Active Environments - Time to embrace the wider policy levers
Posted: Wed, 03 Feb 2021 14:35
I have been on my own journey in sports policy over the last 20 years. Today the partnership we have announced with David Morley Architects to focus on Active Environments feels like another significant moment in taking a wider understanding of sport, physical activity and movement.
We know most of our supporters have been in what we might call the traditional sport and then wider physical activity sector. When I was in Parliament I was keen to raise the issue of physical activity - but probably more in the context of a public health issue. Since we worked closely on the Designed to Move campaign - which called for just 2 interventions around our physical environment and making children's experience of sport and physical activity fun and engaging - we have been trying to widen the debate in the sector to understand the interventions that work to get people moving. Its a tough message but these aren't always about sport, leisure and gym sector. As the Report from ISPAH has shown there are eight interventions that work and only 1-2 are inside our normal definition of the sport and physical activity sector.
A whole systems approach to decreasing the levels of inactivity in the UK will require us to get outside our normal conversations and into a wider eco-system we will find uncomfortable. At the launch of the Sport England strategy a poll was taken as to which of the priorities was the most important. Active Environments came last I believe. This is why we are really determined and excited by this new collaboration because we need the sector to understand what we mean, what active environments can and will deliver for activity. Of course we understand these discussions are uncomfortable. It takes us further away from our understanding of 'sport' But if we don't embrace this new systems approach we are denying ourselves an opportunity to be part of the solution.
Active Environments covers a facilities strategy so this is plenty of opportunity to shape this part of any growth, but this needs to be done in conjunction with a wider understanding of where and how people move. Big shiny facilities are nice for many of us but who do they serve? If the Sport England strategic direction is to tackle inequalities this will mean even with facility development we need to approach things differently.
This is the time - as we head into a period of rebuilding after Covid - to grasp these opportunities to really do things differently and to think about our local environment in a completely different way. It has taken 40-50 years to design activity out of our lives. It will take time to turn around decades of policy designed around the car. But we have to start somewhere. And it feels a post Covid world gives a chance to do just that! Making a healthy start.