CY members are exploring the potential of coaching walks. Growing in popularity, coaching walks are usually about coaching clients as you walk together around a lake, or over fell and fen. Coaching York is using this approach with groups of citizens, to help them imagine desired futures in the city. We’re doing this in partnership with My Future York, pioneers of open consultation.
We recently led a day of coaching walks around the Bootham Park area of the city, previously home to a psychiatric hospital and now up for redevelopment.
Geoff Ashton, Sean Ellis, Margaret Inglesant, Lisa Marriott, Sarah Oswald, Cheryl Winters and I, each led different groups across the day. We followed a shared format of discussion stops so that the outputs could be collected and collated but worked with groups differently, following interest and gently challenging people to see if they would generate new ideas.
Many members of the public who came along had either worked there or used the services and were strongly opposed to the site simply being sold off to the highest bidder, regardless of future use. So I was struck by the value of using the first stop on the walk to tease out meaning and feelings. It proved a very useful decompression chamber – we could acknowledge that people were angry and then move on – literally – to look at the future, and that’s something I’d use again.
“Sadness was a powerful word. It came up, right at the beginning, from my first group, several of whom had worked at the hospital, closely followed by anger,” says Margaret Inglesant.
“I was struck by use of the word asylum,” says Sarah Oswald. “This is a place of strong perceptions. Local society used to say, ‘you’ll go to Bootham Park’ as a threat or a judgement and yet everyone who came on the walks felt connected to the positive ideas behind the creation of the hospital in the first place. There is a sense that the word ‘asylum’ should be retained to mean a place of safety.”
“Finally, what stood out most is that this area is an asset for people of the city,” says Lisa Marriott. “People felt strongly that what happens next should honour the importance of Bootham Park and its role in mental health, by creating a community asset that supports holistic health and well-being and which everyone can enjoy.”