Move More Sheffield & the first steps in the Asset Based Community Development Journey

Move More Sheffield has emerged from a history of community, public health and academic interest in increasing physical activity across Sheffield. Enhanced by the Olympic legacy work and the Centre for Sports, Exercise and Medicine and building on what has happened in the past, a growing number of people who share a passionate for this cause are getting together in our city under the banner of ‘Move More Sheffield’.

There is the usual Board but this one is operating in an unusual way. I have spent 20 years managing, supporting and sitting on various Boards and I can honestly say this one is different in culture, approach and actions. The Board, chaired by Dr Ollie Hart, a local GP and guided by Dr Rob Copeland a physical activity psychologist and researcher at Sheffield Hallum University, is an eclectic mix of people who share a commitment personally and professionally to the Move More mission of changing the culture of physical activity in Sheffield.

The Board does things differently, we move more in meetings, there is a genuine sense of shared purpose and equality of respect across the different roles and  it acts as a facilitation board rather than being directive. It is also acting as a central point for building bridges across many different networks. NHS Improving Quality Chief Transformation Officer  Helen Bevan champions this approach as a means for transformational change lending from Batillana and Casciaro’s The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents.

Last year, as the Board was forming it reached out to the wider community by hosting a large 300 people strong event and through media and social media means. It asked what assets do we already have, what ideas do we have and what gets in the way. The results of this ‘consultation’ were combined with research and evidence to develop the Move More Plan, a framework for action. At the heart of this plan was the recognition that cultural change will only happen if genuinely owned by the citizens and communities of Sheffield and that this cannot be imposed. The Board learnt about the potential of ‘asset based community development’ as a means to transform the power base and culture of creating thriving healthy communities. It recognised the incredible experience of community led activities in this city, in particular community health champions, and the potential tool of digital technology and set off on a journey of discovery about how we could bring these three aspects together to make a transformational and sustainable difference to the quality of life of citizens and communities in Sheffield.

The first step was to bring some outside expertise to the city to help those who feel a connection to the ambitions of the Move More Sheffield Network to come together, learn more about asset based community development and consider how we might take action collectively and in our communities. So we invited Cormac Russell of Nurture Development, Europe’s leading light in asset based community development to come to Sheffield and host three development days. In early May, 90 people from many different backgrounds united by a passion for changing the culture of physical activity in Sheffield came together to learn about the approach, the principles, to experience some of the tools and techniques of community building, to listen to the experience of Croyden from the fantastic community builder Jennine Bailey and to reflect on how we can apply this approach in the context of what we have in Sheffield. A follow up survey showed that most people felt we should continue our asset based community development journey.




Around one-third of the participants of the development sessions came together one rainy evening two weeks later to reflect on what they had learnt and what our next steps should be both collectively and in our communities.

At this point I noticed a change in the conversations. From the usual desire for a strategy with targets and actions linked to a hierarchy of responsibilities, a business case and allocated budget, the talk was of informal networks, celebration of our amazing existing assets, recognising the value of the connections we could make, talk of citizenship not volunteering. In true ABCD style it felt like the Sheffield glass was brimming with ‘assets’ and ideas and that the biggest problem that we need to tackle was not lack of resources but the need to build bridges, communication channels, information sharing and connections and relationships between people, organisations and networks.

Two examples stood out for me:

Rachel has a field with three horses in a beautiful part of the city, she is skilled in horse whispering, knowledgable and committed to environmental sustainability and willing to share her knowledge and skills and space, a fantastic offer! Through this experience she is now talking to people in community organisations about bringing young people from another part of the city to camp in her field and learn about horses and the environment.

Stuart has a role with Sport England to help secondary schools in Sheffield to maximise the potential of their facilities and open them up for community use. He has built relationships and understanding with all the schools in Sheffield and now wishes to build bridges between schools and people, networks and organisations in communities who could benefit from the facilities the schools offer. The roomful of well networked people the Move More Network offered their support to help make those connections.

stop start keep

As the dust settles on this exciting turning point in our collective approach to changing the culture of physical activity, we may not yet be able to see the whole staircase but iterative steps are being taken, bridges are being built, personal and organisational connections are being made and action is being taken in small groups and at a city-wide level.

The cultural change is running deeper (excuse the pun) than physical activity, it is building on a people power approach which already existed in the ‘People’s Republic of South Yorkshire’, unleashing our potential and helping us all to feel more empowered to act on what we feel passionate about changing without permission or direction from a hierarchy of power but supported by connections in communities. As an integral part of the city, More More Sheffield is becoming  a catalyst for a cultural change which is fundamentally about citizenship and building thriving communities.

