“The great thing is we’re not asking partners to do any more “?- How Wigan SHAPE partnership is making their network’s data work harder

The DataHub’s partnership with Sport, Health, Activity and Physical Education (SHAPE) in Wigan, which began in January 2019, is unique in many ways.

SHAPE is a strategic partnership network which was established in 2006 to coordinate and promote sport and physical activity in the local community. Jeff Gorse, Performance Management Officer at Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles (IHL), one of the founding partners, says: “Lots of local groups were all trying to deliver physical activity to the hardest to reach groups and we recognised the power of working collaboratively. It made sense to share best practice, knowledge and resources, so we weren’t all targeting the same groups and could partner on funding applications, identify gaps in provision and determine how to best serve our communities. Working collaboratively rather than competitively has proved to be highly successful.”

Partners include Wigan Council (health, education, places), IHL, GreaterSport (the Active Partnership for Greater Manchester), the community foundation arms of professional sports clubs such as Wigan Athletic FC, Wigan Warriors and Leigh Centurions, third sector and voluntary groups such as the Groundwork Trust, Leigh Sports Village Stadium, Wigan and Leigh College and Wigan Youth Zone. The chair is one of Wigan’s local councillors.

In April 2019, SHAPE embarked on a 12-month agreement with the DataHub, in order to understand more effectively how its engaging with inactive populations. Gorse continues: “We’ve always found it a challenge to evidence the impact our partnership is really having. While we can get a steer from the Active Lives Survey (national data that picks out activity trends every six months) we’ve always wanted to be able to show exactly what we are delivering as a partnership. The Datahub allows us to do that. As well as keeping SHAPE relevant, sharing our data will allow us demonstrate the true impact we are having.”

SHAPE will be using DataHub’s GeoImpacts and Social Value Calculator (SVC) modules to identify where projects are happening, which times and days of the week attract the highest participation, and then overlay this with inactivity data, which demographic groups are under-represented and which activities can be deployed to better engage with these groups. The SVC module will also allow SHAPE to establish what the social return on investment is for different programmes and partnerships.

Matt Johnson, Deputy CEO at GreaterSport, says: “Working with the DataHub allows us to coordinate everyone’s data in one place. All data is more valuable once it’s pooled. At the moment everything is in silos – one organisation may collect data but only they get to see it. The great thing is we’re not asking partners to do any more, just using what’s already being collected.

“For me, the overall ambition is to get a really good picture of activity in Wigan and begin to understand what works and why. There are large inequalities across our region and large footprints that are inactive. The intriguing thing is we’ll be able to explore different behaviours in those inequalities, understand trends, see what demographic are active, and what they’re doing, then benchmark that data so we can start to see a live picture and then track it.”

By establishing exactly what activities are taking place across Wigan, where participants are coming from and then layering that with open data sets like risk of inactivity, SHAPE can contextualise its primary data. “What interested us most about the DataHub is it gives us the opportunity to understand behaviours and movement on a live basis, not every six months. Currently, if an area’s activity levels increase year on year we don’t know why. Now we can understand those reasons in real time, making us smarter and more responsive,” says Johnson.

Gorse agrees: “At the click of a button I can establish the level of participation across the SHAPE partners, how many people have been active and collectively what impact this has had on sport and physical activity in the region. Linked to that I can find out the savings and social value generated and demonstrate straight away the power of what we are delivering as a partnership. It’s a question we often get asked – what are we achieving and why are we doing this, especially given the picture painted by national trends. To be the first multi-partner borough to be looking at our data live through the DataHub is really exciting.”

SHAPE is currently working with delivery partners to cleanse data and make sure it’s rich and high quality, while also recruiting more partners to share data with the DataHub, so it gets the clearest picture. “As time goes on, we’ll work to interpret what our data is telling us, what it means and how we can embed that insight into what we’re doing to see tangible results,” says Johnson.