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Case Study: Physical Activity Advisory Group

We co-designed and co-delivered the Get Set to Go programme with people with lived experience of mental health problems. We created a Physical Activity Advisory Group (PAAG) to influence the programme and to shape Mind’s wider sport and physical activity work.

How we set up the group

The group was made up of 12 people with a wide range of personal and professional mental health experiences.

We made sure the group had a wide range of physical activity experience, from those who aren't very active and have faced multiple barriers to becoming active, to those who compete at an elite level.

Our group usually meets 3 times a year in person. We started to hold virtual meetings during the pandemic.


Why we involved people in this way

We wanted to help leisure centres, sports clubs, gyms, and other sport and physical activity providers to create a more welcoming environment for people with mental health problems.

In keeping with Mind’s values, we wanted to make sure that this work is influenced by people with lived experience. This means we can deliver appropriate and effective services, that meet their needs.

We decided to create an advisory group, as it makes us more responsive. We're able to quickly shape and adapt activities and resources so they're relevant for people with mental health problems, including those who are shielded and isolated.

How involving people with lived experience benefitted our work

The PAAG makes sure that our work is rooted in the real-life experiences of people engaging, or trying to engage, in physical activity at a grassroots level.

The advisory group has given us feedback on a new strategy we're developing. Members also look over initiatives that our partners in the sport and physical activity sector may be planning. This makes them more inclusive and effective in supporting people with mental health problems to be active.

They help us to understand how we can improve their experience as members of the advisory group. They also help choose the types of influence and participation opportunities that meet their interests.

Read PAAG member Ellie's blog post for the Activity Alliance.

What we learned

It can be tempting to arrange meetings with lots of content, as we only meet 3 times a year. We learned this can be quite overwhelming and tiring. So we adopted a ‘less is more’ approach, relying less on Microsoft PowerPoint and focusing more on interactivity.

We also learned that some people may not feel confident to share their opinions in a larger group. So we send key questions at least a week in advance, so members have time to prepare.

When meeting in person, we agreed that all meetings will take place at a venue which is a short walk from Euston station. This is because some members found travelling across London quite difficult and stressful.

Our group told us they were more comfortable meeting in a more central London location, than moving the meeting around the country.

When meeting online, our group prefers to have 1.5 hours sessions, instead of our usual half a day meeting. We email updates in advance to save time at the start of the meeting.

How the activity benefited those involved

Members can get involved in a wide range of opportunities, like hosting webinars and reviewing resources, and they're able to work outside our meetings. We offer everyone payment for taking part.

The advisory group is an opportunity for group members to:

  • Develop their experience in the sport and physical activity sector
  • Take part in projects they wouldn't normally be involved with

One member is a mental health champion at their local running club. Thanks to our partnership with England Athletics, she's been able to explore further resources for her club.

Another member has taken part in a volunteering day at their local football club as part of Mind’s On Your Side partnership with the EFL.

"It was good to start to learn more about people’s experiences and also what they have been up to in the 4 months since we last met! I’m a lot more involved with stuff at a local level now so there is a lot of stuff I’m taking back home from that meeting for sure!"

Support we offered

When meeting in person, we organise members’ travel arrangements for them. We always make sure there's a quiet area so people can take some time out if needed. Most of the physical activity team are Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) trained.

When meeting online, we give everyone very clear guidance about the platform we’ll be working with. For example, we'll offer instructions on how to log in and what different buttons mean.

We decide our online ground rules together. For example, if you want to speak, use the “raise hand” function and put yourself on mute when not speaking.

Someone's always available to help with technical problems while the facilitator runs the meeting, and we give contact details for Mind’s IT team before the session.

Most importantly, we strive to create a relationship of mutual support and peer learning. Everyone’s opinion is equal. We're just as interested in supporting members to develop their skills and meet their aspirations, as we are in gaining their insight, experience and knowledge.

Top Tips

  • Organise an orientation day. This is about bringing the group together to meet each other and learn everyone’s motivations for joining. Agree ways of working and communicating so everyone's aware of each member’s preferences.
  • Offer the opportunity for people to complete a Wellbeing Action Plan. This will help your team be aware of how you can support each member.
  • If you're comfortable sharing your own lived experience, then go for it. It can help to break down barriers and increase empathy and trust between everyone in the room. Just be mindful to avoid any language which may be triggering.
  • Keep it fun! Members may be travelling some distance for the meeting, so you want them to have an enjoyable experience. There's nothing wrong with including a LOL Cat picture or 2.
  • Treat other people as you wish to be treated!
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