasn’t been straightforward, but it has been recognised as work that will help all pilots to work according to the principles that have been set out for this work.
3.2.6 Locality indicators of change and learning: The community groups have started to make requests of the public health team highlighting a power reversal and indications that approach (supporting group formation and observing patience) is able to affect changes in the system. Stakeholders have highlighted that this process has exposed public health fragility (related to low capacity/impacts of austerity) but further knock on impacts of this (positive or negative) are not yet known. We will continue to observe whether this translates into a) effective local solutions and b) sustainable plans.
3.3 Intention: Getting to the heart of what matters in place
Stakeholders have highlighted that alongside relationships and trust, deep understanding of the lives, concerns, motivations, skills and capabilities are important to progressing whole-system change. This relates to the ’empathy gap’ Sport England have cited in the community of learning themes. Importantly, the ’empathy gap’ exists not just between stakeholders and people in the communities but also between different stakeholders.
3.3.1 Rationale: Stakeholders suggest that framing conversations more broadly, (and specifically in a way which brings the partners’ core objectives/values to the centre of the conversation), enables those for whom physical activity may not be a core concern to identify opportunities to see it as a solution to a wider remit of issues (for example air pollution, crime, mental health, family/community cohesion).
This way of working also accepts that physical activity may be very low down on the priority list for residents but that it may be a solution to items higher up that same list. Tapping into what really matters and then introducing the opportunities offered by physical activity to address it may help generate a win-win situation.
Stakeholders suggest that closing the empathy gap requires real and genuine insight and engagement, ideally with co-produced solutions. This assumes that co-produced solutions are likely to be based on citizens’ needs (and strengths/assets) and more likely to be effective.
3.3.2 Threats to these assumptions being realised: Stakeholders identified risks in that starting conversations with ‘what matters to you’ can both dilute the physical activity message and even raise false expectations as the ability to help with their actual issues may be limited. This might apply most pertinently in discussions with local people. For example, if ‘what matters to you’ is that you have secure employment, there is little the Local Pilot can do about that directly. Becoming more active might help alleviate the stress associated with a lack of secure employment but the suggestion might not be welcome and seen to be missing the point, inadvertently increasing frustration.
In addition, it is recognised that ‘not all co-production is equal’ in that what one person might consider to be co-production, another might classify as consultation. For some, working in this way can be seen as time-consuming and unsettling and a distraction from ‘getting things done’.
3.3.3 System examples: The team have appointed an engagement officer directly from the VCSE sector, in partnership with 10GM. This person has helpfully disrupted and challenged thinking on what engagement is and could be. They have circulated toolkits and are available to support the localities and GM leads as a sounding board and or more hands on provision. The engagement officer has introduced a language checker to support the use of Plain English in line with the investment principles and ways of working which is accessible to anyone. In light of the danger of raising false expectations they have also highlighted the need for caution and to be more tactical in the promotion of physical activity as a solution to defined problems.
3.3.4 System indicators of change and learning: Progress to changing language to make it positive and accessible has been made to the point that stakeholders are mostly now able to recognise and challenge where language does not meet the principles. Most recognise that is hard to avoid slipping into technical or marketing ‘speak’ at times and that this will, overall, be a long process of change.
It was accepted wisdom that working with inactive people would be made easier by working with the existing VCSE organisations. However, more sophisticated understanding of the engagement work has emerged in the last six months. For example, some VCSE organisations across GM are perceived to have entrenched traditional ways of working and, in fact, can act as gatekeepers to ‘the people’. In these cases, direct approaches to residents have been more productive. Alternatively, other VCSE organisations across GM are more progressive and facilitate the efforts of those seeking to engage.
There is also an emerging challenge where some organisations are motivated to come to the table by the prospect of securing investment into existing ‘solutions’ which is disruptive to the more consultative community lead approaches that are emerging. There will need to be open conversations with those who are confident that they have (or are) ‘the answer’ emphasising the risks of focusing on money and jumping to solutions.
3.3.5 Locality examples: Localities have developed submissions which highlight who their targeted populations and neighbourhoods are. Most have done this primarily though analysis of demographic and SES statistics. However, many have recognised that these statistics only tell a small part of the story. Many localities have already conducted engagement activity to inform their plans. In others, although engagement has not yet started, a commissioning process has taken place to engage voluntary sector partners to conduct engagement activity. The decision to ‘partner’ with experts in engagement emerged through understanding from prior engagement activities that indicated that voluntary sector organisations are often trusted more in local communities than local authority staff. In addition, consultation by local authority staff risks discussion getting side-tracked by wider issues, given the prevailing culture of service provider:recipient and entrenched history of top down approaches in public service. Whilst the public service reform work in Greater Manchester aims to address this, it is very early days and will take time.
