This dynamic industry conference takes place every year, and the team from Outdoors WA always try to attract the most relevant and current industry experts to provide the keynote and open the conference. As co-author of the successful OIA/Sport England “Getting Active Outdoors” project, I was invited as a guest of the Department for Sport and Recreation (DSR) of the Western Australian Government to deliver the keynote for the 2015 event in Perth WA.
At this stage, we had delivered over a dozen workshops around the UK to land the insight from the Getting Active Outdoors project. It was therefore important to set the scene of the report against global trends, to find out how many of the same issues (inactivity in young people; nature deficit disorder; the need for an alternative to formal Sport, etc) were relevant to Western Australia. The social and sporting trends were remarkably similar right round the other side of the world.
This allowed me to introduce not only the project and findings of the report, but to demonstrate the importance of the team involved. With collaboration between OIA and Sport England, we engaged the private and public sector. In addition, the combination of Kelly (Sport Development) and myself as deeply entrenched in the Outdoors and Recreational sector gave powerful levels of insight and objectivity across the project.
We then briefly explored the trends and issues within sport that led to the concept of supporting the Active Outdoors Person through numerous phases of sport and types of activity within their lifecycle. The participation trends from the project were compelling, with the majority of people in engaging in activity at a young age; and 95% of participants remaining active for the rest of their lives. The takeaway headline for this would seem to be a “High Quality Deep Immersion in Nature” at a young age will motivate people to be active for the rest of their lives.
The second headline is that the majority will participate in more than one sport or activity, even concurrently, and trying to keep outdoors people in just one sport for life is likely to be counter-productive.
With a data set of 11 000 respondents, cluster analysis identified eight key types of participant by their motivations. This gives valuable insight into why people participate, and what they want from the experience. These resonated with the audience in Western Australia. In fact, one delegate said “For years we felt like we did not belong, and not only did you identify that we exist, I now understand where we fit in the Outdoors”. This surely has to be the golden message about the diversity and opportunity for all in “Getting Active Outdoors”.
Of course, to stop at the participation without considering the provision would be remiss, and this was my area of expertise in the team. The situation in WA is surprisingly similar to home: A complex diversity of a huge number of activity providers; No single accreditation or registration across states or sports; and a similar long tail evolution of micro providers in the private sector. Like the UK, funding and governance of activity is largely segmented by sport, and they grapple with the issues of designing a single joined up strategy for the outdoors.
We closed by identifying and reiterating the key messages above; and the fact that signposting and promotion could be more efficacious by promoting the benefit to the participant, rather than simply by sport. At the end of the day,. If we can use these sports and activities to ensure the deep connection with nature, this motivation is likely to do the rest. The great potential for the NGBs of sport is in promoting this message; promoting the benefits of their sports; and in educating the provider workforce we can have a huge development team to drive more people, to be more active, more often.
Of course, my visit to WA didn’t stop there. In the afternoon I delivered a more workshop style of session to question the way in which we might land this insight in the UK; and to introduce and explore the use of the profiling tools to map delivery against participant motivation.
It would be remiss to go all the way to Western Australia and not make the most of the unique outdoors way of life. During my stay I visited Kings Park, one of the premier green spaces in the city, and received some interesting studies on how the quality of green space might impact upon participation levels. This raises some healthy debate and further questions for this project.
A working breakfast (this would appear to be a regular way to conduct business in WA) at Scarborough Beach with the team of Outdoors WA led to some great discussions about the next steps. Rather than invest in repeating the research, they would be more interested in a collaborative forward plan, where complementary studies could be carried out in teams from the UK to WA. The above example of green space is one idea; the development of a social media quiz to gain data and identify participant segments is another. A WA university claims to already have some data on multi sport participation projects in outdoors clubs; with a study ongoing at the moment. I can’t wait!
Work asides, the highlight of the trip (given that we are all outdoors people at heart) was taking part in the opening race of the new season at The Royal Perth Yacht Club. I say taking part rather than competing, as the only competition in our boat was for the choice of rum on the downwind legs (once Evan and I had got the spinnaker flying nicely)