Using the Come Outside! model to overcome multiple barriers

Logo: Natural Resources Wales

What barriers?

A review of 57 studies1 identified 13 constraints or barriers to participation in outdoor recreation which fell into 3 groups:

The things that occur within people’s mind, for example: fear for personal safety and security; lack of knowledge; lack of time; poor health or fitness; lack of confidence; finding the weather disagreeable; and being a lone person. These are the intrapersonal constraints:

“I can’t walk that far!”

The things that occur as a result of interactions between people, for example: feeling unwelcome; concern about anti-social behaviour; and being put off by a bad experience. These are known as interpersonal constraints:

“Those places aren’t for us”

Come Outside! Programme 2012 - 16 Aims:

  • To engage less physically active people from deprived areas
  • To increase their involvement in outdoor activities
  • To work with support workers who work with disadvantaged groups
  • To embed outdoor activity into the support worker’s provision
  • To influence activity providers to deliver greater benefits
  • To monitor impact and gain learning

Funded by Big Lottery, Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales

External factors, usually outside people’s direct control, for example: poor provision of facilities and poor management; lack of transport; and costs too high are structural constraints:

“We want to go but I can’t afford to pay for the whole family”

A survey of Come Outside! participants and stakeholders showed that the five most significant barriers to getting involved in outdoor activities were ‘intrapersonal’ – lack of knowledge; confidence; experience; skills; and motivation.

The next 5 most significant were all structural – lack of affordable transport; group leader lacking the necessary skills and lacking experience; cost; and lack of appropriate clothing/equipment.

How we supported people to overcome multiple barriers

The programme aimed to support participants to overcome barriers, get involved in outdoor activities and sustain their involvement.

To achieve this, the following delivery model was developed. It is designed to take people through the recognised stages of behaviour change:

image: NRW

The first stage of delivery was scoping. This meant finding our target audience, the people who would have the most to gain from outdoor activity.

  • We looked for existing groups (not currently involved in outdoor activity) because group members build each other’s confidence and motivate each other. In time, we encouraged them to draw in friends and family from their community, which they could do more effectively than we ever could.
  • We went to see the groups where they met, we didn’t expect them to come to us, because at this stage they weren’t planning to change.
  • Initially, we didn’t talk to them specifically about getting outdoors. Instead we asked them about their interests, what they were up to, their aspirations and concerns. We then suggested outdoor activities that met their needs but which might also spark their interest.
The 4 components of ‘memorable experience’
The 4 components of ‘memorable experience’

The next stage was to support the group to take steps towards becoming more active by demonstrating to them the benefits of getting involved in outdoor activity. This was done through bespoke taster sessions.

  • With them, we designed taster sessions which were planned on the day/times that suited them, at a place they could get to and doing what they thought they might enjoy and were interested to try out.
  • The outdoor providers, who delivered the tasters, were briefed so the sessions were designed to meet the groups’ needs and deliver the benefits they wanted.
  • The outdoor providers also incorporated the 4 components of ‘memorable experience’ into the activity design to maximise the opportunities for the groups to have sessions which they were inspired to repeat.
  • The groups were encouraged to think about a series of taster sessions and their continued input and feedback ensured each taster continued to meet their needs.

With each taster the groups became more knowledgeable about the outdoor opportunities available. They became more confident about doing outdoor activities as their experience and skills developed. This in turn led to increasing motivation to do more. Fundamental barriers were slowly disappearing.

“We didn’t know we could do this stuff.”

“Now that I’ve done some exercise I feel like I want to do more. I must have lost a stone!”

The third stage was to influence the way the groups viewed the outdoors so they started to value the activities for the benefits they gained (eg. social contact, improved fitness and mental well-being, transferable skills, volunteering opportunities, personal development, etc). As a result they became more motivated to independently take action themselves, which followed-on naturally from their involvement in developing the tasters.

“It’s been really good to develop our skills.”

“Walking is relaxing, stress free, you enjoy the fresh air. It gets people out of the house and socialising which makes you feel better.”

Finally, the groups were enabled to become completely independent. This involved the groups identifying barriers, such as lack of affordable transport; the group leader lacking the necessary skills and experience; cost; and lack of appropriate clothing/equipment.

Depending on the group, we linked them with community transport schemes; showed them how to access places by public transport; provided low level activity leader training; and bought waterproofs and basic outdoor equipment for group members to share. We showed groups the walking/cycling routes to their local outdoor spaces and linked them to local schemes which could provide free activities. For some groups, we helped them set up members’ subs to fund special trips and to become constituted, so they could apply for funding.

“That place today – its really close to where we live. I never knew it was there – they do so many things [child’s name] would love it.”

“We will carry on 100% once Come Outside! finishes – we are looking for a volunteer to oversee the running of the garden.”

Come Outside! Programme Outcomes:

  • Nearly 3,500 people engaged
  • 89% living in a deprived area
  • 260 organisations involved

It reached people with multiple barriers: mental and physical disabilities, including armed forces veterans suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; those tackling addiction and homelessness; NEET young people (not in education, employment or training) many with multiple issues; black and minority ethnic inner city groups; and long-term unemployed.

Whilst Come Outside! Co-ordinators initiated this work, they collaborated closely with the support workers (who worked with many of the groups), and local outdoor providers, enabling them to share or take over delivery. Support workers started to see how outdoor activities helped them deliver their work with their service users and outdoor providers were now able to engage previously hard-to-reach groups. This meant that with 5 Co-ordinators the Programme could support 82 groups to be involved in over 1,000 sessions.

How successful was the Come Outside! approach?

In participant and stakeholder surveys:

  • 80% of respondents reported that the programme had reduced the most significant barriers (lack of knowledge, confidence and experience).
  • 84% reported improved physical and mental health, confidence, self-esteem and/or skills.
  • 45% of groups became self-organising and another 25% only needed limited support.
  • 68% of support workers changed their service provision
  • 75% of outdoor providers changed delivery to meet group’s needs

The programme was successful at engaging very vulnerable groups, many of whom had chaotic lives and multiple barriers to participation. However, this often lead to long lead-in times before the first taster session, higher drop-out rates and unpredictable and fluctuating participation levels. But the positive impact on those who remained was significant.

“I would like to thank Come Outside!, I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

image: NRW

From indoors … to walking up Pen y Fan, South Wales’ highest mountain, with friends and family! (NRW)

Juliet Michael, Come Outside! Programme Manager (2012 - 2016)

logo: Welsh Government
logo: Communities first
logo: Big Lottery Fund: Lottery funded

For more information visit where you can view and download evaluation reports and case studies.

Or contact Juliet Michael on


1   OPENspace Participation in Outdoor Recreation by WAG Priority Groups 2008

First published in CJS Focus on Overcoming Barriers in association with the Outdoor Recreation Network on 14 November 2016

More on: