Equalizer is a Vinnova-funded research project within the call for norm-critical innovation. It is a collaborative project where theory is combined with method development and practical application in full scale to create equal and inclusive environments that support physical activity and attract the joy of movement. Architects, researchers, municipalities and children and young people have participated in the project together. Participation and co-creation are central to Equalizer. The goal is to create tools to disrupt place-based norms and, based on this, to create physical changes to facilitate more groups and individuals to take place and be active in the public space.

Research shows that physical activity is declining, especially among young people and most notably among teenage girls. Many of the places planned for physical activity in public spaces are used by limited target groups. In the Equalizer project, we are working with children and young people to explore how we can reverse this negative movement trend by examining and challenging norms. The aim is to create greater participation, better public health and equal access to spaces in the city.

Equalizer step 1 was carried out in 2016-2018 in collaboration with the City of Malmö. The aim of the project was to investigate public spaces for spontaneous sports and how they can be transformed to give rise to a more equal and inclusive use. Against this background, methods and tools were developed to analyze and transform places for physical activity.

Equalizer step 2 was carried out in 2018-2020 in collaboration with Lund municipality, where methods and tools were further developed and tested in a new context: in a new geographical location and in a schoolyard environment. Together with students at two schools in Lund, we have identified obstacles, found creative solutions in the form of activities and discussed topics such as norms, community and exclusion. The activities are now being tested on a full scale with prototypes in school yards. These can be tools that twist a regular activity to attract new users, activities that challenge and reward new ways of moving, or on-the-road activities when breaks feel short. Activities that challenge norms about how schoolyards and places for physical activity should be used and by whom.

Within the project, an Equalizer model has been developed where we gradually identify obstacles, find creative solutions and test prototypes. The goal is to use supplementary and supportive measures to change behaviours and normalize a new approach to how and by whom places can be used.

The project has resulted in

  • Methods to critically examine what norms or beliefs govern how and by whom places are used.
  • Concrete conclusions on key aspects for creating inclusive places
  • Transformation of places using prototypes that exemplify how existing places can be transformed by simple but effective means to make them more inclusive and make those who are currently underrepresented feel more comfortable taking up space.

Read more about Equalizer in the research journal Leisure Studies.

Facts and figures

Project name

Vinnovafinansierat samarbetsprojekt

Malmö and Lund

Research and innovation projects, methodology development and implementation of full-scale tests

Contact person
Emma Pihl
+46 701 - 66 92 25

Project team

Emma Pihl
Planning architect FPR/MSA

Åsa Samuelsson
Architect SAR/MSA, Head of FOJABlab

Karin Book
Fil Dr Cultural Geography Malmö University

Elisabeth Högdahl
Fil Dr Ethnology Lund University

Daniel Zachrisson