Young people empowered through sport to stand united and create social change

Unified Action, a new rapid pilot using the power of sport, is launching in five cities to connect young people with their communities, create greater diversity in sports governance and civil society, and ensure young people’s voices are heard.

As multiple lockdowns continue to force communities apart, one of the aims of Unified Action is to create inclusive communities and greater opportunities for social mixing in areas which have previously experienced high levels of social tension, ensuring no one is left standing on the side-lines.  

Research has shown that 44% of British people report that none of their contacts that they spend time with socially are a different ethnic background than themselves (The British integration survey, 2019). 

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive Officer of the Youth Sport Trust, said:  

“It is a huge honour for our charity to work alongside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and other partners on this new programme, Unified Action. 

“Sport can be a powerful vehicle to bring people together and break down barriers. Unified Action is an exciting opportunity to engage young people in something which harnesses that unifying power and empowers them to create change in their community. 

“As we experience another lockdown in England where we are forced apart as a society, it’s a timely reminder of the role sport can play in fostering inclusive environments, building acceptance, tackling hate crime of all kinds, and nurturing social cohesion. Unified Action will build connections between generations and develop empathy and trust.” 

The young people on the programme will work with five Youth Sport Trust Athlete Mentors and a range of community organisations. The athlete mentors are all world class athletes representing a range of different sporting backgrounds, from judo, athletics and football, to in-line skating. The mentors will work with young people, empowering them to become inclusive leaders who can support future generations and challenge negative attitudes and behaviours.  

Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said:

“We’re committed to building a diverse and tolerant society for all faiths and races and we are delighted to be funding this programme as part of our Faith, Race and Hate Crime Grants scheme. The Unified Action pilot will help young people in cities across the UK to develop an understanding and awareness of social and cultural differences and challenge discrimination through the unifying medium of sport.”

Arun Kang OBE, Chief Executive Officer of Sporting Equals, said: 

“We at Sporting Equals are incredibly happy to be delivering the Unified Action project alongside the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and our esteemed partners.   

“A chief aim of Sporting Equals has been to build healthier, fairer and stronger communities and we truly believe that through working with these young people we can shape a generation of young leaders who will actively check and challenge members of society with the aim of delivering and safeguarding equality.  

“We are incredibly excited to be delivering key training to these young people with the aid of Athlete Mentors who will play a vital role in assisting with leadership training. Their experiences within the world of sport will truly be invaluable to shaping these young people to recognise what an amazing connector and force of good sport can be!  

“The outcome of this project will be felt through the knowledge, skills and development each young person gains and carries with them to deliver real community impact in each of their key cities. We are delivering the programme in Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford, Slough, Barking and Dagenham where there is a wealth of cultural diversity. We look forward to seeing the positive impact that will surely follow this project in each of these key cities.” 

Carl Konadu BEM, Chief Executive Officer - 2-3 Degrees 

“Unified Action is particularly close to my heart because sport was an integral part of my leadership journey and really helped expose me to the power of volunteering, teamwork and community cohesion. Growing up in South East London there was a lot of conflict and tension in the community, and sport was a tool that really brought people together and allowed many of the people I grew up with to find ways of using their skills and qualities for good.  

“That's what we're passionate about at 2-3 Degrees, helping young people unearth the skills and qualities they've got to do good for society. I'm particularly excited about seeing the young people grow to become inclusive leaders and champion the necessary changes and actions for their community organisation that will see them become more inclusive and open for all types of people in their local areas.  

“We're proud to be working with our partners and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. We know that with the right people driving this programme it's something we'll be able to do for the long term and have sustainable impact.” 

More than 1,500 people from the five cities will be impacted by the programme through the newly trained 60 young people, who will go on to use their new skills and develop action plans to create projects within their local communities. The training will be delivered virtually to the young people, with the athlete mentors bringing to life how sport is a strength-based tool that can be used in everyday life to help overcome adversity and unite. The young people will be guided locally by community groups through ongoing mentoring, planning their activities for a time when they can deliver in their community.  

Unified Action will run until the end of March in partnership with Sporting Equals and 2-3 Degrees. For more information search #UnifiedAction on social media. 

Published on 26 January 2021