In the first of our blog series exploring what London can do better to engage black and ethnic minority communities in grassroots sport and physical activity, Seun Oshinaike, Founder of Street Tag and winner of the Tech and Digital Award at the London Sport Awards 2021 shares his story and thoughts:
As a black entrepreneur and founder of Street Tag – a physical activity product that was developed to help people become more active, I noticed in 2021, that my enthusiasm and passion had dropped for using the physical activity product that I founded or any other physical activity product. This had nothing to do with the app performance, I just discovered that I lost my mojo but interestingly, I am now picking back up my interest and love with the whole “getting active” experience.
On research and interaction, I realised this was not unusual. It’s similar to the experience of many others – when you join an activity or service, how do you sustain the same level of engagement year after year? How do you find the head space to reflect and reconnect to find the joy and playfulness that attracted you to the activity in the first place? How do we get more Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background people like myself to be more physically active and to sustain it? I feel I am qualified to contribute to some of these questions with my experience within the digital health and physical activity sector.
This is a very tough topic to write about for me, nonetheless I’m feeling a rush of curiosity and fingers tingling. It is a known fact that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are far less likely to be physically active as reported by Sport England in a report back in 2020, this is more or less the same reflection in London specifically. The advent of covid-19 hasn’t helped, therefore a lot more still needs to be done.
Our analysis at Street Tag, revealed that we are not reaching people from BAME backgrounds in comparison with other ethnic groups. As a black man myself, this is a challenge that I am very much conscious of, earlier this year my team and I openly discussed the challenge with our various clients on what we all need to be doing on both sides to reduce inequality. We arrived at 7 actions to drive BAME participation;
1. Increase BAME images in the promotional assets for Socials Media messaging
2. Local Authorities (our clients) to invite more BAME representatives for stakeholders/steering group meetings
3. Local Authorities to engage and support the Street Tag team to participate in BAME related group meetings
4. Survey BAME users to understand their challenges, needs, and areas of support
5. Engage with more Non-Christian religious groups
6. Research incentives that will appeal more to BAME groups (for context, users/teams win prizes at the end of a physical activity leaderboard season on the Street Tag app)
7. Partner with Ethnicity Minority groups and engage with them to create teams on the Street Tag app.
It is equally important to ask the question of what is it within the BAME background (of which I am a part of) that’s holding most of us back from participating in the various physical activities that are available locally? I believe there are many reasons to do with culture, age groups, household challenges, general inequality and the lack of tailored accessibility to adapt to the needs of BAME groups.
MSA, is an organisation in London that I truly admire. They do phenomenal work in running 15 activities a week with 150 BAME & Muslim Females. With a team of dedicated volunteers for events, and 90 qualified coaches & activators. Another organisation in a similar category is Muslim Girls Fence. They are attracting and reaching some of the exact groups London’s physical activity organisations need to engage across London communities.
A starting point to improving BAME people inclusivity and reduce inequality would be for various organisations within the physical activity sector to reflect, review and set out achievable actions to drive BAME participation within their services. And for the organisations that are already thriving at reaching BAME groups, we need them to collaborate with us and hold our hands to guide us through how we can better reach BAME groups.
I also believe, it will be helpful to have a recommended target range of what would be the ideal percentage number of BAME group that should be active yearly by X year. This will provide a goal for the London community to rally towards. Just as we already have the 150 minutes of weekly physical activity recommended by the Chief Medical Officer. Over the years, this has given many organisations and individuals a framework to rally around.
An alternative observation that I have had is how access to physical activity to all ethnic groups including BAME groups amongst children and in primary schools are much easier and fun. Although I have deduced my observation from my children’s primary schools, I am aware that other parts of London might not have the same quality of school standards. Physical activity should be playful, fun, and enjoyable. Children often display this the most, this essence should be transferable upstream as we get older, to older people, and to parents. A couple of organisations that I love that do this so well outside of the formal school environment are Park Play and Junior Parkrun.
If you’d like to learn more, contribute to our work, or follow our progress at Street Tag, you can contact us via email on our website here.
About Street Tag
With the Street Tag app, we transform communities into a fun virtual playground to accelerate physical activities, for families that are physically inactive into enjoying physical activities over a sustained period.
We are currently offering Street Tag free for 1 season leaderboard to Local Authorities and Schools that are not yet on Street Tag. This free service also includes a free report of the outcomes of the season. If this is of interest or you know someone that it will be of interest to, contact us for more information.