Azeem Akhtar - Chair, Active Essex
In 2017 we launched our ambitious strategy to change 1 million lives by getting Greater Essex residents active. This report truly reflects the breadth and depth of our programmes and the impact we have had on the sport and physical activity sector in Greater Essex.
We started our strategy with 953,113 active adults in Greater Essex and as we headed into the first lockdown of March 2020, this had increased to 988,287. With the current trajectory, we were well on track to reach our target of a million before March 2021, however our progress was impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Active Essex continue to remain committed and are well on the journey to change one million lives in Greater Essex.
The Active Essex board set a clear strategic direction and encouraged the Active Essex wider team to be innovative and risk taking in their work. I am delighted to have been on this journey as Chair of Active Essex since the start of our strategy, and am proud of all the successes and achievements that have contributed to Greater Essex recording the highest levels of physical activity since records began. It has also been great from a board perspective to have recruited Youth Board Members to ensure Active Essex had a voice from all ages and all backgrounds to help secure a strong direction of travel.
The stories around our 1 in a million are a testament to the work that has been achieved across our county over the past 4 years. Take Leah Lambert, who supports the Brentwood Tea Dance and brings together people with dementia for a cup of tea and some dancing. Or Carla Andrews, now MBE, for her work within her community at Motivated Minds. Or Chris Shields who provides inclusive football for individuals who have or are experiencing substance misuse or social exclusion. We have been so grateful to have worked alongside or brokered relationships with some incredible individuals and organisations in Greater Essex who have played a pivotal role in helping us reduce inactivity within our communities.
As we reach the end of our strategy, it has been great to pause and reflect on what we have been able to achieve, together with our partners. In addition to the great work of Active Essex, the Active Essex Foundation has worked with a number of other partners such as, Essex Police and the Violence and Vulnerability board allowing us to infiltrate physical activity into many different environments, helping to make a true change to individuals lives. Furthermore, by being awarded one of Sport England’s Local Delivery Pilots in 2017, we have since been on a journey to truly understand the needs of our local communities. The learnings from our pilot so far, have been pivotal in developing the way in which we work across the whole Essex ecosystem. The asset-based community development approach has ensured we recognise what is strong rather than what is wrong in localities. This has encouraged us to work within a bottom-up framework to co-produce ideas and solutions with local citizens and new groups that we have not previously worked with.
This impact report has many stories from around the county that showcases the success of our different programmes, projects, and approaches, as well as looking back at the priorities and aims of our strategy. We needed to take a whole system approach to tackling inequality, and I believe we have continued to do this, through inspiring residents through our successful campaigns like This Girl Can Essex, Essex All Together and our 3030 Essex June challenge. As well as continuing to build relationships within health and care systems, strengthen delivery through our 14 Active Networks and work cohesively with schools across the county to deliver the Daily Mile and School Games programmes.
I hope you will enjoy reading our 4 year impact report, and although we haven’t quite met our one million mark, I hope you will agree we have strived to make progress - and progress we have made. The future for physical activity and sport in Greater Essex is bright due to the magnificent work of all the clubs, volunteers, organisations, and system leaders. We look forward to working cohesively in our upcoming new strategy and are all fully committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to be active for a healthier Greater Essex.