Written by Alex Bunce, Active Sussex
Seven South East Active Partnerships explain the benefits of joining forces and working together on Project 500 which has been running for the last 10 years.
The aim behind the project was to encourage more women to train as coaches and raise the profile and develop the skills of existing female coaches. The project has been a huge success and resulted in a larger, more diverse and supported female workforce.
The Active Partnerships included Energise Me, Active Sussex, Active Surrey, Leap (Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes), Active Kent & Medway, Active Oxfordshire, and Get Berkshire Active.
Summary of key benefits of collaboration
- Secured and unlocked investment to support elements of the Project 500 work including sharing the cost of hiring a social media expert. This ensured female coaches signposted to the most up-to-date information and guidance
- Ideas developed together and supported a test and learn approach
- Strong and trusted relationships formed with colleagues across the region, enabled people to share challenges and barriers and feel supported to overcome them.
- Collective strength raised profile of female coaching and leadership
- Built a strong reputation for the region with national partners
- Increased diversity of the workforce
Sophie Burton, Head of Insight, Evaluation and Workforce at Energise Me, in Hampshire, said working across the Active Partnerships had been ‘hugely beneficial’.
“Working collaboratively across the South East, has enabled us to secure and unlock investment to support elements of the P500 work.
“We have worked together to invest in additional marketing and communications expertise and invest in P500 Champions.
“We have met regularly to discuss programme aims, objectives and developments, always testing if approaches are meeting the intentions of the work.
“We have developed ideas together and ensured we have taken a test and learn approach.
“We have all trialled different things in our areas and benefitted from this diversity of approach.”
As part of Project 500, Energise Me has created a Coach, Officials and Volunteer Bursary, primarily supporting qualifications at Level 2 and above.
“With the development of Project 500, and in consultation with a prospective female workforce, we amended the criteria for the bursary,” Sophie explained.
“This has enabled us to financially support females with entry level qualifications and start them on their journey.”
Laura White, Workforce lead at Active Surrey, said the project had helped form ‘strong and trusted relationships’ with the other workforce leads within the South East.
She added: “We have limited opportunity to work together on programmes and projects. Project 500 has brought us together to not only share resources, but also skills, knowledge and learning.
“The collective strength of the P500 network, all working towards the same aims and outcomes, but in our own targeted ways has allowed us to raise the profile of female coaches and deliverers across the South East and champion the impact of joint working.”
Following the project, Active Surrey has championed the need for more ethnically diverse female role models and explored the current barriers and challenges preventing ethnically diverse women to become coaches.
Laura said: “This work has helped create a new cohort of ethnically diverse female deliverers and also allowed us to start to address some of the barriers to make coaching a more attainable opportunity for women from all communities.”
Izzy Heath, Physical Activity Development Officer from Get Berkshire Active, said the collaboration had allowed them to further understand and appreciate the impact Project 500 had had across the South East.
She said: “It’s allowed us to be able to share challenges and barriers that we may have had with the programme and be able to feel supported to overcome those. It is also nice to share thoughts/ ideas with people who are working on something similar, see what they are offering and if that could be something you could do in your county.”
During the last ten years, Get Berkshire Active has built up a community of 55 female coaches, upskilling them and developing them through coaching bursaries.
They have also shared their coaching stories across their social media channels to promote and inspire more females to come into coaching/volunteer roles.
Louisa Arnold, Workforce and Coaching Manager at Active Kent & Medway described the collaboration as ‘one of the biggest highlights of my role’.
“Project 500 is the piece of work I’m most proud of and a huge part of that has been because of the collaborative efforts across the region, we really are the super southeast in my opinion.”
An economic advantage of working together has been the ability to share the cost of hiring a social media expert who was able to take the project and sustain it for six years.
Louisa explained: “The ongoing social media support has provided additional capacity and enabled us to signpost female coaches to the most up-to-date information and guidance, something that would have been difficult for us to achieve with multiple priorities across the Active Partnership.”
And she added: “As a result of this regional connection, that we have worked hard to maintain, even with changes in personnel we have built a strong reputation for the region and are regularly asked to contribute to national partners as they develop new workforce projects and resources.”
In Kent, highlights have included a female only Level 1 Cycling Course, bursaries to support run leaders to progress from LiRF to CiRF (Leadership to Coaching in running fitness), and a First Steps into Football coaching course for Muslim women at a local gurdwara.
If you would like to know more about Project 500 please join us for a webinar in March.
'Learning from today, shaping tomorrow – 10 years of women in coaching’ will take place on Thursday, March 23 from 10-11.30am.
Aimed at local, regional, and national partners, the webinar will share learnings from Project 500, with a view to influencing the future development of the female workforce.