An initiative in Milton Keynes is dedicated to fostering leaders capable of making a difference not only with walking but also in other aspects of lives such as improving mental health and confidence. The project revolves around training individuals to become inspiring leaders, led by Leap’s Community Champion and founder Portia Simond.
How it started
Milton Keynes Women’s Walking Group began with just three leaders and sometimes just one walker on walks. Now their walks typically attract an average of 20 participants. It’s not just the formal leaders who make a difference; regular attendees who don’t formally lead groups also play an important role by supporting leaders and encouraging newcomers.
Portia believes consistency is very important: with people knowing that a walk is available at a specific location and on a specific day. This reliability is crucial for regular walkers who depend on these sessions, and each group has a cover leader to make sure walks always go ahead. Leaders create Facebook events to remind walkers when a walk is scheduled.
Although the progress may have been gradual, with 2,500 Facebook followers often observing before actively participating, it’s all about creating a consistent system that works. Leaders actively engage the Facebook community by sharing post-walk updates with pictures and summaries. Close monitoring means it can be a safe and inclusive place for all women and enables new walkers to understand what to expect, making them more comfortable when joining.
Portia says: “…a lot of women are worried about judgement and acceptance. I make sure I lead the way for my leaders to be accepting of people’s insecurities. I’m proud of my team and the impact we are having on the women that walk with us”
The group is creating a sense of belonging for our women encouraging other women in our community: by supporting leaders with their physical and mental health, recognising that a healthy leader is a more effective leader.
At the heart of MK Womens’ Walkers success lies a commitment to following good practice. Leaders undergo training in several essential areas to ensure they can succeed and develop in their roles.
The initial focus is on identifying potential leaders based on qualities like communication skills and a passion for walking or being active. Training is tailored to the individual, allowing leaders to build on existing skills and confidence. Some walk leaders are completing ‘Leaders in Run Fitness’ but this is relatively expensive at £200 each. A collaboration with Parks Trust offering walk leader training will mean the training is more relevant.
A men’s walking group has been launched, and opportunities for teenagers walks are being explored.
Would you like to know more?
For more information about walks, see MK Women’s Walking Group Facebook page
To contact Portia about leading walks, or for more information, contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org