From Mikey Erhardt, Get Yourself Active Communications Officer

There is no blueprint for Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs).

At Get Yourself Active, we have worked closely with grassroots organisations of
all shapes and sizes, including DPOs, all of which support their local

We know that without these organisations, Disabled people would
struggle even more to access the sport and physical activity they want
and have a right to enjoy. Furthermore, research suggests that Disabled
people and people with long-term health conditions are among the least
active in society.

Grassroots organisations and DPOs provide much more than generic
physical activity; they offer culturally appropriate and sensitive services
that Disabled people actively lead. However, we know that often, small
organisations vie with larger organisations, some of which are not User
Led, for local authority contracts to deliver activity.

We think it is a missed opportunity that smaller organisations are often
overlooked regarding project delivery, even when they are perfectly
suited to do so. This process leads organisations to rely on schemes
like the Together Fund to be able to offer physical activity to their clients
at all.

Grassroots support for physical and mental health

At Get Yourself Active, we have considerable experience supporting
DPOs and the grassroots physical activity sector. To date, we have
awarded 97 grants from the Together Fund.

These exciting activities have directly and indirectly supported over
3,500 Disabled people through fitness and yoga, dance and
performance-based activities, peer mentoring and buddying support, and

We have seen the impact that activities and programmes created and
run in partnership with Disabled people can have. Their influence isn’t
just measured in their physical effect on participants’ bodies, but also
mentally, on how involvement can improve people’s lives and wellbeing.

Many people that have participated in Together Fund projects have told
us about improvements in their physical wellbeing (e.g. strength,mobility, fitness).

When it came time for us to evaluate the grassroots projects we support, it became clear that participating in activities has had a range of mental wellbeing and social benefits, such as lowered feelings of isolation and improved confidence and mood.

We have found that many small organisations were confident in taking
the lead from the people they support. We have seen digital delivery
mechanisms (such as Zoom, Teams and other digital platforms) opening
physical activity to new audiences, with grassroots organisations
working with those who participate to ensure they are always active in
ways that work for them.

A new solution in Co-production

Working with grassroots organisations also allows us to gain further
insight into some of the barriers that Disabled people face within their
local communities and the difficulties that smaller organisations can
experience, which can differ from those within larger organisations.

These groups overcome many of these barriers through innovative
models like co-production. Although commonly seen as just simply
engaging with the community, co-production is, in fact, much more.

Co-production is a specific working model where everybody works
together on an equal basis to create a service or come to a decision that
works for them all. At its centre is an organisational shift in power
dynamics to create an equal relationship between the people who use
services and those who provide them.

Co-production supports people to use their own experiences and
capacity to influence, blurring the boundaries between ‘professionals’
and ‘people who use services’ so that power is shared more equally.

It makes sense that when services are genuinely co-produced, they
generally work better because they make the most of the shared
expertise of the professionals who work there and the people who have
experience using them. Working in partnership can only be positive!

You can watch our co-production webinars to help you start your co-
production journey. Each one is only 15-20 minutes long, and they cover
various topics led by different presenters to help you begin to make a
positive change today!