Developing a Successful Community Innovation Project

Issues facing Physical Activity for Social Change Programs

Studies have established that daily physical activities are important for the current and future health of children and adolescents. Among children in the UK, physical activities have been found to be notably low with obesity levels reaching record highs (Hughes, 2018). Childhood obesity is associated with various negative outcomes like low academic attainments, increased cardiovascular risk factors, reduced school attendance and lower psychosocial health. Significant attention has recently been given to the area of sport or physical activity for development and social change. Various sports and physical activity projects aim to contribute to positive outcomes in areas like education, social inclusion, healthy lifestyles and economic development. The number of sport or physical activity related initiatives has grown substantially with the popularity stemming from the ability of sport to hook or capture individuals after which the momentum in and around sport is used as a strategic vehicle in driving non-sport goals.

However, one issue that has been highlighted in such programs is they are not tailored or implemented for the grassroots level where they can really matter and make a difference. Prevailing views among policy makers, researchers, education and health practitioners have for many years been based on subjective physical measurement activities that concluded that physical activity levels are adequate in childhood and only decline in adolescence (Dorling, 2018). As a result, many international and national physical activity programs have focused on adolescents based on explicit or explicit assumptions that have little to no evidence. Farooq et al (2018) points out that evidence shows that physical activity declines occur earlier by ages 6 and 7 years for both sexes in the UK. The authors conclude that health policies and future initiatives should focus on promoting physical activity and preventing inactivity much earlier in childhood and not adolescence.

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There is therefore a need for young people who have not reached adolescence to be the targets of physical activity initiatives and this is achievable through school based interventions that help to increase physical activity. The school setting is where pupils spend most of their time and it is sensible to utilize such time in benefiting their health and well-being. Studies have pointed to strong evidence of significant positive relationships between physical activity and academic performance (de Greef et al. 2018). Such findings provide a strong basis for the creation of initiatives that combine movement based and physical active lessons within the curriculum to benefit students in various ways. However, another issue that such initiatives face is the sedentary learning culture of many primary schools. Lesson times in the UK are highly sedentary across all ages with analysis of the Sport, Physical activity and Eating behaviour: Environmental Determinants in Young people (SPEEDY) longitudinal study showing exceedingly low physical activities in all lessons even PE (Brooke et al. 2016). Physical activity for social change programs therefore need to obtain buy-in from school settings in order to effectively deal with inactivity cultures and enable physically active lessons that incorporate academic subject matters.

Developing CIP and representing community and stakeholder needs

Core principles for ensuring successful community initiatives include community engagement, leadership, collaboration, evaluation and adaptability. An important element in developing community initiatives begins with the definition of the unmet needs of the community (Mathie and Cunningham, 2003). Community stakeholders like residents need to be engaged in defining those needs and the development of solutions. The importance of community engagement is based on the belief that the public have the right to participate and articulate what their needs are. It is generally believed that through working together and our collective intelligence, we can identify problems more accurately and develop solutions that are more pragmatic and effective. When stakeholders in the community are engaged in the process of planning or redevelopment in the early stages of a project, the likelihoods of community buy-in are increased.

Deliberative polling is one approach that can be applied in community engagement. It was developed as a way of utilizing public opinion research in new, constructive ways. It is often applied in engagement initiatives that require the participation of ordinary citizens or residents in discussing important issues (Macnamara, 2018). It is appropriate for issues where the public may have limited knowledge such as the adverse effects of school sedentary cultures to physical activity among school going children. The approach utilizes questionnaire administration on specific issues of concern to random representative community samples. It is then followed by inviting respondents to participate in discussions of the issues in meetings. Balanced briefing materials about the topic are given to participants before the meeting and at the meeting they are assigned to groups where question scan be posed to policy makers and experts. A final questionnaire is then use in finalizing to capture the opinions considered by the participants after which they are analysed.

Program theory

Program theories explain how innovation projects or programs are understood to contribute to the chain of results producing various impacts. Such impacts can be positive or negative and it can also show how other factors contribute in the production of impacts such as the environment or context. Program theories are often developed at the planning stage of the innovation or intervention but it can also be developed during implementation or after project completion (Funnel and Rogers, 2011). Development is usually undertaken by designers of the program and to ensure success it incorporates collaboration with the community stakeholders. The program theory provides conceptual frameworks for evaluation and monitoring and is useful in bringing together evidence that exists about the program and making clarifications where there is disagreement or gaps in evidence.

