Imagine that you’re a member of a neighbourhood, council or organisation and you know that your local community is getting sicker. You have the stats to prove it: rates of obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption are increasing. People are forced to leave their jobs because of their illnesses, many are dying at young ages and the families left behind are struggling to get by.
How can you determine what aspects of your community are positively and negatively impacting individuals’ health?
Our community-engagement programme was designed to answer that question. Through strategic partnerships we identify how local environments can be changed to make it naturally easier for people to live and eat healthfully.
Integral to our approach is working in partnership with community members, neighbourhood organisations, and local authorities from the start of the project to produce sustainable actions and long-term change.
We’ve implemented community-engagement projects with businesses such as Morgan Stanley and Nestlé, and with local authorities in various London communities including Wandsworth and Hounslow. ().
The objective of our community-engagement programme is to identify and leverage community’s existing strengths (such as physical space and people) to overcome barriers to good health.
Using innovative digital technology, the , we train community members to map and collect data about their neighbourhoods. They walk around streets, parks, shops and restaurants, assessing physical activity and food options, and the prevalence of tobacco and alcohol.
Following the audit/mapping, community members gather for insight discussion sessions facilitated by C3. We guide them in interpretation of the collected data and they share personal stories to provide vital context to the results.
In one community, teenagers refused to play at a nearby park. When asked why, they reported, “There are signs that say ‘No drugs or alcohol allowed’. That must mean drug dealers use that park. We don’t want to play there.” A sign that was meant to be helpful was instead inhibiting use of the park.
We then analyse these sessions to co-create with community members recommendations for changes they would like to see in their community. Our reports are then used to inspire evidence-based action through the people with the power to implement changes: the policymakers and local authorities.
Although our projects differ in scope based on community needs, all have experienced significant results.
Improvements can be cheap (replacing a basketball net) or even free (having ‘no ball games’ signs removed from green spaces or unlocking a play area):
It’s a good facility but it’s locked at certain times, which means people kick footballs on walls and estate, causing accidents like smashing a window. Young people want this open and no one seems to know why [it is locked], and it’s very frustrating especially on such a nice warm evening.
In Camden and Islington, on the strength of C3’s recommendations, funding of over £2 million was awarded to the council from Health and Wellbeing Boards and Sport England to improve physical-activity opportunities for young people.
In January 2015, a member of the Wandsworth Council team informed us that:
We are pleased that the borough has been awarded £150,000 from the Community Sport Activation Fund, thanks largely to the evidence base we were able to submit with the CHESSresearch and other elements of the project.
And through the Morgan Stanley project, children’s play area options were transformed from a disused carpark to two new playgrounds co-designed with local parents, and breakfasts were provided to young children in schools.