activeNewham is the first leisure trust to publish open data as part of the OpenActive initiative. Aiming to increase participation in a borough facing traditionally lower physical activity levels, activeNewham, together with imin, London Sport and London Legacy Development Corporation explain how drawing on expertise and leadership between them made publishing physical activity opportunity data possible.
Addressing physical inactivity in Newham
Physical activity levels in Newham is among the highest of the London boroughs, with over 34% of the community living inactive lifestyles.
activeNewham is the leisure trust responsible for the Borough of Newham’s public leisure activities and facilities. Part of its participation strategy is to increase physical activity and find ways to better “engage with the community to help everyone get active” — Vanessa Estima, Business Development Executive, activeNewham.
In January 2013 the leisure trust made initial progress by presenting physical activity information from all activeNewham locations on the activeNehwam.org.uk website so visitors could search for sessions available to them. However, activeNewham identified that when people searched for activities, some were looking for general ideas to get active in their local area rather than a specific physical activity at a given location.
Convening external expertise to publish open data
Through collaboration with OpenActive community members, imin, London Sport, London Legacy Corporation (LLDC) and activeNewham investigated publishing open data about its physical activities so external sources could feature the information, increasing activeNewham’s reach to the wider Newham community.
Keiron Butcher, IT and Communications Director, explains his motivation:
“Finding a time and place to do activities should be easy, our users want to be able to spend more time enjoying their activities rather than signing up to multiple providers to check availability and pricing. Publishing our data makes total sense.”
The OpenActive members came together to share expertise and provide necessary leadership to make publishing activeNewham data possible.
As part of ongoing open data advocacy work in the sector, London Sport, imin and LLDC had much of the “technical infrastructure in development”(Peter Fitzboydon, Chief Executive, London Sport). With help from activeNewham, imin built an ‘OpenActive adapter’ for the Gladstone leisure management platform. This adaptor publishes data from the Gladstone system, used by activeNewham and many others in the sector. It is made in compliance with the OpenActive specification so that anyone can access, use and share the data. LLDC used the activeNewham open data for testing.
All organisations shared the motivation to make it “easier for those that may not have active lifestyles to find opportunities” (Peter Fitzboydon, Chief Executive, London Sport) while remaining committed to “stick[ing] to the “open is best” approach” (Dom Fennell, Co-founder, imin) as a pioneering example for others to follow. Working collaboratively and playing to each other’s strengths enabled the group to access the necessary skills, knowledge and leadership where needed.
London Sport was a convening force with a strategic vision others supported, imin provided the technical expertise and practitioner resource, while LLDC used its position to engage activeNewham as an LLDC partner and offer an environment to trial the data. All parties joined forces to transform activeNewham’s strategic vision into a practical outcome.
Realising value for the Newham community and the physical activity sector The data is already being used by Get Active London, a website where visitors can search and filter activeNewham activities among other providers, and hopes to see others adopt the same approach. activeNewham is developing the data further by enriching the data with images and descriptions to make the sessions information more engaging to users, while imin is continuing to develop activeNewham services.
Keiron Butcher, IT and Communications Director at activeNewham hopes to “see innovative solutions from web and app providers taking advantage of activeNewham’s data and many others to really provide local availability and choice.”
London Sport, LLDC and imin are continuing their open data advocacy work in the sector and hope the benefits realised in Newham “will encourage organisations in other regions to work together to realise the potential of open opportunity data and sector collaboration” (Dom Fennell, Co-founder at imin).