In the context of physical activity levels among children in UK schools, sedentary behaviour patterns are influenced by various factors as the individual operates within systems of expectations and restrictions that are beyond their consciousness and control. Demographic variables like genetics are intertwined with psychological variables like self-efficacy and physical activity barriers and in turn these are interwoven with cultural and social variables like school, policy and parental support for physical activity. Socioecological theories are therefore appropriate for this context as they can show the full range of correlates that provide an in-depth explanation of the complex relationships influencing childhood physical activity levels (Salis et al. 2015). Such an appreciation is beneficial in development of innovations and interventions as they enable the initiative designers to perceive and address the specific relational pathways across these environments.

Monitoring and evaluation

Evaluation and monitoring is a critical aspect in the management of projects and programs. It is a key funding prerequisite specifically advocated for by donor organizations, monitoring and evaluation involves systematically collecting and analysing information with the aim of tracking progress of the innovation implementation against set objectives and targets (Singh et al. 2017). In social impact innovations, this involves using social research methods in systematically investigating effectiveness of social innovation programs. One important function of monitoring is at the beginning of the design of the program since plans for evaluation and monitoring are laid out at program conceptualization in order to clarify the objectives of the project. Objectives are translated to performance indicators through monitoring and targets are set. Monitoring is also an inherent part of the lifecycle of the project as visits are conducted during implementation and redesign phases while evaluations are done at the end phase. It helps in tracking the operational work of the project in order to determine whether it is headed in the right direction and things are going according to plan to achieve the intended results (Hobson et al. 2013). It is also crucial for determination of progress as it involves checking whether targets are being met by comparing actual results to the set targets. Differences between initial states, current states and desired states determine whether there is progress or not.

Sustainability

Sustainability has been defined as a form of progress which involves meeting the present needs without any compromise to the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Kohler et al., 2012). Such broad definitions emphasize on future orientation aspects as the basic element in sustainability. Generic definitions have focused on sustainability as adopting to activities and strategies that meet the needs of stakeholders today while protecting and enhancing resources that may be needed in future. Project sustainability can be achieved and maintained through adaptability, auditability, implement ability, scalability and manageability. Adaptability involves having the capacity to change in order to fit in the changes that are happening and to cope with unexpected disturbances in the environment. The innovation has to adapt itself efficiently fast enough to the changing circumstances. Auditability involves being able to ascertain the reliability and validity of the information so as to provide a means of internal control. Due to increasing regulations especially in the education sector, audits are needed to ensure standards and regulations are complied with to give the innovation credibility. Sustainability also ensures that the project remains feasible, realistic, attainable and implementable for it to remain relevant in the now and the long run. The project also needs to be scalable and this involves abilities of accommodating additional capacities or expanding its scope of operations. It can also involve modification of existing functions or addition of new functions to deal with emerging changes.

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References

Brooke, H. L., Atkin, A. J., Corder, K., Ekelund, U., & van Sluijs, E. M. (2016). Changes in time-segment specific physical activity between ages 10 and 14 years: A longitudinal observational study. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 19(1), 29-34.

de Greeff, J. W., Bosker, R. J., Oosterlaan, J., Visscher, C., & Hartman, E. (2018). Effects of physical activity on executive functions, attention and academic performance in preadolescent children: a meta-analysis. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 21(5), 501-507.

Dorling, H. (2018). How ‘active’is physical activity for children?.

Farooq, M. A., Parkinson, K. N., Adamson, A. J., Pearce, M. S., Reilly, J. K., Hughes, A. R., ... & Reilly, J. J. (2018). Timing of the decline in physical activity in childhood and adolescence: Gateshead Millennium Cohort Study. Br J Sports Med, 52(15), 1002-1006.

Funnell, S. C., & Rogers, P. J. (2011). Purposeful program theory: Effective use of theories of change and logic models (Vol. 31). John Wiley & Sons.

Hobson, K., Mayne, R., & Hamilton, J. (2013). A step by step guide to monitoring and evaluation.

Hughes, A. (2018). Definition, prevalence and historical perspectives of obesity in children. Advanced Nutrition and Dietetics in Obesity, 11.

Köhler, A., van den Brink, J., & Silvius, G. G. (2012). The impact of sustainability on project management. The Project as a Social System: Asia-Pacific Perspectives on Project Management, 183-200.

Macnamara, J. (2018). The Missing Half of Communication and Engagement. The Handbook of Communication Engagement, 115.

Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based community development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in practice, 13(5), 474-486.

Sallis, J. F., Owen, N., & Fisher, E. (2015). Ecological models of health behavior. Health behavior: Theory, research, and practice, 5, 43-64.

Singh, K., Chandurkar, D., & Dutt, V. (2017). A Practitioners’ Manual on Monitoring and Evaluation of Development Projects. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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