Active Local Europe is the network of cities and municipalities, and their regional and national umbrella organizations, that work together across borders in the field of sports and physical activity, to encourage their citizens to be active and to empower a sense of belonging.
This e-platform is set up to for cities and municipalities throughout the EU to as simply and directly as possible set up ‘communities of practices’ about sports and physical activity.
The methodology of 'communities of practices'
A community of practice (CoP) is a group of people who come together to focus on a specific topic or issue. It are “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (J. Lave & E. Wenger). The key concept behind a CoP is the sharing of knowledge. Within successful CoPs the sum of the community knowledge becomes larger than the sum of individual participant knowledge. They provide the following advantages:
1. They connect people who may never come into contact otherwise.
2. They provide a shared context for people to communicate and share information.
3. They enable dialogue between people who have an interest in solving the same or similar problems.
4. They stimulate learning by serving as a vehicle for communication, mentoring, coaching, or self-reflection.
5. They capture and diffuse existing knowledge.
6. They introduce collaborative processes and encourage the free flow of ideas and information. They help people organize around purposeful actions.
7. They generate new knowledge.
Three important characteristics
Communities of Practice in the context of cities and municipalities / sport and physical activity
Municipalities face major challenges in the social domain, the physical environment (energy transition, sustainability, mobility, housing), the (preventive) health policy and the design of increasingly active forms of participation in society. In addition, they are faced with drastic demographic developments (aging, population growth or shrinking population, migration, refugees), an increasingly articulate population, the influence of social media on (political) opinion and decision-making, spending cuts and increasing accountability. All these tasks and developments continue in the local and regional sports policy, which has to adapt to this. At the same time, sport and physical activity offer opportunities to respond to these challenges and developments.
In large parts of Europe, municipalities have to deal with an aging population, coupled with ever smaller households, isolation and rising costs in the health and care policy. (Customized forms of) sports and physical activity, whether or not supported or organized by professionals or volunteers, keep (older) people healthy and in contact with others.
More and more municipalities develop environmental visions, in which they can indicate how the design of the living environment contributes to health promotion. Herein lies an opportunity to succeed in a more mobility-friendly environment, which stimulates people to more active forms of movement, playing and sporting forms of recreation in public space. Especially in the larger cities, where the pressure on available space is increasing, the call to show what the added value of sport and exercise in the public space is, will increase.
More generally, sport has to do with increasing accountability. That is understandable. As sport is more often used as a means to achieve social or economic objectives, the demand for effectiveness and efficiency will be asked more often. This also applies not only to the use of sport as a means to achieve municipal objectives, but also to policy aimed at sport as an goal in itself.
On the basis of this, the local sports policy strives for a local sports climate and offer, where sports and sporting exercise are accessible to everyone and where everyone has experience with the fun and positive energy generated by sportive exercise and sport. The effectiveness of this policy is reflected in a sustained high and frequent participation in sports by the local population.
Social and economic policy
High and frequent participation in sport is also an indispensable condition for and means of achieving sport-related objectives in the municipal social and / or economic policy. In that case, other departments than the municipal sports department use sport as a policy instrument. The effectiveness of this is evident from the extent to which these departments succeed in achieving their policy objectives with this use of sport, for example in the area of preventive health policy, quality of life or strengthening the business climate.
Sustainable and secured in local and regional organizations throughout Europe
Municipalities and regions do not need just more projects. At the local and regional level, it concerns continuity, the use of data, the application of what works already elsewhere, the monitoring thereof and the exchange of knowledge with each other. Therefor the EU should make it possible to create thematic networks of municipalities and regions throughout Europe on the basis of:
• the most important social issues in Europe (as mentioned in the working document already)
• the realization, exploitation and sustainable maintenance of sports facilities and
• the development of mobility-friendly environment that can bring sport and physical activities closer to the people
CoP can help to solve complex (social) issues. Complex issues go beyond the boundaries of municipalities, regions and even countries and affect many parties. By helping these parties to learn and develop together, we know that on the one hand suitable solutions will be found and on the other hand that the insights will be put into practice. Sustainable and secured in local and regional organizations throughout Europe.
Participants learn with and from each other relate to changing practical situations. Participants provide content themselves individual and common goals and ensure that they get something out of it. Consuming is not there! The interaction, dialogue and meaning are indicated centrally in a CoP practical experience. It guarantees the maximum use of the knowledge and experiences of the participants of cities and regions throughout Europe.
In a CoP it is a mix of own experiences, collective knowledge, professional knowledge (scientific, evidence and practice based, data and monitoring) inspiring knowledge and (best) examples from elsewhere. Standing still and reflecting on what happens in practice, combined with the experiences and knowledge of other CoP municipalities and regions offers something new and secure insights. By practicing with the new practices and sharing them unusual solutions and new skills will emerge.
The ultimate goal of Active Local Europe is to create opportunities for cities and municipalities in the EU to give their citizens a feeling of belonging, in an open society, and to be healthy and happy.