Social R&D Community member Vivo is on a mission to raise healthier generations in Calgary and beyond. They want Canadians of all ages to achieve their optimal health at home, school, work and play.

The Vivo Play project is a 10-year initiative to leverage ‘play’ as a transformation vector to achieve positive 10% shifts – shifts in people’s lifestyles, shifts in the care and design of communities and shifts in decision making at organizational and government levels.

1. Preparing

Vivo was originally established as a conventional recreation centre 15 years ago. Before launching The Play Project:

– Vivo spent a number of years developing data on baseline incidence rates for their community (program efficacy, health, social connection, physical literacy, open space utilization), and benchmarking their existing services and interventions to best-in-class models

– Vivo brought their organization to a point where they were able to invert their mandate from being primarily service delivery with a small R&D portfolio, to R&D being a core function of all services to accelerate solutions that meet baseline and projected needs. Vivo also became a Charitable foundation to support the work.

– Vivo made critical hires, and partnerships (tech partnerships, Public Health Agency of Canada partnership, post secondary Mount Royal Partnership) to support this new direction and the GenH program

To accelerate the solutions needed to meet their community’s current and projected needs, Vivo flipped their organizational structure from being primarily service delivery with a small R&D portfolio to R&D being a core function across all services (i.e. recreation facilities, recreation programs, lifestyle and wellness programs, etc.).

2. Looking

A series of preliminary R&D projects including: the GenH instructor program & 4in1 Physical literacy longitudinal study; a baseline study of Early Childhood Education Spaces for the Calgary Public Library; Livingston Legacy, a partnership with Brookfield Residential to baseline pioneer family health in the new suburb; the Play Ambassador Program; and Northern Hills Connect, a small business incubator program.

3. Thinking

The early-stage R&D clarified a theory of change to drive the next 10 years of work: people get healthier when they do at least two things;

  1. Move more (Physical Activity)
  2. Connect to each other (Social Connection)

Vivo hypothesizes that spontaneous, unstructured, cross generation play is the most accessible, inclusive, efficient and impactful way to inspire those changes.

4. Developing

Short term (1-10 years) is about using play to change population behaviours:

The Vivo Play Project is a 4 year Lab/Research project that involves co-designing and deploying play experiences in the community, and measuring the impact across 5 areas: 10% shifts in Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, Social Connection, Intergeneration Socialization & Spontaneous Outdoor Play.

Over the 4 years it will co-create 6-8 play hubs in community, reach 11000 participants with play experiences, train 300 play ambassadors, and complete qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the project impact (including tracking the specific impacts on a co-hort of 500 kids and families with a range of methods including a child & family health dashboard, wearable technology, and community impact data portal)

Medium term (5-15 years) is about using play to trigger change in built environments so that they support health:

Vivo is launching a major facilities expansion in the next 24 months, which will add new community gathering space, indoor park amenities, and social environments. They also support the community to lead their own community open space master planning and redevelopment through projects like Creating Coventry

Long term (10-30) years is about recoding the mindsets and governance structures that work against play and health improvement:

Vivo intends to work strategically to use the social R&D projects to shift community thinking and government policy development long term. Key to this will be data infrastructure frameworks like the Community Social Impact Data Portal.

5. Diffusing

A longitudinal follow-up study is in progress for 4in 1, Livingston, and The Play Project, including pre/post testing. Dissemination plans are in place.

Here’s a significant change story:

Ihouma moved from Nigeria to Calgary in 2014 and found living in a new neighborhood in a new country made her feel isolated. When the Play Ambassadors popped up during the summer months in Panorama, her children loved it and met many other kids living in the neighbourhood. The kids grew so close that they soon began hanging out on their own time – riding bikes and going over to each other’s houses. Best of all, as the kids connected, so did the parents. Now these neighbours know each other better!

If you want more information on Vivo and The Play Project, go here: