The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Navigating Space Under Lockdown

The project, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, aimed to document the experiences of Black and racially minoritised young adults in England during the COVID-19 pandemic.


5 July 2021

The project, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, aimed to document the experiences of Black and racially minoritised young adults in England during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the relative invisibility of young adults in national discussions and policy approaches relating to COVID-19, the DPU has partnered with The Ubele Initiative and FOAM20, to launch the project Navigating Space Under Lockdown (NSUL), a collaborative, mixed methods research project, documenting the perspectives and experiences of Black and racially minoritised young adults (aged 18 to 35) in England, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Responding to a gap in current understandings, the project explored how young people’s experiences of home, work, mobility, community and well-being have been affected by the pandemic and by prolonged periods of lockdown.

With the support and guidance of 12 peer researchers, the project reached out to over 200 young adults from across England, through focus group discussions, an online survey, a podcast series and a short film, to capture some of their diverse voices and experiences.

As a result of the research, a set of key findings have been published.

Key findings
  • Navigating Space Under Lockdown highlights the deep, differentiated, impact of the pandemic on young Black and minoritised adults in EnglandThe research points to the vulnerability of many in this demographic, marked by precarity in housing and employment conditions. COVID-19 and prolonged lockdowns have compounded these and broader experiences of disadvantage and exclusion.
  • The research also highlights the remarkable resilience and adaptability of young minoritised adults – aided by technological know-how and, in many cases, social media – in what have been unprecedented and often traumatic times. In such context, Black and Minoritised community networks have been critical pillars for young adults and their networks, filling in gaps left by government in access to essential goods and services, and support. The pilot research begs the question: how long can such networks – often most affected by the pandemic, and with limited resources – continue to pick up the slack?
  • Home and housing conditions are key for understanding the differentiated impacts of COVID-19 and associated lockdown measures on young Black and minoritised adults in England. Who young people live with, how much space they have access to, housing density and /or cost considerations have significantly impacted young adults’ ability to work (including ability to work from home), their work prospects and economic security.
  • Housing conditions have also had a major impact on young adults’ mental health and wellbeing: a source of comfort and a shield from isolation in some cases; or, in others, a major point of stress, anxiety and insecurity, especially for those in high density households / shared accommodation. Many reported feeling unsafe or unable to ‘be themselves in their own homes’, or having to hide aspects of themselves.  
  • Our research has highlighted the close interconnection between mental health, housing and work situations. Loss of physical connectivity and access have intensified this link, whilst social media was described as both a source of support and of anxiety. 
  • For many young Black and minoritised adults in England, mental health support has been difficult to access. However, with COVID-19, it has become publicly legitimate to discuss the mental health of young adults.
  • COVID-19 and lockdown experiences have played an indirect role in sharpening identity awareness for many young Black and minoritised adults in England. Coinciding with the Black Lives Matter protests, many became acutely aware of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minoritised groups. For some, this coincided with a heightened sense of disenchantment with the State and the mainstream institutional landscape, whose COVID-19 responses left many racialised minorities ‘off the map’.


    Barbara Lipietz
    Daniel Oviedo
    Jordana Ramalho


    Junior Mtonga

    Final Report

    Download the final report:

    Navigating space under lockdown: perspectives and experiences of young black and minoritised adults

    Ubele Initiative

    The Ubele Initiative derives its name from the Swahili word meaning ‘The Future’. We are an African Diaspora-led intergenerational social enterprise founded in 2014, with the purpose of helping to build more sustainable communities across the UK. The Ubele Initiative is proud to support a wide range of Black and Minoritised communities, community-based organisations and groups with their community assets (people and physical spaces), through social action, community enterprise development and next-generation leadership initiatives. Our approach includes facilitating group learning and bringing together a culturally diverse and intergenerational group of community activists and changemakers.

    The National Lottery Community Fund

    We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.  

    We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.


    FOAM20 serves to provide an opportunity for individuals to express their brilliance, speak their truth and encourage the lives of others. 

    FOAM20 is a friendly motivational organisation and brand that aims to build a movement of positive creativity, using inspirational thought-provoking media and news.

    Our platform consists of alternative but informative news and views about local and international topics. We have a strong belief that the little man has a voice that can influence change in many different areas of one’s life.

    Our mission is to create a new generation of creatives and filmmakers through our innovative Workshops.

    We also specialise in delivering film, photography and visual media projects for schools, youth and community organisations.

    Our films have helped many charities succeed in their fundraising goals, proving that great content and interaction really does make a difference to the people they serve. Rebranded to Youth Unity CIC

    For further information about the project please contact DPU's Barbara LipietzDaniel Oviedo or Jordana Ramalho, or Ubele's Junior Mtonga