GoodGym is a digital platform for people who want to run and to use their running time to ‘do good’ in their community. Whether running to an isolated person’s home for a ‘social’ or to do an errand, or to a community project to do a bit of manual labour, GoodGym members are using their energy to benefit their community.
GoodGym’s work is unique in the world, and has been shown to have significant impact on two of the most pressing issues of our time: care of our ageing population and physical inactivity. Larger than any other running club in the UK, GoodGym is funded by runner subscriptions, brand partnerships and local authority contracts.
GoodGym is now ready to scale up. Meeting a ten-fold increase in requests for support from older people in most UK major cities during the COVID-19 lockdown, the scope to do so is clear.
How does GoodGym work?
In gyms all over the country people work away furiously, peddling, pushing, lifting, running and sweating. They achieve no external benefits, other than driving up the profits of the gym to which they belong. GoodGym is different. GoodGym makes it easy for members to harness their energy and channel it towards social good.
Runners sign up online and are given community tasks to run to. Tasks include:
- making a social visit to an elderly person
- visiting an elderly person to help with a household task
- doing manual labour on community projects, such as laying a path, planting trees, installing community gardens or sorting food at foodbanks.
In essence, people who chose to join their local GoodGym can transform their workouts into community actions that simultaneously make them fitter and the communities they live in better places to be.
How did GoodGym come into being?
Ivo Gormley, the founder of GoodGym, had been preoccupied for some time with the notion that, so many people around the UK were expending energy in gyms, whilst people in the communities where they lived were suffering from isolation and loneliness. Seeing so much human need alongside so much untapped potential inspired Ivo to find a way to connect these two things. So, in 2008, after a couple of years of thinking, testing and developing this idea, he submitted an entry to Social Innovation Camp, a competition for software developers, designers and social innovators to create new businesses that achieve a social goal. He won and a pilot project in Tower Hamlets soon gave proof of concept.
In 2009, GoodGym came into being as a not-for-profit company. Following the lean startup methodology, the organisation grew steadily, garnering support from the likes of Nesta along the way. Today, there are GoodGym communities in 58 cities across the UK. A total of 20,000 members have helped over 5,000 of the most lonely and isolated people living within their community, and have contributed their energy and time to 3,000 community projects and charities. Of those people regularly visited, 100% described themselves as happier and on average, reported a 28% improvement in their life satisfaction.
GoodGym has also increased volunteering within the communities it is active. Prior to joining, 61% of members did not volunteer. Members’ exercise levels have also increased by an average of 20 minutes per week.
With 93% of older people reporting that they feel better connected, and a ten-fold increase in requests for support since lockdown, GoodGym’s contribution to community cohesion is impressive.
GoodGym is poised to scale up. Its response to community needs across the UK during the COVID-19 lockdown evidences the role it could have in building healthy, resilient cities. The capacity that the organisation has to to engage younger people in social action beyond the screen is also clear.
“This prize will help to cement our sustainability and lay the groundwork for expansion,” says Ivo. “Long term, we want to operate in every major city in which physical inactivity, isolation and loneliness and care for older generations are issues. There is increasing evidence that younger people are lonely and that social media is causing negative social pressure. GoodGym’s combination of social interaction, physical activity and volunteering makes it easy for them to form positive social ties within cities that may otherwise feel hostile and distant.”
“Similarly, as populations age, cities across the world are looking for new ways to keep older people connected. GoodGym is an efficient and scalable way to achieve this,” Ivo concludes.
Thousands of runners across the world are already requesting a GoodGym in their cities. Foundations, government representatives and the sporting community in the US are also expressing an interest.