04 December 2023

The importance of targeted investment in communities

The importance of targeted investment in communities image
Image: Natee K Jindakum / Shutterstock.com

Lisa Dodd-Mayne, executive director of place at Sport England, discusses how targeted investment is helping people across the country to get active, and how the strategy can be replicated at a local level.

In early November, Sport England announced a major and unprecedented expansion of its investment, with a further £250m for local communities across England to ensure those in greatest need are able to be physically active, by extending its Place Partnerships work to help more people.

The key difference between this and previous investments is its targeted nature, with £190m of this investment focused on an additional 80-100 places which have greatest need.

Where a person lives and the environment around them has a huge impact on how likely they are to be physically active. Too often, people in low-income communities don’t have the access to the same facilities or opportunities as wealthier areas.

Targeting investment based on need instinctively feels like the right approach to really grapple with inequality compared to a competitive process. There is already so much brilliant work happening nationwide in Active Partnerships, the Leisure sector and the private sector which should continue, but where we have greatest need should be where we invest most. Now, using Moving Communities data, Sport England is really able to refine its approach to ensure it is reaching those most likely to be inactive. We know the most active place in England has almost double the activity levels of the least active place.

We know it works as we’ve spent the past four years testing our place-based systemic approach with ‘Local Delivery Pilots’ in 12 areas of the country, working with inspiring local experts to understand how we could have the biggest impact on people’s lives through movement. We also know that progress moves at the pace of trust, and change takes time, and critically we recognise the strength of an asset-based community development approach – starting with what is strong, not what is wrong.

It’s a strategy that can also be replicated on a more local level, particularly for local authorities and operators in relation to the leisure services they provide, and with tight budgets, creating as efficient a system of investment as possible.

When it comes to targeting, it’s only as good as the data available, which is why Sport England set up Moving Communities. The data provided through Moving Communities has been collected at an unprecedented scale, ensuring that a more targeted approach is feasible for anyone within the sector.

This means local authorities and operators can compare their data with national data sets to help them understand the local community and how it maps with their current operations. It can really highlight opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed, for example, you can overlay obesity rates of local children in the area and then use this data to do outreach to local schools to promote classes and activities. These are the sorts of things that make a real impact in the community.

Using this feature, local authorities can plan ahead, see gaps in their operations, and identify opportunities that can drive real changes in activity levels – for more targeted investment that will impact activity levels and so more communities are able to move.

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