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Research can give under-represented communities a much-needed voice
Research can give under-represented communities a much-needed voice

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Research and insight puts us into someone else's shoes and increases understanding

Senior Insight Officer Laura Green explains how research and insight informs London Sport work and how it can be a useful tool to empower under-repesented communities, getting their voices heard by decision-makers across the capital.

When I think of London, I think of a diverse, open and busy city.  A hotspot for tourists from all around the world… at least before the pandemic. 

But dig a little deeper and you’ll be greeted by inequality.

From the streets of Kensington and Chelsea, to the corner of Barking and Dagenham, London is home to some of the wealthiest and poorest people in the country - so it’s no surprise that inequality is far higher in the capital than anywhere else in the UK.

Alas, concerns around inequality in the capital are not new, nor is the evidence of inequalities in access to physical activity.

But with a global pandemic threatening to exacerbate inequalities, it’s imperative that we, as a sector, do not add to this adversity, and instead continue to enrich our understanding of the lives of the communities and individuals we work with through research and local insight.

Beyond our own Less Active Londoners research, and Sport England’s weekly insights into physical activity levels throughout the pandemic, there is an array of research that can help us identify where inequalities may exist when it comes to physical activity.

Our Insight Portal highlights recent participation data for adults and children and young people, as well as emerging findings on the impact of covid-19 on people’s lives.

Being able to disseminate these findings into something actionable is inherent - it allows us to identify areas of need and prioritise investment to those most at risk of inactivity as a result of covid-19.

But research isn’t just about numbers and percentages. 

Nor is its’ sole purpose to be a tool to determine funding allocations.

It can tell us that those in lower socio-economic groups are less likely to be deemed physically active, and we can see how this transpires across London, for example. 

But to help mitigate the inequalities gap we need to truly understand the lives of these individuals - what motivates them, where they spend their time and what challenges they face - whether that’s in trying to be active, or trying to balance work, childcare and finances.

Research is a way for us to put ourselves into the shoes of someone else.

It can equip us with a nuanced understanding of the truths and complexities of individuals left vulnerable by this pandemic. 

It is a way for real people with lived experience of poverty or mental illness to have a voice in our sector, and to be heard.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we used online qualitative research to engage a diverse sample of people to reveal their lived experience of covid-19, and to get an understanding of how lockdown had impacted their attitudes and habits in relation to exercise.

As a result, we developed recommendations for online support delivered through Get Active.

Research undoubtedly plays a huge part in tackling inequalities in physical activity, and we will continue to embed research in our work streams by ensuring the voices of Londoners are heard as we strive to keep London active.

Our Active London event next week will explore insights into inequalities across London and delve deeper into the lives of disadvantaged communities. 

As covid-19 forestalls many challenges for individuals across the capital, we will explore what role physical activity and sport has in supporting diverse and disadvantaged communities.

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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

About London Sport

London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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