Queen and Bowie, Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C, Ben and Jerry’s. When collaboration works, great things can happen. Collaboration and partnership have been a major theme of the first quarter at ukactive. The most memorable reference was during Tanni Grey-Thompson’s address to the Local Government Authority (LGA) Conference in February, where the ukactive chair called for a “new alliance” between the physical activity sector and local authorities. The message was powerful and loaded with evidence. She cited the social value of community leisure (£3.3bn a year) and the concept of bringing together a raft of community services – from GPs, police and social care – alongside gyms and leisure centres, all under one roof to form wellness hubs. She argued for the strengthening of partnerships with local bodies to tap into the huge potential of the sector.
Just weeks earlier, in a very different forum, we witnessed another great example of the power of our network. The boutique fitness event Sweat 2018 returned following its debut last year, with an agenda specifically focused on drawing on the breadth of our networks to forge new partnerships. This industry prides itself on staying ahead of the curve, attracting the brightest minds to identify consumer trends and solutions. From Emma Barry’s exploration of entertainment versus fitness, to the seminar on boutique locations and another on the data opportunities for 2018, the event represented a melting pot of ideas. It became a microcosm of the industry, an opportunity to forge partnerships spanning the worlds of tech, finance, construction and fitness.
The list goes on. Tech start-up accelerator ActiveLab, the ukactive Kids consultation – ukactive itself demonstrates a plethora of projects which seek to expand existing partnerships and foster fresh collaborations. So, what makes a successful partnership? Obvious answers might include a balance of time and commitment from both sides, a strong understanding of each other’s strengths – and weaknesses – and the perseverance to overcome obstacles and reach our goals.
Less obvious, and perhaps trickier, is not only understanding expectations but reviewing these regularly. As successful partnerships grow and develop, new opportunities emerge, expectations change and the measures of success may shift. This presents a series of questions for the sector. To take the local authority example from the LGA Conference, is it time to rethink the relationship between local services and physical activity? As the purse strings tighten, what does a sustainable partnership look like in 2018… in 2030?
Under pressure? Those who have the foresight to adapt and the honesty to review hold the key. Those who collaborate will find the answers sooner.