3.3.6 Locality indicators of change and learning: There is emerging evidence of changes being made to locality plans and locality approaches as a result of engagement activities which highlight what really matters in particular circumstances. At the moment these are tactical e.g. in one locality, the community liaison lead doesn’t wear his leisure centre branded uniform when he is out and about in the target ward; the community lead in another changed the content of her presentation slides when she heard what was important to the local community. There are some questions remaining over the extent and nature of the ‘co-production’ activity which may cause some tensions across and within the team.
4.0 What might have been done differently?
The reflection workshop with localities on the 25th March 2018 provided an opportunity for people at different levels of the system to think about how use of the Pointers for Leadership Practice might have influenced some of the decisions and directions taken over the last six months as well as how things might be differently in the future.
One of the most consistent and powerful messages emerged around a desire to have engaged more with different groups and particularly those who are inactive. Specifically, there was a sense that the pointers would have helped them to test language and different perspectives in an open fashion. It was also felt that the VCSE sector could have been engaged more to facilitate this process.
More broadly, within the system, there was a sense of now being more empowered to speak with stakeholders and organisations at higher levels of the system in more open ways that both challenge the status quo as well as finding new ways to build shared agendas. Specifically, this coalesced around the idea of a focus on other stakeholders’ end goals and the role that people being more active might play in that. One example included work with DWP to reveal how active people will be more work ready and therefore less likely to continue claiming benefits.
There was also a greater comfort in the idea of failure and being open about the prospects of not all the test and learn initiatives being successful. The pointers were highlighted as a resource that might enable conversations to be opened up around what happens when things fail before that failure happens.
The pointers were also seen as a resource that needed to be tested themselves with recognition that they might not be useful in all situations and could be more useful to some than others. One suggestion was that they might be tested in the context of a local learning pilot to help reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the different elements.
5.0 Where next?
The next six months will involve continued efforts to join up the system and develop system leaders, work to build the ‘one team’ mentality and remove practical systemic barriers to delivering this. Proportionate resources are to be applied across localities where contexts are variable.
The localities have submitted their proposals which are being collectively reviewed in order to offer suggestions. An increase in pace is then anticipated where localities begin to enact the ideas presented in their submissions.
Following the completion of a marketing insight exercise a creative agency has been appointed to help develop and launch a campaign. The creative agency will be monitoring reach and awareness of the campaign to help with understanding of what impact the campaign may have with local populations.
The recently appointed evaluation partner is developing a detailed evaluation framework which over the next six months will provide a structure for wider reflections on process learnings, embedding researchers with the strategic and local teams and identifying ways to measure and monitor indicators of system and behaviour change.
Development of the workforce development strategy will also continue with a potential role out of training and identification of champions.
 A decision has been made to make reference to the Local Pilot rather than Local Delivery Pilot in recognition that the investment is concerned with far more than ‘delivery’ in the traditional sense.
Contributors and facilitators:
Hayley Lever, Rob Young, Scott Hartley, Sara Tomkins, Matt Johnson, Matt Stocks, Hazel Musgrove, Richard Davis-Boreham, Jackie Veal, Neil Long, Tom Howarth, James McInerey, Neil Bardsley, Kate Ahmadi-Khattir, Annette Turner, Caz Whittle, Jane Gardiner, Kat Pursal, Lisa Clayton, Dona Sager, Louise Wright, Kim Liall, Steph Rush, Pritesh Patel, Louise Robbins, Pete Burt, Colin Greenhouse and Tim Woolliscroft.
Tim Crabbe, Substance and Katie Shearn, Sheffield Hallam University
- Local Pilot Implementation Group strategic reflection session on 12th March
- Local Pilot Network Event in Wigan operational reflection workshop on 25th March
- Interviews with strategic leads across GM Moving, Greater Sport, Local Pilot, VCSE
Other supporting information:
- Local Pilot Network Event Presentations
- GM Moving Reform Board Presentation
- Locality plan submissions
Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Greater Sport, Sport England, GM Moving, Local Pilot teams from Manchester, Rochdale, Tameside, Bury, Wigan, Stockport, Trafford, Salford, Bolton and Oldham, 10GM (VCSE), Transport for Greater Manchester.