Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) sits at the heart of everything we do at London Sport. And of course it is also the main topic of our keynote session at Active LDN 2023. To get a sneak peek about what we can expect from this session, we sat down with Marie-Claude Gervais, Director at The Foundation and Chair for this keynote panel at the conference.
What is your session called?
“Developing Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: What can the world of grassroot sports learn from the wider sports sector?”
Why is this topic so important to our sector?
We know that physical activity and participation in sport brings many benefits: for physical and mental health, to build up self-esteem and self-confidence, to learn teamwork and leadership skills, to develop a sense of belonging, to keep children and young people safe, and to develop community cohesion, among many others.
Currently, though, these opportunities and benefits are not evenly distributed. Girls and women, people from ethnic minority and faith backgrounds, and people who live in areas where deprivation is high are not as physically active or engaged in sports. That’s not right and it is a vicious cycle that the grassroot sport sector needs to break.
It matters for the sport sector, but it also matters well beyond sport. Getting this right could have positive repercussions not just for the individuals involved in physical activity and sport, but for their communities, and for society and the economy as a whole. It can help prevent illness, increase productivity, and bring about many other social and economic ‘goods’.
Who else is part of the panel?
Chevy Green is Director of ACE, the Afro-Caribbean Engagement Programme set up to stop the dramatic decline in cricket participation in the Afro-Caribbean community.
Shriya Popat is Research & Policy Director at Sporting Equals, a charity that aims to make physical activity and sport accessible to everyone, to diversify the sport sector and build cohesive communities.
Lawrence Lok is National Coach Development Lead on EDI at The Football Association, working both to increase the diversity of football coaches and to ensure that all coaches have the skills to coach diverse communities.
Chris Grant, a campaigner for EDI in sport and Chair of the British Basketball Federation. Chris has been on the board of the Youth Sport Trust and Sport England, and was CEO of Sported UK, a charity that helps local groups and clubs harness the power of sport to transform the lives of young people.
Are there any upcoming trends or projects in your area of work that you’ll be discussing in your session?
In a sense, the underlying ‘trend’ that underpins the whole session is the recognition that tackling inequalities, addressing discrimination and promotion equity requires dedicated focus. There was a commonly-held belief that ‘the rising tide lifts all boats’. In other words that, if improvements in provisions and facilities were made in a generic way, everyone would benefit.
But we now know that this is not true. Developing Equality, Diversity & Inclusion – in sport and elsewhere – requires understanding the specific barriers that stand in the way of inclusion, and putting in place tailored and targeted responses to overcome those barriers. This includes listening to communities, understanding their lived experiences and unmet needs, and then designing solutions with them, for them.
We will cover a lot of ground in terms of making strategic decisions about which issues, communities and areas to prioritise. We will share lessons and good practice in engaging diverse communities. We want to explore the role of coaches, clubs and local groups in encouraging participation.
In terms of specific initiatives, we will learn from the success of the ACE programme, which has already engaged in cricket – a sport that is traditionally white, elitist and requires access to expensive facilities – about 20,000 ethnically diverse young people from some of the country’s poorest areas.
We will also learn how Sported UK and Sporting Equals have worked with local clubs, community groups and faith-based organisations to reach and engage people who are currently less likely to take part in physical activity and sport, and to make sure that they enjoy the experience, feel that they belong, progress if they want to, and generally benefit from sport. We might touch on issues of leadership and governance, too.
These are not the only solutions, of course. Many of the other sessions throughout the day will cover topics that are equally relevant to developing EDI, such as designing healthy cities or improving diverse representation and pay equity in professional sport.
What are you hoping delegates will take away from this session?
In my experience, most people now recognise that there are problems to be solved and they are keen to address them. But, when it comes to EDI, it can be hard to know where to start. So the session aims to share lessons from experience about ‘what works’, and some inspiration to build the motivation and confidence to get cracking. We hope that it will spark new conversations, and maybe new initiatives. We hope delegates will come and talk to panellists to explore what could be done, now and in the long-term, to increase and widen participation in grassroots sport among people who are not currently enjoying the benefits but who, arguably, need them most.
There is never enough time during panel discussions for delegates to pose questions and get the full answers they need. That’s just the nature of these events. But some panel members will stay around and all of us will no doubt remain available to discuss and share ideas, if delegates want to keep discussing and learning, or want to co-create initiatives. For me, the day should be a trigger for trying things out, a ‘moment of belief’ where delegates see what could be done and get some confidence that they, too, can act and make a positive difference.
Tickets are still available for Active LDN 2023! Click here to secure your ticket now: Active LDN