Sport for development as a team player in building back better and levelling up

More than 130 chief executives, leaders and partners from the organisations and networks that make up the Sport for Development Coalition met on November 3rd, 2021 for its inaugural CEO Forum. 

The Forum focused on bolstering collective action to enhance the role that sport for development can play in strengthening communities, levelling up opportunities across all parts of the UK and supporting efforts to build back better following the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The group of executives and leaders considered how their joined-up efforts can help to tackle the inequalities which have exacerbated by the pandemic, collaborate to mobilise additional resource to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity, and enhance the use of shared data for the benefit of the sector. 

The Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Nigel Huddleston MP, joined senior leaders from Sport England, Sport Wales and sportscotland and executives from charitable and private sector organisations in contributing to the Forum. 

The priorities put forward by the chief executives and leaders of the organisations who make up the Coalition were: 

To work collectively to enhance and better articulate the contribution that sport for development can make to levelling up communities and building back better following Covid-19, by:

1.1 Advocating for long term and sustainable support for community-led approaches: The Forum underscored that significant inequality exists within, as well as across, geographic contexts. The CEOs and leaders agreed that the understanding, assets, and solutions to ‘level up’ these inequalities are primarily embedded within communities facing great disadvantage and the organisations embedded in these areas. Responses aimed at levelling up therefore need to be designed and delivered by leaders and a workforce with a diversity of lived experience who are trusted by the communities within which they work, which is a feature of many sport for development approaches. These approaches need long term and sustainable support.

1.2 Articulating the contributions and actions required to ‘back the movement’: The Forum agreed to collectively advocate for this support by calling for both sport and non-sport stakeholders to ‘back the movement’ of community-led, place-based sport for development organisations. Articulating the contribution that sport for development approaches can make through ‘community ownership’, and delivering ‘multiple returns on investment’ and ‘cost savings’, was identified as one component of this collective advocacy. The Forum also underscored the importance of clear and joined-up communication on the action that policy-makers, commissioners, funders and partners can take to sustain, maximise and scale the community ownership, multiple returns and cost savings that sport for development can deliver. Producing a collective messaging framework in support of this joined-up communication and advocacy was supported. 

1.3 Common messaging, frameworks and measurement tools on community ownership, multiple returns on investment and cost savings: The Forum recognised that advocacy efforts required both joined-up approaches and organisations across the Coalition to integrate common messaging into individual organisations’ communication and advocacy. This would require the development and enhanced use of common language, frameworks and impact measurement approaches centred on the ‘community ownership’, ‘multiple returns on investment’ and ‘cost savings’ sport for development approaches can generate.  

1.4 Engaging non-sport stakeholders: The Forum agreed there was a critical need to engage more extensively with health, education, employment and skills, criminal justice, and community development stakeholders, including: Members of Parliament; local, devolved, and central Government departments; and non-sport charities. This engagement should go beyond individual organisational messaging. It should help these stakeholders better understand the contribution that the community ownership, multiple returns and costs savings generated through sport for development approaches make to levelling up communities across the UK; the needs to sustain the of sport for development organisations uniquely embedded in, and led by, communities facing disadvantage and discrimination; and the potential to scale the impact of the sector in a post-Covid context.

To put data to work for sport for development, by: 

2.1 Integrating common measures into monitoring, evaluation and learning systems, sharing data to produce scaled insight: The Forum called for further action to utilise existing monitoring, evaluation and learning systems across the Coalition to share data, produce collective insight, and evidence at scale the contribution that sport for development makes – and could make - to levelling up and building back better. The Forum identified the value of building shared data on: the types of interventions and places they are being delivered; profile of participants and duration and frequency of their involvement; outcomes that affect the welfare and wellbeing of the population, and, social value of these outcomes.  

2.2 Maximising efficiencies, effectiveness, data security and reporting quality:  The Forum emphasised that any ‘data-sharing’ initiatives should be advanced without replication and duplication, be system agnostic, and draw on current assets and technology in and beyond the sector to support efficiencies and effectiveness. Efforts must be advanced in a manner that promotes good practice in data security, reporting quality, insight generation and impact measurement.  

2.3 Balancing common measurement with programme and context-specific approaches: The Forum recognised the importance of balancing context-specific monitoring and evaluation approaches with any consistent approaches and shared measurement. The value of drawing on validated tools from outside of sport for development was however emphasised, especially in producing comparable data and enhancing sector-wide capability to evidence the ‘community ownership’, ‘multiple returns on investment’ and ‘cost savings’ that can be generated through sport for development approaches (e.g. mapping against the index of multiple deprivation to categorise where projects are delivering impacts; utilising common employability milestones, or validated approaches to assess community trust, to demonstrate multiple returns; and using standard physical activity or subjective wellbeing measures to credibly model health and wellbeing cost savings). 

2.4 Supporting collective capacity development: The Forum emphasised the importance of supporting collective capacity-building and making practical monitoring, evaluation and learning tools available across the Coalition. These processes were identified as essential to enhance capability and commitment across the sector to utilise validated measurement tools (balanced with context and programme specific approaches), improve data and reporting quality, and securely share data across organisations, system providers, commissioners and funders.

To support collective campaigning and joined-up resource mobilisation efforts, by: 

3.1 Sharing content, case studies and impact stories: The Forum recognised the value of sharing content, case studies and impact stories in support of collective public campaigning and better engaging corporate partners around the value of sport for development approaches, including in support of campaigning and fundraising undertaken by Made by Sport. In doing so, the Forum communicated an expectation and requirement that the tone and language of collective campaigning be asset-based and avoid representing communities or groups in a detrimental or negative fashion. The Forum also underscored that due diligence, safeguarding, data protection and commercial rights protections were paramount.  

3.2 Working at scale: The Forum agreed that collective campaigning and engagement should remain focused on working at scale. This should include clearly positioning collective endeavours as being on behalf of a coalition of organisations, avoiding the creation of new entities or programmes, and working at a level, and with stakeholders, that individual entities and networks were not currently engaging. This may require further mapping of the current capacity, connections and partnerships across the Coalition to avoid duplication and build on existing assets in the network. 

3.3 Strengthening systems and processes: The Forum emphasised the importance of having systems in place to ensure the transparent and effective governance and management of collective campaigning efforts. These should include establishing processes to opt in to collective campaigns, effective communication and briefings around key messaging, clarity on how individual organisation’s collateral will be used and procedures for the redistribution of any resource mobilised. There was also a need identified to support grassroots, place-based organisations in developing their capacity to produce impact stories, rather than simply asking organisations for this information.

4 To meet again as a group of chief executives and leaders in 2022 and ensure their organisations regularly participate in Coalition Town Halls to develop shared responses to issues facing the sector. In doing so the chief executives and leaders:

4.1 Expressed thanks and appreciation to their hosts Greenhouse Sports and to Sport England, Comic Relief and Laureus Sport for Good: The Forum participants expressed their appreciation to Greenhouse Sports for hosting the inaugural Forum and to Sport England, Laureus Sport for Good and Comic Relief for their ongoing support for the Sport for Development Coalition’s back-end support functions. 

Read more about the CEO Forum.