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14 June 2021

Girls get active thanks to King's Civic Challenge

Recent graduate Laura Walmsley on how King’s Civic Challenge is helping to empower local young women through sport

 A person with a ponytail throws a football back into the game

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King’s Civic Challenge teams up students with local charities and community partners, staff and alumni to come up with ideas to tackle social issues in our neighbouring boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Westminster.

Teams pitch to a panel of judges for the chance to win £5,000 in funding for the community partner—plus a package of evaluation and support—to make their idea a reality.

We caught up with Laura Walmsley (MA Arts & Cultural Management, 2020) who was part of a team with the social enterprise Girls United, who won an award in King’s Civic Challenge 2019/20.

Laura told us how her team’s idea to empower girls in south London through football went from proposal to pitch.

Why did you take part in King’s Civic Challenge?
I wanted to meet like-minded members of the King’s community and take part in a project that would create positive social impact. As a master’s student on a one-year course, I wanted to contribute to some of the wider outreach work King’s does and gain valuable experiences beyond my academic study.

You were part of a team with Girls United, a not-for-profit social enterprise who aim to empower girls through football. What issue did you address?
Our project looked at tackling the issue of inactivity among teenage girls. Research shows that sports participation among teenage girls is lower than that of teenage boys. Only 10% of girls aged 13–16 meet the recommended daily activity levels.

Our project, #FindYourGame, aimed to address this national issue at a local level. The project aimed to target inactive girls in our local communities of Lambeth and Southwark and address the specific barriers preventing them taking part in sports. We planned to identify female sporting mentors and produce a series of videos about their positive sporting experiences. In addition, we planned to run workshops that would help to break down the barriers to physical activity experienced by young girls in our community.

What was it like working with Girls United and the staff and alumni members of your team?
It was great to work with a team that represented both King’s staff and students in collaboration with the Girls United representatives. The experience presented great learning opportunities as each team member had a unique skillset and a diversity of experiences and perspectives to bring to the team.

The highlight has to be the Civic Challenge Grand Final in early March 2020. It was so special pitching our project to judges at City Hall, a truly iconic London landmark. Our team won the last award of the night, so we were all on the edge of our seat by that point!

Laura and teammates from Girls United pitch to the judges at the King’s Civic Challenge Grand Final in early March 2020.

What has happened since you won King’s Civic Challenge funding in March 2020?
As a result of the pandemic, the project had to evolve. Much of our project had to be delayed and digitalised. The pandemic has, however, shone a light on the relationship between physical activity and mental wellbeing, making the message and objective of the #FindYourGame project all the more important.

While we could not meet in person, Girls United interviewed five female role models from diverse backgrounds about their journey as football players and how sport has shaped their lives. We shared these videos with target local schools to encourage girls to join our football workshops when it was safe to run them.

Tell us about what Girls United has been able to do recently, thanks to King’s Civic Challenge funding.
After a delay due to the pandemic, #FindYourGame workshops for local girls took place in Dulwich, south London, during the Easter holidays 2021, with 23 players from the local area.

We also filmed interviews with some of the players, like Erykah, who explained the impact that football has on her life on and off the pitch.

When I play matches and I scored or I defend or saved a goal, it felt nice and it feels like I am actually doing something that I enjoy.

Erykah, #FindYourGame participant

How did taking part in King’s Civic Challenge affect how connected you felt to the local community?
As a master’s student, King’s Civic Challenge definitely helped me to feel part of the King’s community. The project allowed me to meet staff members from outside my department as well as students from other courses and in other years of study. It also helped me to gain a better understanding of the wider work the university does with our local community and the specific issues experienced by people living in our local area.

Participating in King’s Civic Challenge was one of the most worthwhile experiences I had during my time at King’s. It allows you to expand your network and your skillset while also enabling you to work on a project that you feel truly impassioned about. I wholeheartedly recommend taking part.

Laura Walmsley