The Great Outdoors, and a Great Team

The phrase ‘asset’ has many connotations and can mean many things to many people. For the purposes of this blog, when I refer to assets I am referring to the wonderful natural outdoor spaces and places that we are fortunate to have in North Yorkshire AND I am also referring to the wonderful, passionate people that work in this county.

At North Yorkshire Sport we have always had an extra interest in how the great outdoors can help tackle inactivity, from just a walk in a local park to tackling the black mountain bike trail at Dalby Forest. A large geographical county that is not densely populated, such as ours, is not going to be blessed with Olympic swimming pools or mega-stadia, but we do have outdoor assets that rivals anywhere else in the country.

It was only natural that when we heard about The Outdoor Partnership (TOP) ‘Opening Doors to the Outdoors’ programme that we were interested in finding out more. This was BC (before covid) and we got far enough to find out that through some Lottery investment TOP were looking to expand their reach in to new locations across the UK. Covid derailed those conversations, but fast forward to October 2021 and we picked back up where we had left off and revisited the possibility of North Yorkshire being home to one of the expansion locations.

This then triggered a formation of a new coalition of stakeholders (the other great assets in North Yorkshire) who may have a potential interest in helping to make this happen. Starting broad and knowing what we know about North Yorkshire, the county would be too big a footprint to have any meaningful impact. We knew there was ambition around Scarborough being a destination for outdoor adventurous activity, and given some of the inequalities within the Borough, we determined we should invest our time and energy on a coastal focused partnership involving colleagues from Public Health, Stronger Communities, Regeneration and Sports Development, as well as the Green Social Prescribing lead for Humber and North Yorkshire and the Woodsmith Foundation, supported by colleagues from North Yorkshire Sport.

With some excellent guidance and support from the TOP team, we set about agreeing on our purpose and what we wanted to achieve, using this as a start point for our work together. We wanted to understand the different priorities and different sources of data and combine that with our local intelligence to formulate a set of headline priorities that we would want to tackle if we were to be successful in being one of the expansion places of the programme.

Fast forward to November 2022 and we have secured enough investment for a post until March 2026 and have just gone out to advert for the role. We have articulated in writing the evidence of why this programme is needed on the North Yorkshire coast and where the post will focus the majority of their energy. We have also started to expand the partnership and engaged with the local Age UK and the Seechange collaboration, and will be expanding the relationships to many others such as the social prescribing team and local health systems.

So what have we learned so far? I think the things that really stand out for me was how this has been a really collaborative approach. Yes, North Yorkshire Sport have convened the group and provided some leadership, but I don’t view this as North Yorkshire Sports work, I view it as ‘our’ work together. I also think that highlights the spirit of generous leadership within the group, knowing that any of the organisations round the table could have led this work but put that aside and focused on what was best for the programme. We have spent time discussing the common purpose and at our most recent session together we determined we need to refine it now that the work is moving on. Having this common purpose has really enabled the partners to make that link to how the work can support their priorities and where it can link to to other things happening in their world. I have also been impressed seeing the collaborative space that has been created and how that has allowed challenge and questioning and that being something that is welcomed rather than dismissed or something to shy away from.

The aspect I really love about this is that the strength of relationships and the trust has been built is what has helped to make this work happen. It hasn’t been about impressing a bid assessor with maps of misery or facts and statistics, and using buzz words on an application. It has been about building the narrative together and the formality of paperwork (as it still needs to happen) followed afterwards.

As we go on there will no doubt be more learnings and it will be interesting to revisit in 6/12 months time, or even a couple of years down the line.

So what next??? It is a very exciting time and this new programme is generating a lot of interest and I can’t wait to appoint someone to the role and for the work to really get going, knowing it is built on such a strong foundation. The beauty of this role is that it will be heavily shaped by the post holder, and the activities and outputs of the programme will be determined by the communities and people that we are working with. We want someone who will engage with people, who will focus on enabling rather than doing, and really understand the broader impact of the work beyond just being active, for example creating more social connections, building skills and improving mental wellbeing. Clearly they also need to be an advocate for the outdoors as well!!!

If you are reading this before 30th November (2022) then the post is still being advertised and if you are interested in shaping the next part of the story then please do check out the advert and consider an application. If you are an organisation or an individual on the North Yorkshire coast who is interested in working with us on this programme (or others) and want to find out more, then please also get in touch as well.

To finish I am minded to quote one of Myrons Maxims “The process you use to get to the future is the future you get”. For me this leaves me very optimistic about the future success of this work.

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