Our Parks founder announced for Active Sussex Conference
Introducing Born Barikor, the founder and CEO of Our Parks, the visionary initiative that brings group exercise classes to all ability levels and ages.
A key ethos behind Our Parks is community empowerment and the principle that everyone has the right and should have the opportunity, to take part in exercise regardless of barriers, whether it’s cost or convenience.
Born, who grew up in the East London borough of Tower Hamlets – one of the poorest areas in the country, observed poverty and deprivation on a daily basis. This, alongside his passion for sport, fuelled the former athlete to provide exercise for free and devise a pioneering programme that he could pitch to local authorities.
"Sport for me not only changed my outlook on life, it enabled me to meet some great people," said Born, who trained with Hackney-born, four-time British high jump champion Dalton Grant.
"Dalton made sure I kept going to training, and stayed clear of all the things people growing up on an estate might be involved in. That was my first experience of appreciating what sport gave me, it was the chance to travel away from East London, compete and meet new people. Having that opportunity through sport was a powerful motivation for me.
"I thought to myself, if I ever have the opportunity to give back to the community it would be to give everyone the experience of meeting like-minded people through exercise and sport."
Born aimed to focus on harder to reach parts of the community, like council estates, and target the inactive.
And since launching in 2014, in Waltham Forest, Our Parks is led by experienced, fully qualified instructors in city parks within 18 London boroughs and in partnership with local authorities, and has now expanded into Central Bedfordshire and has a firm foothold in cities including Glasgow and Cambridge.
Currently around 55,000 weekly users are using the service and 500 coaches work for the brand.
The long-term plan is to establish a firm foothold in every major city in England.
Fully embracing social media coincided with a rapid growth in numbers of ‘parkers’, as the OurParks team likes to call them.
For example, word of mouth through the Twittersphere and the use of hashtags, such as #TurnUpToneUp, and #TransformationThursday, continues to increase numbers.
The enthusiasm for the programme ensures people continue to recommend the sessions through social media, and even former Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis is part of the 'parkers' community.
Born also stressed the importance of having a social element and the right coaches in place as major success factors behind Our Parks.
"Our Parks focus is on being social - it’s a vehicle for meeting new people that not only benefits your health but also gives you the opportunity to feel comfortable in your environment. I always wanted the concept to be about getting out there and meeting your neighbours," Born said.
"We've seen it grow from neighbours who never spoke to each other before who are now going on holiday together, shopping together and kids are playing with each other, so it’s that community empowerment."
Recently Our Parks has formed the innovative partnership with Lucozade Sport #MadeToMove – a campaign aiming to get a million people moving more by 2020 and spearheaded by world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua.
"Lucozade Sport shares our ethos of getting more people moving, getting people active more often and that’s what we’re going to achieve this year," explained Born.
"We want to take OurParks as far as we can; for us it means moving more people and building more communities and we're going to amplify that message that sport is fun, physical activity is fun and meeting and taking part in your community is even better.
"The more people we get involved, the more people we can get moving and talking and having fun in the local community, the better we’ll become as a nation."
Born Barikor is the Keynote Speaker at the Active Sussex Conference 2019. He will deliver his inspiring story where he will challenge delegates to focus their attention on how they can make an impact.
Active Sussex Conference Programme
- Children & young people
- Older people
- People with a long-term condition or disability
- People living in deprived areas with high rates of inactivity
The conference will be a great opportunity to be inspired and develop new ideas through presentations, best practice, case studies, workshops and networking.
Bookings are open, on a first-come first-served basis, so we recommend booking earlier. Please click here to book.
We hope to see you at the Active Sussex Conference 2019.
To find out more about the previous Active Sussex networking event: