How to reach your community – top tips from BeLifted
To mark International Women’s Day we celebrate all the amazing women who work so hard to keep the nation moving and who also support their participants and each other in so many ways.
Jenny, founder of BeLifted, has sent us this guest blog and it seems fitting that we publish it around International Women’s Day. BeLifted is a community-led organisation with a vision to uplift women and young girls through the power of positive music, fitness and community-led interaction projects.
Do read Jenny’s story, which also includes some great tips on engaging with your community.
How to reach the needs of your community
Starting and doing Belifted has been a labour of love. Its origins began in 2017, as a limited company. I offered sessions to people for £10 per class. It was going okay, but then the 2020 pandemic hit and all indoor activities were cut. At this stage, I pivoted to online workshops and offered free classes on Instagram live, from March through to September. My attendees loved them, and came back every week, but after a while I missed the face to face interaction and with the stresses of Covid I felt very alone. I stopped the online classes after September and decided to take a break. At this stage my concern was what would happen to BeLifted, should I even continue on this journey?
In February 2021, I began talking to a close friend about BeLifted, they told me it would be wise to convert BeLifted to a CIC (Community Interest Company) and, as I was already offering online services for free, why not continue and offer it to the wider community? In March I started the process of becoming a non profit organisation which was a steep learning curve but one I was ready to take.
I looked at what my community needed. The pandemic meant that so many people, particularly women, had lost their jobs. It also meant that gyms were shut and many couldn’t work out. Even before the pandemic there was a large proportion of the community who couldn’t afford to workout and pay gym memberships. I decided to focus on women and young girls, this cohort needed the support and I knew I could make a real difference.
My first project as a non profit was working with the women employees at the domestic violence charity. I trained the staff once a week and it was great fun.
I then started doing some work in Camden and began partnering with local community groups in Barnet. I found that the best way to reach the community was to ask local groups what they wanted and if fitness and other services would be of interest.
Since October 2021, I’ve been doing five workshops across Barnet and Camden and it’s been great fun. I reached out to EMD UK in November, I had heard of them before I became a CIC and just wondered – on the off chance- if they could offer any help or support. I told them my focus areas were women and young girls, with a particular leaning towards ethnic minorities and victim survivors of domestic violence. EMD UK were amazing, they were able to use Tackling Inequalities Funding for my work and helped me to grow my offering.
I was able to purchase vital pieces of fitness equipment, pay for space hire and do amazing work in the community. It’s had such an impact that I am looking to continue the project and seeking more funding to do so. I love community work and can’t wait to see what happens next.
As a fitness instructor you have a gift – the gift to teach others about health and fitness. The communities need this but that’s not all they need so you have to find out the issues in your community and how you can help solve them. Are obesity rates rising, what about eating disorders and other nutritional problems? Older people can suffer from high blood pressure or heart attacks – how are we serving these people who need the most help and advice?
Here are my top tips for reaching your community:
- What is it that your community needs?
- What are the issues and problems that need addressing that you think fitness can help to address?
- Don’t copy other people – forge your own path, the community needs a lot of help and there are many needs that need addressing.
- Do the work – you have to research and speak to people in your community. You have to do the work.
- Don’t be afraid to fail Don’t think that things will land on your lap – community work is not easy and you have to gain the trust of others.
- Be prepared to work late nights and early mornings.
- Be prepared to be on hand for the community when they need you.
- Check your heart – do you really want to help, if you do then put your all in to it.
- Love it – it can be great fun at times and I’ve learnt so much about myself
- It’s not about you – the work we do in the community should always focus on the community. So that’s why you need to find out what they need.
- Watch the news and read local newspapers – for example, recently my mum saw a piece on BBC London about swimming and how young people are not swimming as much – is there a need there that needs addressing?
You can find more information about BeLifted’s project and many other projects funded by Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund in our news feed on the website.