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How to move from good intentions to action

27th September 2022 | From our team

The Clewer Initiative

The Couch to 5k running model: embedding social action in our lives

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Anyone who has made and broken New Year's resolutions knows how hard it is to embed change in our busy lives. It is easy to feel convicted about the need to take action against modern slavery, but much harder to actually do something and keep going for the long run.

What can we learn from the success of the Couch to 5K running model about converting good intentions to action? How has the Couch to 5k app empowered more than five million people to take up running and keep running? As a Couch to 5K disciple myself, I have a few observations:

1. Start small – the Couch to 5k running plan starts with small steps. While the thought of a 5k seems impossible for a non-runner, the idea of running for one or two minutes feels manageable. How could this apply to modern slavery action?

  • What small steps could you take to start caring about vulnerable people in your community?
  • Could you decide to talk to the homeless person outside your local supermarket every time you see them?
  • Could you download the Safe Car Wash App?

Small steps can lead to more significant changes in later weeks or months.

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2. The power of community – on the BBC's Couch to 5K App, you can choose who you want as your "running coach." That personality then encourages you with motivational comments to keep going while running. Regular encouragement is so important.

Couch to 5K has become a bit of a worldwide phenomenon. If you mention to people that you are using the App, it isn’t long before you meet others who are too. It is so inspiring to hear stories of others who have moved from non-runner to casual runner and to see the difference it has made. You quickly become part of a community and this keeps you going through the harder weeks.

In terms of modern slavery action, this is a key learning. It is hard to bring about change on your own. Making our communities slavery-free is not a solo enterprise.

  • How can you get others on board with your vision?
  • Who can you collaborate with?
  • How can friends hold you accountable to acting on your good intentions?
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3. Realistic goals – a real strength of the Couch to 5k programme is that it is attainable for average people. If the running regime had been Couch to Marathon, it probably wouldn’t have taken off!

Similarly, it is probably not realistic for everyone to commit to setting up a victim support project in their community or a detached youthwork scheme. For some, it might be possible but for others, this sort of goal will too ambitious and they will be setting themselves up to fail.

Instead, if we want to turn our good intentions to action, we must be realistic.

  • Sit down with others and decide what you can do and choose an attainable goal.
  • Think about when and how you will achieve this, considering existing responsibilities.
  • For example, you might decide to conduct a mapping exercise and find out what anti-slavery charities operate in your area and what volunteer support they would appreciate. You might set yourself the goal of doing this mapping exercise by Christmas and reporting back to your church in January.

A reflection from Claire Walford, Communications Team at The Clewer Initiative

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