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Sport for Change: What type of organisation are you?

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

Over 650 Scottish organisations contributed to our recent jointly-commissioned research exploring how a sport for change approach could be developed and supported within Scotland going forward.

Sport for Change is defined as “using sport and physical activity intentionally to bring about positive benefits for individuals and communities, to address specific needs”. 

Intentionality is the key - in other words, an effective sport for change approach views participation in sport or physical activity to simply be the tool, or hook, to bring about about positive change.

All of the organisations contributing to the research had one thing in common; an involvement in the delivery of sport and physical activity. However, given the diversity of the respondents - ranging from Sports Governing Bodies to charities, NHS boards to Leisure Trusts - it is perhaps unsurprising that there were variations in the way in which some organisations were using sport and the motivation behind doing so. 

The research has broken down this involvement into three broad categories and identified some of the key characteristics and challenges faced by organisations within each of these categories.  These are:

Category 1: Organisations focusing mainly on sport participation and sporting skills

6% of those surveyed for the research identified themselves as being in this category. Sport Governing Bodies and sports clubs were most likely to self-identify in this space. While participation and performance were the main reasons that organisations in this category stated that they were delivering sporting activities, there was a clear sense that participation in sport helped people to be active, get healthier and to improve their confidence.

Although many of these respondents did identify health and confidence benefits as reasons for their work, there tended to be less of a focus on the specific needs they were addressing through their work or who it is that they wanted to bring about change for. There also tended to be less partnership working.

Organisations in this space stated that they would like additional support around how to bring about wider benefits through sport, how to evaluate the impact of their work and how to deliver activities that bring about wider benefits.

Does your organisation fit into this category?  If so, you might want to think about the following:

  • What needs or challenges do people in the communities that we work in face on a day to day basis?  Is there any way our work could support them?
  • What difference do you want to make through your work?  How will you know if you have made that difference?
  • Who currently uses your services? Are there any under-represented groups here?  What might be the barriers to them engaging with you and what can you do to support them to get and stay engaged with sport and physical activity?
  • Do you have shared goals with any other organisations working in your area? 
Category 2: Organisations using sport and physical activity opportunities for participation, performance and wider benefits

The highest level of respondents (69%) identified as being in this category.   Many Leisure Trusts, Local Authorities and community sport hubs see themselves as having this dual role of raising participation and supporting better health and wellbeing.  Leisure Trusts in particular, often had a focus on enabling access to physical activity through providing appropriate facilities and ensuring that cost was not a barrier to participation

Organisations here were particularly interested in additional support around funding and building their capacity and sustainability.

Does your organisation fit into this category?  If so, you might want to think about the following:

  • Do you know who is accessing your services and, if so, are they representative of your wider community (and particularly under-represented groups within your community)?
  • Are you able to evidence the difference you are making to people through your work beyond counting the number of participants?
  • Beyond cost, and having access to facilities, what other barriers might exist for people accessing your services?  How might you support them to overcome these barriers?
Category 3: Organisations with a focus on achieving a particular social outcome, using sport/physical activity as a way of doing this

25% of respondents, mostly from voluntary/community organisations and NHS boards stated that wider outcomes, including improved health and supporting personal development, were their primary purpose for delivering sports and physical activities. These organisations also identified the need for support around their capacity and funding, in designing appropriate activities and in being able to evidence the impact of their work.

  • Are we as good as we can be at talking about the impact of our work?  Do we have the evidence to be able to do this?
  • Are the activities we use the best ones to be able to support people to achieve wider outcomes through sport?
  • How can we share our learning and best practice more widely to support understanding of “what works” when using a sport for change model

So, which category best describes the organisation you are involved with? Whatever your situation, we recommend downloading our handy signposting document which provides advice on where to look if you require support in areas such as:

  • Organisational development
  • Becoming more enterprising
  • Asset transfer and enterprise
  • Mentoring and support
  • Learning and evaluation

In the meantime, you can download the full Sport for Change and/or the executive summary here.

Please note that The Robertson Trust does not fund participation in sport. Instead, we will only consider funding sport and physical activity where it is intentionally being used to deliver social impact for individuals and communities and driving outcomes in one of our three strategic areas; Care & Wellbeing, Strengthening Communities and Realising Potential. We will be blogging about this in more detail in the coming days.