Blog post -
Active Lives: Community ensures figures on activity levels are brighter than we feared
Strategic Relationship Manager Lorna Leach looks at how the capital's communities are the hidden treasure within the sport and physical activity and why London Sport works so closely with them.
You could be forgiven for looking at the latest release from Active Lives and being disheartened by the drop in participation levels since the same time period in 2019-20.
It’s a significant drop nationally for Active, a minimum of 150 minutes per week, and increase of people classed as Inactive, doing less than 30 minutes of activity per week. The picture across London isn’t dissimilar.
There are seemingly endless ways that the pandemic has affected Londoners’ ability to be active but I’m not here to focus in on the excuses because the picture is much brighter than it could have been.
London had every possible factor that could contribute to almost complete inactivity and yet 13 of 33 boroughs show all or part of the opposite trend - an increase in the number of Active residents and/or a decrease of residents classed as Inactive.
Throughout the pandemic London Sport has focused on what is possible.
And wherever we work, we always focus in on community.
Community was the quiet, often unsung hero of sport and physical activity during the pandemic and without it I believe London would be tackling a far bigger inactivity crisis.
London Sport focused our attention on local organisations, neighbourhood groups, charities and community networks that have found ways to ensure Londoners are connected, safe, have access to equipment, and are active.
Alongside our #WeAreNotSpectators campaign celebrating the work of 20 organisations including Single Homeless Project, Early Years Cocoon and Barking Mosque, we invested £640,000 of Tackling Inequalities Funding and £160,000 of Satellite Clubs money.
We'll also be celebrating nearly 30 incredible organisations and individuals at next month's London Sport Awards - the stories of dedication and commitment to people's communities at the Guildhall are sure to inspire.
What community organisations have, that bigger agencies, such as local authorities don’t, is the ability to adapt at speed based on what they are seeing, hearing, and feeling from their end users.
They cut through internal red-tape, change how they do things whilst still holding their core reason for being centre to their decisions and outputs.
It's something we've seen throughout 2020 during our work with Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA) delivering a This Girl Can programme to increase activity levels with women in three areas of the borough.
The CVA are the umbrella organisation supporting voluntary community organisations in Croydon working with them as the lead agency meant the programme engaged residents least served by the current offer.
The programme was started in January 2020, before the pandemic and would have centred around in-person activities led by local organisations.
Working with the CVA and their network meant that it was easier to hear what was needed and adapt, bringing the majority of sessions into virtual environments.
This meant helping local providers access the right technology to deliver and promote 3,000 hours across 25 activities, reaching 465 women.
More than half (58%) were from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and more than three quarters (79%) were not meeting the Chief Medical Officer's recommended 150 minutes of activity per week prior to the programme.
It's a small sample, but the results show the power of our communities and why we continue to work so closely with them to move London towards the most active city.