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Blog 1: 13 April 2022

Active Village Limit, Active Village Vibe, Active Village Habitat


Active Village Defined!

You step out your door, the footpath guides you, which way will you walk toady? Who else is with you? What will be your destination? What will be your favourite moment, flower, place you walk past, observation? Who will you see?  We continuously process information to build the confidence, competence and motivation to lead active lives. 

Our experiences of physical activity and what it means to be healthy takes many forms.  In reality some activity is better than nothing, two steps better than one.

We take cues from our environments 'our habitat' within our homes and our communities which enable or inhibit our desire and confidence to be active.

So what is an Active Village and why is it important in the way we consider Open Space, Active Recreation and Sports Planning?

Best Friends

What is an Active Village?

Put simply the ‘Active Village’ is a radius around you as an individual and the places where you create meaning including  your home or work “your village”.  An “Active Village” offers places and infrastructure which enable you to lead an active life with confidence and competence within this radius.  The radius is networked to support you, the village you live in and the wider community to be physically literate and Find Your 30 .  This radius is ecologically healthy to enable your best living.

The Active Village considers the spatial, ecological and psychosocial influences on the individual.

The Active Village is a systems approach influenced by ‘the individual’, ‘the physical environment’ and ‘the enablers’ such as social and family structures. 

The way these three groups interact can be understood through a socioecological model where the individual is at the centre of ‘The Village’ and the influences play out through the enablers and environments which improve the interaction to be active or inhibit it. 

The “Village Limit” Defined!

The Victorian Planning Authority (VPA) identifies that an Active Open Space must be located within 1200m of all urban residence and that a passive open space must be located within 400m of residents.  Similarly, Plan Melbourne identifies 20 minute cities as best practice planning.  In relation to walkability, 1km is approximately a 15minute walk.

Therefore, there are two concepts in which the "Village Limit" takes form

  • The Individual – 1km radius around the individual which considers what individuals have access to within a 15minute walk.

  • The Environment – defined as a 1km radius which surrounds an Active Open Space or Major Sport & Leisure Facility incorporating all public and commercial land within its catchment.  Each 1km loop interacts with each other forming a network of Villages.   

The "Village Limit" establishes the spatial and geographic boundaries. 

The quality of the village experience, capacity of the facility, density of the population and diversity of experiences available require two further dimensions of the Active Village.  

“Village Vibe" responds to the social and psychological influences to lead active lives.

The “Village Vibe” Defined!

Physical literacy is about building the skills, knowledge and behaviours that give us the confidence and motivation to lead active lives (Sport Australia, 2019). Thus, bridging the gap in confidence to take the first step, the agility to change our activity choice over time and knowledge to know why, when and how.

Positive, safe and engaging, spaces which build the confidence and competence of the whole community defines the “Village Vibe”.

Each resident in the Village will ask a question.  Do I feel welcome here? Do I feel safe? Is there something I like? Do I belong?  These neurological innate instincts guide our decision making.

Therefore, the physical literate definition of Active Village identifies the requirement for a sense of community, safety, competence development, diversity of choice, access for all.  The domains of Physical Literacy (Physical, Social, Psychological, Cognitive) when embedded into practice build life long active people who are physically and mentally competent and environments and infrastructure which engage whole communities, are adaptable and relevant to their ecology.

The "Village Habitat" Defined!

Biophilia and Ecological Sustainable Design principles define the Village Habitat. 

Humans are not separate from nature and the environments we seek inherently link back to nature and Biophilic Design.  In order to understand the natural world it needs to be accessible, it needs to become the learnt experience when we open our front door in the streets and in the Active Village.  The "Village Habitat" is the link between the "Village Limit" of the 1km in which people will roam to be active and the "Village Vibe" grounding the principles of Physical Literacy to have the confidence, competence and motivation to participate in the public realm.  

Edward O. Wilson in his work Biophilia (1984),  proposed that the tendency of humans to focus on and to affiliate with nature and other life-forms has, in part, a genetic basis.  Wilson (2016) states that we are the mind and stewards of the living world, our own ultimate future depends on that understanding.

Ecologically Sustainable Development is: ‘using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased’ (Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, 1992).

An Active Village where people naturally gravitate is an ecologically healthy network of flora and fauna  the "Village Habitat".  Here people can be their healthiest, do their best learning, living and teaching to the future generations as to how to live on this earth.

The Active Village Definition:

An Active Village is therefore “a local, safe and diverse network of active opportunities within 1km of residents which build the social, emotional, cognitive and physical health and wellbeing of people to lead active lives in ecologically healthy places”.

And there is always the exception to the definition!

The Outlier Village!

In addition to this definition there is a second interpretation whereby a Village is formed by a cluster of opportunities located in proximity to each other.  These settings are normally established in commercial or light industrial areas and become destination points for sport, gym use and play centre activity.  The principles of Active Villages should also be applied to these settings to ensure that maximum opportunities and benefits are created for the multiple users. 

Village Examples

The Forks, Winnipeg, Canada was transformed from a couple of hockey rinks to a walking trail, skate trail, x-country ski trail, hockey rinks, heating rooms.  The popularity of the precinct drew crowds in the middle of winter to the commercial area and now the commercial operators of the restaurants and stores in the Forks pay for the ongoing maintenance of these many activity choices.

Change The Game, Umea, Sweden founded by Swedish developer Balticgruppen works to imbed physical literate places and communities through built form and programming.  'The Island' Umea is currently being planned to incorporate the principles of physical literacy into urban design. 

Mossfiel Reserve, Hoppers Crossing hosts Rugby Union, Cricket, Netball, Skate, a playground, Kinder, Maternal Child Health, Occasional Care, Dance, A Collectable Car Club and its newest resident Sepak Takraw.  It is used by personal trainers, mothers groups, scout groups and more as a place to celebrate and engage across cultures, generations and activities.  Through the Master Plan and the voices of the Wyndham Community the creation of an Active Village was established where diverse community comes together, engages and shares the same spaces, learns about different cultures, ecology and unites in the open space.      

In many instances across metropolitan Melbourne green spaces are dominated by a homogenous group of activities and ecological spaces which reflect an active participation rate in the community of 15%.  It is not to suggest that these activities should be replaced or removed, however what are the other 85% of the community seeking in order to lead active lives?  How can we create spaces, policy and strategy which enable Active Villages and inherently capital investment which addresses the historical biases which perpetuate barriers to population health and lifelong active lives in healthy environments?

"Active Villages" represent the demand of the whole community, establishing the positive social, cognitive, emotional and physical connection to place "their village".

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