A new sport-based pilot programme is to be rolled out in five cities with the aim of helping to build “a diverse and tolerant society for all faiths and races”.
'Unified Action' will connect young people with their communities, create greater diversity in sports governance and civil society, and ensure young people’s voices are heard.
Thanks to funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) through the ‘Faith, Race and Hate Crime’ Grant Scheme, national children’s charity Youth Sport Trust will lead a consortium of more than 30 organisations running the programme.
The pilot will train 60 young leaders aged 14 to 25 years old in five areas – Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford, Barking and Dagenham, and Slough – to understand how sport can help them to develop key life skills and stand united against all forms of hate crime.
Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh, on behalf of the MHCLG, 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.”
One of the key aims of Unified Action will be to create inclusive communities and greater opportunities for social mixing – lockdown restrictions permitting in areas – which have previously experienced high levels of social tension. Research has shown that 44% of British people report that none of the people they spend time with socially are a different ethnic background than themselves (The British integration survey, 2019).
Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of Youth Sport Trust, said: “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.”
Young people on the programme will work with five Youth Sport Trust athlete mentors and a range of community organisations. The athlete mentors are Tom Davis (judo); Jenna Downing (in-line skating); Lesley Owusu and Vernon Samuels (athletics); Alistair Patrick-Heselton football); they will be tasked with empowering the young people to become inclusive leaders who can support future generations and challenge negative attitudes and behaviours.
Arun Kang OBE, Chief Executive 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.
“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 (areas) 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.”
More than 1,500 people from the five cities will be engaged by 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, 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. For more information search #UnifiedAction on social media.