Coventry University students have winning idea for sport to help sustainability at COP26 hackathon

Student accepting the award at the hackathon
Student news

Wednesday 17 November 2021

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Two Coventry University postgraduate students won the top prize at a sport-themed hackathon run on the fringe of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

The Global Sport Sustainability Hackathon was hosted by Sport@COP, an organisation that works to harness the power of sport to inspire climate action globally.

MSc Sustainability and Environmental Management students Meredith Whiting and Mia Duckers claimed victory - and £2,500 in prize money - for their Pick Up + Play idea, which proposed an organisation that works with local and professional sports teams to improve community green spaces such as parks.

By providing support and resources, teams can hold events that begin with 1-2 hours of volunteering - such as litter picking - to help improve these spaces, with a free-to-attend sports session afterwards for volunteers. 

Watch their video presentation on YouTube.

The concept can be applied locally, focusing on benefitting local communities as well as cities such as Coventry, but also has the potential to be scaled up. Pick Up and Play is designed to meet more than one sustainable development goal without overcomplicating its structure.

Our presentation used football and rugby as examples, but it really could be any sport. We wanted to get people active, involved in their community, and give them a chance to take part in sport without the commitment of regular training sessions. Additionally, we designed a model that allows for fundraising by charging a small fee for participants who do not take part in the volunteering, which can then be put towards either the team running the event or a local community group charity.

Meredith Whiting, MSc Sustainability and Environmental Management student

While the original concept of Pick Up + Play is focused on Coventry, Meredith and Mia plan to research and develop it further after their studies and explore the potential to take it nationwide.

We hope to research more once we’ve finished our Master’s, and we’ve identified several organisations that already work within the sport and sustainability space that we’d like to reach out to regarding possible opportunities and support. The framework and simplicity of Pick Up and Play allows it to be ‘plugged in’ to different locations and therefore has the ability to positively impact both cities and communities nationwide.

Mia Duckers, MSc Sustainability and Environmental Management student

The hackathon prize was sponsored by sustainable fashion brand Tentree.