Reimagining Help Guide: Enabling environments

Why are enabling environments important? So much of human behaviour is directly triggered by the environments in which people live. Organisations that recognise this and look for ways to adapt environments can help people to access opportunities and enhance health and wellbeing.

If people’s environments (their homes, places of work and wider communities) are set up in a way that makes it easier to access support or undertake certain behaviours, it can help people to reach their goals. This includes locating resources, equipment and support in closer proximity to the person - at home, within walking distance, or in public places that people come into contact with as part of their everyday routines. But it is more than just physical distance. It is also about presenting things in ways that make people feel safe enough to approach what’s available - for example, feeling confident enough to use gym equipment in parks or to walk into a group on debt management. This can be done in different ways, such as choosing venues that people already trust and which are easy to find or by providing a demonstration in advance so that people know what to expect and how things will work.

Enabling environments:

  • Increase capability for behaviour change, as people learn how to adapt their own environments in accordance with the goals they are trying to achieve
  • Increase opportunity for behaviour change by making sure people have the resources they need - for example, money, equipment, space - to do the behaviour.
  • Increase motivation for behaviour change by removing barriers from the process of change, essentially making the desired behaviour the easiest behaviour. This might be by ensuring there are plenty of cues to remind people to do the behaviour or removing cues to do other unhelpful behaviours. It could also involve moving services that support behavior change closer to the places where people live, work, learn and play, rather than having them in places that are convenient for the service or practitioner - for example, co-location of services.

  • Installing free blood pressure machines in supermarkets alongside a demonstration video, information about how to interpret readings and what to do if blood pressure is high.
  • Providing free or discounted taxi rides to appointments in order to remove barriers to accessing support.
  • Gaming or virtual reality to reduce anxiety about accessing support or treatment - for example, Great Ormond Street Hospital has recreated the hospital in a Minecraft world, enabling children to virtually visit the hospital before they attend and meet other children; others have used virtual reality as a method of distraction during procedures such as blood tests.
  • Offering accessible bike stores and shower facilities in public spaces and workplaces so that it is easier for people to run or cycle, rather than having to drive or use public transport; providing access to free running shoes or other sports equipment for people who can’t afford them.
  • First Call support at home works with local volunteers to improve the environments of people recovering at home - for example, clearing rooms so that medical furniture or recovery equipment can be installed or picking up prescriptions or shopping for people. These adjustments help people to focus on and prioritise their recovery.

Using the information above, start to brainstorm ideas to try out in your organisation or community. Think about how to co-design ideas with other practitioners and people in the local community who could benefit from Good Help. Use the map below to help you test and develop your ideas.

A guide to refining and testing your ideas against the evidence and common pitfalls

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