"We all know exercise and walking makes us feel better, this project is all about proving it."
The Green Exercise Project is a joint project involving The Conservation Volunteers, Mind and Walk Unlimited. It's a pilot project aimed at demonstrating the value of exercise and walking for mental health. It's aimed at people who are at increased risk of developing mental health problems, and encourages them to join a conservation task, come on a led walk, and walk more using new maps.
The project is funded through a Dept of Health innovation grant, and is being run in three locations. The challenge for the project team is how to bring together three very different organisations, in geographically dispersed locations (Norwich, Doncaster and Hastings). Fortunately all three organisations are totally committed to making it happen, and to being able to demonstrate its success.
We are leading on encouraging led walks and independent walking, and tying this into the conservation activity.
The project website was developed by Walk Unlimited. It was designed to be a low cost way to provide the public with information about the project, and how they can get involved.
5 new walking maps are being created by Walk Unlimited for each of the project areas. The maps highlight places to walk close to where the project's target audience live.
At the bid stage we thought the project would not need its own identity, and that it would exist under the three lead organisations' brands. The Walk Unlimited team took a look from the potential user's perspective and realised that this would not work. So we scraped together a tiny amount of money and used it to create a simple brand for the project, and a website.
The website, which can be easily updated, provides a consistent style and approach, despite very different levels and types of activity in each area. It presents potential users all the infomation they need to help them choose whether to engage with the project, in a fresh, bright and friendly way. It provides easy links to all relevant information on the partner's websites, and is closely linked the walk4life site.
The maps highlight places to walk close to where the project's target audience live, and also to showcase locations where TCV have carried out conservation work, or where Mind have activities. Each is individually created on a bespoke map base. They're all available as downloads from the project website, as well as in hard copy in the project areas. Ambassadors are encouraged to help with distributing the leaflets as widely as possible in their areas. You can see examples of the maps here
The training is designed to inspire the Ambassadors by teaching them how beneficial the project is, and giving them the knowledge and support they need to reach out in the community and encourage people to give the project a try.
Training sessions cover a wide range of topics, and use a variety of techniques to ensure the volunteers have a chance to learn from each other, and to express their own views.
To encourage independent walkers to keep active, and to record their walking activity they are being encouraged to sign up their local Green Exercise Walking Group on the walk4life website. Here they can keep track of how far they walk, create their own walks, and share their experiences with fellow walkers.
Volunteer Ambassadors are being encouraged to manage the groups, and to make usre all members feel included and welcome.
We are responsible for training the volunteer Ambassadors who are key to the success of the project.
We have created 3 walking groups on the Walk4Life website that can be used as a communication hub for the walking groups.