Creating Social Change through Sport

On Wednesday 4 December the Herts Sports and Physical Activity Partnership (HSP) held its second Sport for Social Change conference at the University of Hertfordshire’s Fielder Centre, marking a full twelve-month cycle since the upsurge in collaborative projects to support the issue, began.

The 120 strong delegate list comprised of representatives from across Hertfordshire and beyond, each committed to understanding more about how sport can contribute to solving the social challenges of mental health, youth offending and poverty, among others. Workshops such as HSP’s Active Local, which discussed using community assets to encourage localised sport and physical activity and Healthier and Happier Women, an explanation of projects to support women’s refuges, were among those shaping the day.

The event also further nurtured the relationship between HSP and Belfast-based Sport Changes Life. Speaking in an engaging keynote addressing how to bring alternative education opportunities to young people, Director Gareth Maguire described the similarities between topical issues in Hertfordshire and challenges the organisation face in Northern Ireland:

“Everything we do is for young people. We want to give them an opportunity to get out of their current situation and thrive. We do this by working inside the community and having initial conversations with the people no one else wants to talk to. It’s about building trust and knocking on doors over, and over again.”

As Maguire finished, he highlighted the innate need to pool resources and share knowledge, in order to succeed: “We need to ask, as partners, are we talking, or are we really talking?”

Throughout the afternoon, attendees heard numerous examples of personal struggles, overcome through sport. Ex footballer Marvin Sordell spoke movingly about the ups, and downs of his professional career, while four students from Hertswood Academy described how their involvement in rugby though the School of Hard Knocks programme has helped improve their attainment, focus and behaviour.

Strategic Lead for Sport, and Deputy Director for the Partnership Jane Shewring believes that last years’ conference has been a catalyst for many pieces of work:

“We chose the themes of this year’s workshops based on what Sport for Social Change means to the Partnership, and the opportunities we have seen arise over the past twelve months. Poverty, youth offending, mental health and employment and education all have incredibly high profile across the work we do and by expanding our knowledge and sharing experiences, we hope to have the tools to tackle these issues more readily in 2020.”

All of the keynotes and workshop presentations from the day can be seen at under Sport for Social Change.