Women in Sport and Health (WISH)

Women in Sport and Health (WISH) provides free sports and health related activities for women experiencing isolation in Clackmannanshire. The group was supported by ACE to develop its programme and make the transition into a sustainable community enterprise.

WISH logo

Background

Based in the Alloa Leisure Bowl, WISH has operated as a social enterprise since 2010.  The group supports women (aged 16+ years) who live in the Clackmannanshire area, in particular supporting women who feel isolated, who want to get involved in the community and need support to do that.  In the main women supported are typically unemployed, homeless or potentially homeless, in receipt of income support or incapacity benefits, or have been involved in the criminal justice system – and face multiple barriers and challenges to participating more fully in community life.

WISH aims to reduce isolation, increase self-esteem and improve health and well-being by providing a wide range of activities that are non threatening, inclusive, physical, health focused, creative, challenging, fun and flexible.

WISH activity WISH is for women in Clackmannanshire who feel isolated, want to get involved and need support to do it.  (WISH website)

Each month there is a programme of activities and events for WISH members (e.g. Coffee and Chat, Aqua Aerobics, Indoor Bowling, Breakfast at Dobbies, Beauty and Health Sessions, to name a few).  There are two forms of membership – individual (£20 a year) and corporate (£150 a year).  A small charge is also in place for some activities which raises further income for WISH.  Friends of WISH - a six session training course is also provided for members to help WISH develop a buddy scheme to support women to participate in WISH.

WISH is governed by a Board of Directors and there is also a Management Group consisting of members and public agency staff.

Growth and Development

WISH began receiving support from the ACE Programme delivered by SCDC in March 2010.  ACE met regularly with the then Management Committee (now Management Group) as they established themselves as a social enterprise.  This included multiple group sessions, workshops, meetings and a networking session in Perth.

The ACE support has since come to an end, however WISH continue to engage with SCDC through the range of networking/learning events which are held (e.g. they attended an event in Glasgow for supported ACE Groups, including newly supported groups).  To draw the support to a natural conclusion, a residential event was held in March 2012, over two days, which brought the Management Group and the ACE facilitator together to identify priorities for WISH and importantly to have a discussion on how to take actions forward.

A six-month action plan was produced, including clear roles for the Management Group.  Keeping the action plan to an initial six-month period was seen as a good way for priorities to be both realistic and manageable. The ACE handbook has been updated and contains the action plan – as such, WISH continues to use materials and tools that the ACE support provided.

Achievements

Two of the main challenges facing the group at the time of joining the ACE programme were stability and profile. 

Support from ACE has helped WISH strengthen the management of the organisation. When the ACE support first started, the then Management Committee was just forming and it was seen as important to ensure good channels of communication between the Committee and the Board of Directors. The support led to a better gelling of the governance structures and, since this time, the Committee has continued to evolve and grow with individuals increasing in confidence.

A key change for WISH has been within its governance structure, resulting in a flatter structure overall – the Management Committee is now the Management Group.  The Management Group has continued on its journey and there was a sense from the Manager that members “have come a long way” since the support first started. WISH exhibition posterThe action plan has ensured that WISH remains focussed and clear on the direction it wants to move in, and the Management Group has a greater sense of awareness of the distance they have travelled over the last few years.

Profile is an area in which WISH has made good progress.  For example they have produced a DVD and leaflets and promoted activities on Facebook. A further example of where WISH has sought to raise its profile is Exhibitions in the Macrobert Centre (Stirling University).  These have centred on what inspires women with participants preparing a quote on what inspires them and photographs to go alongside this. WISH members have described the events as being a "really powerful experience".

In addition to the change in structure from Management Committee to Management Group, some other changes for WISH during the period of ACE support include:

  • Recruiting a paid admin worker for the first time
  • Some Friends of WISH volunteered in the office with admin and finance tasks – which was said to have led to real changes in the women's confidence
  • The range of activities involved in has expanded.  This includes drop-in Food Banks every Friday, Christmas dinner for those who are more isolated, Women only Workshops, etc.
  • Major strides in partnership working, including business support from the local Third Sector Interface and new links with Apex Scotland (support for ex-offenders) and Keep Well (run by NHS Health Scotland providing health checks for 40-64 year olds) and members have been able to take part in a wide range of Women only Workshops (e.g. computer sessions and information sessions on welfare benefits and personal safety)

Members who have progressed through WISH have benfitted from this in their wider lives, including two members who have since moved onto college.  While their involvement in WISH has ceased, they have developed the confidence to progress onto other things and have new outlets.

Lessons and learning

WISH feels that a benefit of involving ACE was to access someone objective that could open the eyes of the group and help them to recognise their challenges and opportunities. The support has continued to be valued by WISH – having access to someone with an external perspective and who was not too closely involved in the day to day workings of the group was viewed as a strength of the support.  Having someone who was able to “challenge the group” and encourage members to consider a wider range of new possibilities or indeed “not being afraid to try out new ideas, even if they don’t work" was also viewed as helpful.WISH creations

Furthermore, WISH reported that members considered the networking and learning events beneficial. This has encouraged the group to explore visits to similar groups elsewhere to share experiences and learn from what other groups do.

Finally, the benefits of support around raising the group's profile are evident in that they are perceived by others to be a credible partner that delivers.

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