How do we know if our direction of travel is the right one?


Recently we set ourselves the task to answer this question. 

Our primary role focuses on collaborative working and in doing so understanding the people and place, developing the team and people, partnerships and brokering and continuous improvement and learning. Active Humber aimed to test and examine whether the work we are doing and the plans we set out in 2017 are being achieved through a collaborative approach.

Active Humber has set our key audiences based on insight telling us where our groups of the most inactive people are. Active Humber have then created an action plan of how we engage these groups and what do we need to do engage them and enable them to be more active. However we are not the only organisation working in this space, so how do we know we are working collaboratively? Do we know if we are having a desired effect? Do we know if our direction of travel in this area is correct?

We set out to answer those questions above to ensure our work, targeting Children and Young People and Active Ageing, is working towards getting the inactive, active. To do this we opened up to external partners and experts to seek challenge and to test our approaches working with these two audiences. Normal behaviour is to see external challenge as unwanted stress and possibly invoke a level of fear from people, much like a school preparing for an Ofsted visit. Active Humber very much embraces this feedback as part of our review process to help us improve our offer.

What did we do?

Active Humber ran two ‘Star Chambers’. One to look at Children and Young People and one to consider Active Ageing. The panel members in both were different, but both had representatives that work with the audience and are considered experts and Active Humber Board Members, which meant that we would receive robust feedback. The Active Humber team presented our approach to each area of work, where we felt we were getting it right and areas we feel still need developing. Following the presentations, the panel were able to digest and debate what they had heard amongst themselves, before we all came together to have discussions with the aim to support Active Humber get the offer right and to work effectively and collaboratively.

Did it work?

Absolutely. In both chambers we were able to develop our thinking around both target groups and ultimately will have a better offer moving forward which partners have work with us collaboratively on. The feedback from partners has been hugely positive, they welcomed giving up a morning to support our work and ultimately it helped them with their knowledge and understanding and will aid closer working in the future. For the Active Humber team, it confirmed some improvement areas we are working towards, however real value was seen with finding new perspectives on our work. A description used in the meeting was, we see the world through our lens, however opening up in this way allows us to expand our view and see more In doing so it also allows partners to see what we see and share learning across organisations, which has already created collaborative opportunities.

In addition to what we set out to achieve additional outcomes where realised, such as new connections being made, a greater depth of understanding across the sector was gained and the approach is looking to be replicated in other areas.

So what next?

The Star Chambers were intended to be a point in time to reflect and review what we are doing as part of the Plan, Do, Measure, Review, Impact cycle, with these events firmly sitting in the review area. We now have valuable information that we will take into our Children and Young People and Active Ageing work areas. This will inform our planning, helping us refine our approach and offer, we have several opportunities to follow up, to work collectively with partners and create a greater impact with the work we do and we want to share this learning locally and nationally on both the approach and outcomes.


A real positive in this approach was the space it created to have conversations and this should not be undervalued. As an Active Partnership looking at reducing inactivity, we have a role to influence policy and decision making, however this is not a role to do alone. Therefore sense checking our approach, ensuring we are displaying collaborative leadership is essential and the Star Chambers ensured we are doing this.

The approach was well received and really valuable, therefore we are asking ourselves not if we do them again, but when and how. The team put a lot of effort into the pre work for the star chambers, with it being a new approach we wanted it to work. In hindsight, the star chamber would have had equal value following the same agenda and still doing some prep work, but having them less formal and more often. The value is in the conversation rather than the polished presentation.

Amongst the partners invited we also included Active Humber board members. This was vital to show partners the importance we placed on the Star Chambers, to show that this insight gathering was for the whole organisation at all levels, not just project focussed, but also it created a greater strength between the team and board. This is vital on two fronts, one, the team developed a greater connection to the board, we are one organisation and not separate entities but also it allows the board to see what work the team are delivering and will help strategic discussions moving forwards.

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