Great Britain

GoodGym: Volunteering has never been this healthy

25 Gennaio Gen 2013 1814 25 gennaio 2013

One of the most successful projects of social innovation gathers together fitness enthusiasts and volunteers dedicated to civil engagement

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Good Gym Community
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One of the most successful projects of social innovation gathers together fitness enthusiasts and volunteers dedicated to civil engagement

It’s one of the most successful experiments of social innovation in the UK. It helps people stay fit, while doing something useful for their local community. It’s called GoodGym and it’s the social project which is taking over London and Liverpool. We wrote about it last year but today we want to know something more about this miraculous startup, which is able to gather together the fitness enthusiasts and the volunteers dedicated to 'civic engagement’. Forget about the expensive memberships and the long minutes on the treadmill.

Creating a school garden, clearing an area or helping someone move: these are some of the activities organized by GoodGym which connects local associations who need a hand to carry out physically demanding projects and volunteers who want to use their energies in a positive way.

“Every week we organize group runs and our volunteers wear their sneakers and get together to work out doing something good in their community.” Says Mark Herbert, project manager at GoodGym, which also offers personal training sessions, but don’t expect a big, threatening guy who screams to motivate you to do more push-ups. Here the coaches are over 65 who live alone. At least once a week, the runners jog to the home of their personal trainers, taking the opportunity to bring them something useful, such as medicines, newspapers or some groceries. In return the elderly person can offer a moment some rest, a hot drink and the motivation to keep running.

“It 's an opportunity to fight against the isolation of older people in the city," says Herbert. "Promoting the building of new relations between people living in the same community but with different ages. It’s a strong source of motivation for those who want to start running. It is much easier if we know that we can do something useful and there is someone at the finish line.”

Launched two years ago in London, GoodGym has activated more than 1,000 volunteers in 2012 and has recently launched a new project in Liverpool.

"The project is completely scalable." Says Herbert. "The idea is to launch GoodGym on an international scale, as a matter of fact it can be applied anywhere. "

Funded by Nesta, the organization which promotes social innovation in Britain, GoodGym has 3 employees and right now it is supported by donations, but the ambition is to become a social enterprise. "We are working on the business model and the idea is to get to offer very specific services to local administration," said Herbert, "After all, our project helps to build a local network and to tackle social isolation, all the way encouraging people to stay fit. It could be a big saving for public spending."