“There is nothing more powerful than sharing ideas, stories and knowledge”: Erasmus+ project partners raise their voice at Moving Europe conference
ISCA and the partners of four Erasmus+ Sport projects (ActiveVoice, PASS Project, FlashMOVE and Journey of Hope) gathered in Ljubljana, Slovenia, this week for a special conference dedicated to their collective efforts to promote and advocate for physical activity over the past year. The occasion was a rare opportunity for grassroots sport organisations, researchers, sector representatives, event organisers and public authorities to debate the future implementation of the EU Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA) Guidelines and exchange perspectives on the way forward.
The one-day conference, Moving Europe – Moving People, was held at the Ljubljana Town Hall and included presentations from the project partners and special guests Florence Mondin from the EU Sport Unit and Andrea Backovic Jurican from the Slovenian National Institute of Public Health and HEPA Europe Network Steering Committee.
ISCA President, Mogens Kirkeby, opened the conference by emphasising the need to capitalise on the potential of cross-sector collaboration among those at the event.
“We cannot rely on a top-down solution [to physical inactivity],” he said. “Civil society organisations need to play a more significant role in implementing the EU HEPA Guidelines.”
Florence Mondin echoed this call for more cooperation in her opening address to the group.
“Policy actions alone are not enough to get people off their couch,” she said. “The European Commission can only do so much. Physical inactivity is a complex issue and needs to be solved by a number of actors.”
As grassroots sport organisations often do not realise that they have a role and potential power to advocate for changes in policy, the conference’s main theme was to explore what advocacy means in the sport and health sectors and how these organisations can create change locally or internationally by combining their efforts.
“We have to join forces and coordinate our actions because we have the same aim,” Sport and Citizenship Vice President Vincent Chaudel said in the conference’s expert panel debate.
The panellists, who also included Kirkeby, Backovic Jurican and European Cyclists’ Federation policy officer Randy Rzewnicki, discussed whether an immediate need for the sector was more research or activation – or a combination of both – a topic that Richard Bailey from ICSSPE and the PASS Project extended through his presentation on why evidence-based action was essential in the promotion of physical activity.
“If we start becoming complacent [and stop doing research to focus on taking action], then we’re going to have to settle for crumbs off the table when we really deserve much more.”
Bridging the gap between research and action
The PASS and ActiveVoice projects are each trying to bridge the gap between knowledge production, advocacy and action. The former has mapped different studies on physical activity in Europe, collecting data that can be used to build a case for institutional support. The latter is developing a toolkit for national and local organisations to use as a guide to what they can achieve and how they can approach other stakeholders to influence decision-making or enter into partnerships.
“The ActiveVoice project is about helping NGOs raise their game,” ECF’s Randy Rzewnicki pointed out. “What are the best ways to get your message out? What are the most effective ways of doing advocacy?”
The project partners remained in Ljubljana for three-four days to evaluate their projects’ progress and exchange perspectives across the different project topics. Both the conference and the FlashMOVE meetings scattered active breaks among the sessions with the Sports Union of Slovenia and SportMalta performing the 2016 FlashMOVE (official opening flash mob for the European Week of Sport) choreography with all of the participants.
ISCA Head of Projects Saska Benedicic Tomat said she was happy to see these diverse partners mix in a way they would not normally get the opportunity to in their everyday work.
“We are proud to have been able to bring together partners of four projects – 50 participants from 20 different countries and from 30 different organisations,” she said.
“The conference and meetings brought us the unique opportunity to interact with the people who have dedicated their professional lives to the development and promotion of physical activity, and to facilitate dialogue between European and national stakeholders with the purpose of increasing the advocacy capacity of civil society organisations involved in HEPA promotion. There is nothing more powerful than sharing ideas, stories, and knowledge.”
By Rachel Payne
Photos by Flare Visuals, Slovenia
The ActiveVoice, PASS, FlashMOVE and Journey of Hope projects have been funded with support from the European Commission under Erasmus+ Sport Collaborative Partnerships of Events Supporting the #BeActive European Week of Sport.