So Much More: Partnership between County Durham Sport and Durham University results in honour for County Durham Sport Managing Director
Durham University’s Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences (DSES) recently welcomed Dr Maxine Rhodes, Managing Director of County Durham Sport as the newest Professor in Practice. Over the last 18 months, the partnership between the two organisations has re-energised the county’s system thinking around physical activity and offered a career pathway, work experience and opportunities for action-based research and evaluation for students.
Maxine said: “I am delighted to be conferred with this title and look forward to enhancing the student experience and research environment at Durham University. At CDS we recognise the value of all our partners and we want to make sure everything we do is evidence based. Our relationship with the University is critical to removing the barriers to moving as it helps us inform and drive policy and strategy as well as trial new methods and approaches to see what works for people locally.”
The collaboration has also brought new opportunities for local talent. Former Durham University student, Joe Armstrong, was supported by CDS during his research and has since been employed to lead on the organisation’s children and young people work. Speaking about his experience, Joe said: “Studying a Masters by Research, with support from CDS, I can see the positive impact of collaboration. Working at CDS is not only extremely satisfying but allows me to put my research into practice for the benefit of children and young people across the county.” Dr Rachel Mowbray joined CDS as Insight Co-ordinator whilst completing her PhD and has reflected that: “Since joining County Durham Sport, I have loved connecting and collaborating with Durham University academics. It’s exciting and rewarding to bring research and practice together – to tackle pressing local issues of inequality and inactivity.” Another student’s experience of working with the Active Partnership can be seen here in this blog:
Maxine commented. “For us, the University strategy ‘So Much More’ really sums up our partnership- both partners gain much more from working together than they could achieve alone”.
The Active Partnerhsip for County Durham has sought to bring learning and inquiry to the job of system change: “with our partners in the DSES, we have been fortunate enough to see a range of projects and proposals take flight” said Maxine.
The local pilot for place-based and systems-based approaches to addressing physical activity inequalities in County Durham is being evaluated by DSES postgraduate research student, Jessica Woodward. Her research is designed to contribute to improving access through projects in Active Shildon and Active Valleys (funded by Sport England and jointly led by Durham County Council and County Durham Sport).
The relationship also aims to support projects that contribute to national debate. Together with the Durham Research Methods Centre, DSES have been improving understanding of sociodemographic inequalities in physical activity across County Durham through undertaking multinomial analysis of multi-year data from Sport England’s national Active Lives Survey. Further analysis that is now being undertaken to consider the magnitude of local inequalities compared to those seen at national-level will also be fed back to local and national networks with the intention of informing policies, priorities and practice around physical activity inequalities.
Links to the DSES, its staff and research interests can be found here: https://www.durham.ac.uk/departments/academic/sport-exercise-sciences/?id=12421