Today I am announcing the start of Gymtopia, an important new digital platform that aims to capture the wider social good undertaken by the world’s health clubs. This achieves two things; it shows the social impact projects that are already taking place, and critically, encourages other clubs to do the same.
Health clubs do good work. They encourage people to embed physical activity into their lives, but I believe health clubs across the world can do more. The social impact they have needs to extend beyond the club walls and help to change the lives of others who do not have the financial means to join the ‘club’. So, if people cannot come to the club, then the club must come to them. The global health club industry is an influential community of more than 133,000 clubs comprising 128 million members. This means that simple and small actions on a unified basis have the potential for significant social good. Gymtopia is being created to capture, amplify and spread this social good.
I see Gymtopia as a simple story telling platform. Stories that explain how health clubs and industry suppliers are collaborating with their members to collect food, raise money, donate shoes, give clothing and many other projects that create a social impact. The stories I discover are inspiring and people are often surprised when I share them. The response is often: ‘I did not realise health clubs did that’.
Back in 2009, I received an email from Pedro Ruiz, President of Vivafit in Portugal, a fast-growing chain of women-only fitness clubs. Vivafit had asked members to bring a tin of food each time they worked out during the month of April. The collected food was being passed to a charity supporting young mothers and their babies. This simple request led to members donating more than 60,000 items of food, resulting in the largest donation in the 18-year history of the charity.
Health clubs have influence and increasingly members will be looking at their club to demonstrate what I describe as ‘altruistic leadership’. These are clubs that understand they serve communities as well as members. What goes on inside the club is vitally important, but so is the health and well being of external communities. So I believe if clubs can use their influence to make a social difference, to create a positive social impact, then everyone wins. Members and staff are connected through a socially valuable cause, an external community receives vital goods or services, while the club is recognised for its role in creating social good.
I need to raise $26,500 to design and build Gymtopia. You can read more about Gymtopia and the project’s purpose on Indiegogo. Gymtopia has nothing to sell and will carry no advertising so I am asking the industry to make the project a reality. I need at least four companies to become founder sponsors at $4,000 each. This provides the majority of the funding to make the project happen.