If you are interested in getting involved contact Move More Sheffield  or connect via twitter @movemoresheff

If you have a long-term condition and are interested in specialized support to move more check out Miracle Cure

And I would also love to read your  reflections, views and ideas below …


(N.B. Roz Davies, We Love Life is a member of the Move More Board/Network)



I recently read two enlightening pieces about the power of communities, the first about the Aboriginal definition of health and the second about the power of asset based community development, here they are for those who are interested..

What can we learn from Indigenous understandings of health from Tim Senior with a HT to John Cosgrove

The power of asset based community development from Cormac Russell, Nurture Development



#DigitalParticipation… it all comes down to community building in the end!

Just returned from the fantastic Tinder Foundation event to celebrate the first year of the NHS Digital Participation programme and launch the findings report which has its own micro site

They achieved some astounding results in a very short period of time, contracted in September 2013 they have exceeded all their targets of reaching 100,000 people, training 50,000 people to use online resources and supporting 1,000 volunteers with 80% of people trained being socially excluded.

This work is set against the backdrop of 11 million people in the uk ‘lacking in digital skills’, 6.7 million of which have never used the internet.

The problem, as (NHS Programme Director for Widening Digital Participation) Bob Gann said today, is that the people who are most digitally excluded are also likely to have the lowest health literacy, a double whammy.

This is a world where there is a rapidly evolving and growing industry forming around digital health: self trackers, community platforms, electronic health records and 97,000 health apps, not to mention that it is estimated that it costs £560 more a year when you do not shop/pay bills online (21st century challenges)

Without collective and concentrated effort digital health will significantly increase health inequalities with the ‘have nots’, not having the same information, access to like-minded communities, ‘say’ in how services are running, or choice of goods and services.

This is a really important health and well-being agenda from the obvious information perspective but also potentially the tackling the social determinants of health of social capital and poverty.

What I really appreciated about the approach the Tinder Foundation have taken is that they reached out and collaborated with community organisations, e.g. Heeley Development Trust and the Bromley by Bow Centre. This to me is the essence of the success and the future sustainability for a number of reasons.

Firstly, these community organisations already have existing relationships with their communities and often the local health infrastructure. They are experienced in connecting, developing and supporting citizens and communities to take individual and collective action to improve their quality of life. They understand the local nuances, speak the languages and are trusted.

Secondly, ‘digital participation’ might help the system in terms of increasing efficiency, reducing costs and I believe it also helps people in terms of helping improve our knowledge, connections and confidence to take control of our health, we need to consider the potential unintended consequences. It might also serve to break down connections, fragment and dis-empower individuals and communities. We could enhance loneliness and isolation which we all know from recent published evidence has a devastating impact on our health see for more info on that)

Finally, it occurred to me today that we used language of deficit, ‘hard to reach’, socially excluded, most deprived. John McKnight from has something to say on this. After many studies, he and colleagues concluded that this deficit model of viewing communities distorted the truth, in fact there were also many assets, hidden treasures and great resilience within these negatively labelled communities. What asset based community development does in essence is help us to understand why and how we can connect citizens and communities to once again become producers not consumers of the development of thriving communities.

So my takeaway from this event was that we need to ensure that offline community building is inextricably linked to efforts to increase digital participation. Taking this a step further, I was left wondering how might digital participation and asset based community development work together to reach further into communities and facilitate the unleashing of the incredible potential and assets we already have in our communities!

So congratulations Tinder Foundation and all your fabulous community partners, you have laid the foundations for something really important and special. Good luck for the year ahead!


Finalist in University of Sheffield Enterprise Competition 2014

Delighted to share that We Love Life Diabetes has been shortlisted as a finalist of the University of Sheffield Enterprise Competition 2014. Results to be announced at the VC Dinner in September where all finalists will also be asked to pitch again for the public vote bonus prize!

We have had fantastic support from the University of Sheffield Enterprise Zone and would encourage potential entrepreneurs in Sheffield to check them out


Health and Well-being Citizenship Resources:

A mixture of research and information articles, publications and websites which showcase principles, approaches and stories of community development and citizenship in health and well-being NESTA co-production catalogue  NESTA the business case for people power health  SCIE Co-production and participation:older … Continue reading