EXCITING research into how communities can use sport activity to engage children and families living in poverty, and change destructive behaviours, is being launched in Dundee.
OSS Research Officer Ryan Brown visited the Lynch Centre in Lochee prior to the start of the latest OSS research project, entitled ‘Enabling and Empowering Deprived Communities’, being conducted in partnership with Street Soccer Scotland and Edinburgh Napier University. To give you an idea of the impact of Street Soccer work, this article features a series of accounts given by players in the project, starting here with Tyler’s Story.
David Duke’s life was turned around from being a homeless teenager with no hope to taking part in the Homeless World Cup and being inspired to use football to help others who found themselves in tough life circumstances. He founded Street Soccer Scotland, secured support from Sir Alex Ferguson, as patron, and many other leading figures, and he joined forces with the OSS, Scotland’s only research institute dedicated to studying the wider benefits of sport activity.
“Since 2009 we have been using football to empower people who have been excluded and isolated,” explained the Street Soccer CEO. “We’ve brought people together, changed lives, and created positive change for the future. At Street Soccer, everyone has a safe place to belong, to be supported and not to face judgement.
“We have created a strong network across Scotland, into London and beyond, and supported hundreds of people, focusing on positive relationships, confidence, self-worth, mental and physical health. Our work has enabled people to see that they have a positive future full of opportunities, and we have helped people believe they deserve that future. In our 2020 Census, 100% of players felt their life had improved since joining us, and the stories we hear daily of people making positive changes in their lives is why we do what we do.
“We want to make the most of every opportunity and make the most of every impact. A 2018 SROI evaluation showed that for every £1 invested in Street Soccer there is a wider social return of £9.50, and our Prisons Programme can demonstrate a saving of over £600,000 through supporting people to reduce reoffending.
“But we want to make sure we’ve having a much of a positive impact as we can, and making sure we’re reaching the people who need our support. Working with research partners the Observatory for Sport in Scotland and our university partners Edinburgh Napier, we will identify where the real impact is, where we can do more, and how we can spread our model across Scotland for wider positive change.
“‘Players always come first’ is our highest value, and this project will put our players at the heart of this research, allowing them to tell their stories, and helping us work out how to support people in similar situations even better. We hope the research will magnify the voice of our Players, who are often under-represented and un-heard, empowering them to help shape the solutions to social issues.”
Ryan met with Scott Hollinshead, SSS Business Development Manager in Dundee (pictured right) and a group of female players. He spoke to them about the research project and how they could help to shape it, and the response was positive.
“It was great to meet with the SSS team and players and start to understand their challenges around being active,” he said, “and there was real excitement around the research and how they will be involved in what they and we see as very important work.
“We know the great work that SSS have done across the country in the past 12 years but this is particularly exciting because they are making a major step in taking over a large facility that had an uncertain future, and are transforming it in a way that they believe will enable and empower more people in the Lochee community to change their lifestyle.
“It was great to see the work first-hand and it is looking great, with an indoor artificial pitch, games hall, spectator areas, cafe, an office and rooms for workshops and classes with key partners who will be working to support the players and their families.
“At OSS, we are excited about the potential this research has to better understand how SSS engage with children and adults from backgrounds of poverty, trauma, homelessness, addictions and criminal activity, and how they use daily sport activity as a magnet to support people and enable them to change behaviour and improve their lives.
“The people from the Lochee community in Dundee will be at the heart of what will be very interactive research and will help us shape it in the coming weeks and months. That is key to ensuring there is real learning locally and which can be used nationally in understanding how to engage, enable and empower people to change, but also how we use and develop community facilities in deprived areas as genuine hubs to help that to happen.”
The OSS team will involve experienced researchers from across Europe and recent graduates from universities across Scotland, as well as undergraduates from Edinburgh Napier University studying criminology, psychology, sociology and other subjects. They will be meeting with players, partners and support services in the next few months to agree the parameters of the three-year research project, and pilot research tools, as part of a continuous, interactive approach feeding back to Street Soccer Scotland and the players.
Ryan added: “With uncertainty hanging over a number of community facilities currently, we hope that this research might also provide guidance for local authorities, leisure trusts and communities
“The data we collect from this research will provide a roadmap for both government policy and community groups who are aiming to enable and empower communities across Scotland.”
Regional Manager for SSS, David Mackenzie, was born and bred in Dundee and delighted to see the SSS take on the Lynch Centre. He said: “I’m so proud that we can bring this opportunity to my hometown. This centre will aim to transform lives for the better and develop new skill sets for people to reinvent themselves. It will offer hope, relationships and purpose, but much more than that, by being at the heart of the local community, it’ll break away some of the misconceptions and stigma around social disadvantage by bringing people together through a range of different activities.”
The research partners are currently seeking sponsorship of this research. If you would like to support this valuable work, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Street Soccer, visit: www.streetsoccerscotland.org and to learn more about the impact of their work, listen to players Tyler, Andy, John and Carol in the inspiring short videos featured in this article on how their lives have been transformed and behaviour changed. Tyler is now a Young Persons Ambassador, working with care-experienced young people, Andy now works with his local authority in Housing, John is involved with the Prisons Programme and Carol believes Street Soccer has helped her to close the book on a life of cruelty and trauma.
“Now, I want to get up in the morning and I have somewhere to go, and I feel happy,” said Carol. “I’ve discovered that I’m quite a nice person … I’ve come so far. ”
This is valuable work that Street Soccer, the OSS and Edinburgh Napier University will together seek to understand more fully and provide evidence and guidance to Street Soccer and wider partners on how it can be expanded and replicated in communities across Scotland.