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21 Aug 2023 | 11:11

RN5This month Sports Leaders unveiled its new identity as the Leadership Skills Foundation. We spoke to its CEO, Richard Norman, about why the Foundation has felt it necessary to evolve and refresh its brand and offer.

Hi Richard, thanks for speaking to the Coalition. Can you give us some more insight into why the refresh was considered necessary?

Our aim has always been to help young people build confidence, skills and community cohesion. We live in a time of near-constant change and disruption. That can be exciting, but it can also be daunting. That’s true for adults but especially true for young people if they’re not given opportunity to develop the right skills that can shape their character as they look to their future. From speaking to young people, and through our own and others’ research, we understand that they often feel underprepared for their future and often express a sense of helplessness in facing the challenges ahead of them. We believe we have a key role to play in supporting young people to not only adapt to face these challenges but thrive as they do so.

We know from our 40 years of experience in developing leadership skills through sport and physical activity that supporting young people to increase their confidence, build resilience, and gain the belief that they can shape their world has far-reaching implications. That’s why we’ve challenged ourselves to evolve as an organisation and work with more learners and more centres to provide an even greater number of opportunities for young people to build the skills needed for their future.

What are the origins of the Foundation?

The Leadership Skills Foundation traces its roots back to 1977 when the Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR, now the Sport and Recreation Alliance) produced its report 'Sport & Young People – The need for action now'. At the heart of this report was a quote from HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, which has remained core to our organisation ever since: “Every generation has a responsibility to pass on its experiences and discoveries about the art of living to its succeeding generation”.


After the publication of that report, the CCPR’s Youth Sub-Committee launched the pilot that became the Community Sports Leaders Award in 1983 with funding from the Colson Fellowship Trust. That initial pilot ran with 1,000 participants but by the early 2000s, over 90,000 young people were completing our sports leadership programmes each year and we now have over 2.5million young people that have completed on of our leadership qualifications and awards. More recently, in 2018 we embedded our skills framework into all our leadership programmes and began to explore new subject areas for qualifications and awards as well as establishing new partnerships. All of which has paved the way for the launch of the Leadership Skills Foundation.

Why are the skills and qualifications that you offer to young people so important in the modern world?

Our Skills Framework, which is embedded into all of our programmes, was based on research from Youth Employment UK into the skills most in demand with employers: teamwork, communication, self-belief, self-management and problem-solving. We fundamentally believe that every young person can recognise, demonstrate and improve these skills in themselves through practically-applied activities. That doesn’t mean that everyone will go on to become a Chief Executive of a FTSE 100 company, or would even want to.


But we do want young people to believe they can be a leader and they can succeed in ways that are relevant to them as individuals; that they can lead and inspire their peers on issues they are passionate about, and that they can make a difference, not only to themselves but to their communities. These skills, experiences, and ultimately confidence in their personal strengths, will help young people to be better prepared to tackle the challenges and opportunities they will undoubtedly experience in their future. We need to support young people, all young people, to believe that they can make a difference, that they are important and valued, and that bedrock of self-belief will benefit them in ways which are impossible to predict.

You are a serving member of the Sport for Development Coalition’s Board of Trustees. How does the Foundation’s core aims align to the purpose of the Coalition, particularly with regards to its #OpenGoal framework?

Inspiring collaboration is a core value for us, and we always want to find ways to work with others and share our expertise in integrating leadership skills into partners’ programmes. The Coalition is a great example of this sharing of vision and expertise. And on more basic level, investing in young people is the right thing to do. So there is great alignment in our values and the work of the Coalition. Every person should be able to look to their future with confidence and optimism, knowing they will have the opportunity to thrive, not just survive. And that should be an expectation regardless of their background.


By investing in young people, we know there are better life outcomes for them. We know that communities rely on people remaining active and engaged in order for them to build and thrive. And our workplaces, public spaces, and political spheres can only benefit from that. We want every young person to feel empowered to shape their future, and I believe that sentiment and motivation is carried throughout the Coalition. It is a privilege to contribute in a small way to the Coalition’s mission and purpose while also understanding the incredible work of hundreds of organisations and individuals using sport in such a positive way.

The Coalition has doubled in size over the last 18 months, with more than 400 charities and organisations now involved. What would your message be to those organisations, given the work the Foundation does with 100,000 young people each year? 

The Coalition provides a reach of voice that one organisation alone cannot achieve. Together we represent a group of organisations that seek to give opportunities to individuals and to support communities to thrive. This unity of purpose cuts across the fields we work in or the individual approaches we take, and everyone I have met during my time with the Coalition, or in sport and education more generally, share a very common ambition: in wanting a better world for the next generation with more opportunities, not fewer.


The last few years have felt like a perma-crisis for everyone and perhaps more so for many of those served by the organisations involved with the Coalition. The collective scale and impact of these organisations is immense and by remaining united through the Coalition we can show that we can collectively effect positive change through innovative solutions to the many and complex challenges faced up and down the UK. True impact takes time, and the message we need to deliver is that it is not only the right thing to do but that the time and effort is worth it – for everyone. 

Read Richard’s blog here.