Physical Activity Referrals

We are working to learn how open data and local physical activity opportunities can be put to best use within referral settings and support the achievement of a range of health and wellbeing outcomes.

The Physical Activity Referrals Project

The project, funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Sport England, seeks to identify the needs of service users, referral agencies and local physical activity providers, in respect to the effective inclusion of physical activity within referral pathways.

We will explore how local referral agencies* can use open data** to make it easier for their service users and link workers, or other health and social care professionals or volunteers, to find a local physical activity or sport session that is right for them.

From our work delivering social prescription link-worker training, we know that those who engage with service users, require up-to-date information on local, relevant activity opportunities.

The project will also look to identify and develop potential solutions, proof of concepts or data integrations with referral services, in response to their needs.

To do this, London Sport will test these solutions for the three key user groups and capture learning and create a blueprint for using open data within referral services for the sector.

London Sports hypothesis is that utilising open data to provide a live feed of relevant physical activity opportunities, which can be easily filtered by a link worker or service user, will increase the quality and quantity of physical activity referral.

Physical Activity Referral Project Updates

NEWS: A number of organisations submitted their proposals via the funding portal, with five organisations selected to receive funding to develop and test their proposed solutions. The five organisations that received funding were Digital Coproduction, Elemental, Health Place, Healum and Playwaze, and you can read more about which referral services they are working with and their proposed solutions in this news article.  Each organisation now has until the end of May 2021 to develop and test their solutions, before reporting their findings back to London Sport.

NEWS:  Taking the findings from the three workshops we previously held, we worked with an innovation agency called 100%Open to arrive at 11 areas of unmet need.  These included seven areas that could potentially be solved through the use of open data, along with four broader areas of unmet need.  Problem statements were created for the seven potential areas, asking the question of how could open data improve this unmet need.  Examples of potential solutions to these problem statements were brought to life through idea frames, which were presented to the interested tech systems at a workshop on the 18th February (see recording below).  Finally, the funding portal opened for interested systems to submit their proposals.  An interim report containing all of the above can be seen in the Resources and Learning tab below.

NEWS: We ran workshops two and three, with additional input from activity providers that currently accept referrals in workshop three. Findings from all three of the workshops will be shared in February, and will be used, alongside the findings from the tech systems exploration, to explore potential solutions and developments to existing systems to make it easier to refer into local activity sessions.

NEWS: More than 20 link workers attended the first of three workshops, the workshops are aimed to understand the experience of person-centred conversations within a social prescription service, the current processes used to help find and recommend local activity sessions, and to explore what developments could help improve this process.

OPPORTUNITY: We invited expressions of interest from any tech systems that wanted to explore the feasibility of integrating an open data feed of physical activity opportunities into their system in order to benefit link workers or service users. We hosted a presentation for any of the interested tech systems, with input from OpenActive and imin.

OPPORTUNITY: We invited expressions of interest from social prescription services and other services that engage with Londoners in their local communities and provide advice, guidance and connect them to opportunities that would benefit their health and wellbeing to take part in the project.

Resources and Learnings


* Referral agencies are organisations that engage with people in their local community and provide advice and guidance and connect them to opportunities that would benefit their health and wellbeing. These include Social Prescription and other health and wellbeing or community support services e.g., Health Hubs and Long-Term Condition Pathway services including Diabetes, Mental Health and Obesity.

** In the context of this project, open data refers to information about physical activity opportunities that are made publicly accessible. To understand more about ‘open data’ in the context of sport and physical activity please click here.

Webinars you may have missed:

18 February 2021

Tech Referral systems workshop – Open data in referrals

A webinar specifically aimed at tech systems that had expressed an interest in being involved in the project.  This webinar provides an overview of the work performed in phase 1 and phase 2 of the project, plus explains the next steps for those systems looking to submit a proposal for funding.

18 November 2020

Using open data to support referrals into physical activity

An introductory webinar for organisations that had expressed an interest in the project.  This webinar provides an overview of the project, along with presentations from the ODI on OpenActive, and imin on their services.

Interim Report:

This is an interim report as of February 2021, including the research conducted with link workers to understand the experience of supporting service users into physical activity sessions, plus the unmet needs that arose and examples of potential solutions which were created.

More information and contact details:

For more information around our Physical Activity Referral project, please contact project lead Chris on