Mapping of the Physical Activity System

Cavill Associates have been commissioned to support Doncaster to take a 'systems approach' to promoting physical activity across the Borough. They have started to facilitate work that explores the nature of systems thinking and what this means for Doncaster. This process and will take the first steps towards producing a map of the local physical activity system, to help future planning.

Starting with an understanding of the 'local system' has been one of our first steps to take a whole systems approach to tackling inactivity in Doncaster. We feel this has been essential in piecing together and making sense of what elements should be our focus.

Bringing together stakeholders involved in tackling our inactivity problem has helped them to identify their part in a system and to appreciate better the roles of others. The process of generating a system map and the insights we have found is almost as beneficial as producing the map itself. It has been a way to engage our key partners to understand the complexity of the challenge, identify the opportunities and focus in by simplifying elements of the system and consider areas of collaboration.

This has been achieved with 3 facilitated sessions by Nick Cavill in collaboration with Professor Harry Rutter, using system science that was used on the systems mapping approach that Nick and Harry have developed from the WHO Global Action Plan for Physical Activity.

This is a continuing approach, and we are starting to use our map to communicate the multiple factors and cross-sectoral nature of the influences on physical activity and that this needs to be achieved across a variety of policy areas – not solely the responsibility of leisure or health.

We are currently considering what areas will provide changes to the dynamics of the local system where there could be the opportunity to push for important scaled but sustainable change. The emerging themes that show strong connections and therefore potential areas for further exploration are:-

  • Communications to change social norms
  • Improving road safety
  • Focus on active travel
  • Use of and promotion green space
  • Building on existing community assets especially local people with knowledge/ explorers knowledge
  • Long -term: being more radical and taking a whole system approach term