Harnessing Sport for Development: Innovative Funding and Local Partnerships

Harnessing Sport for Development: Innovative Funding and Local Partnerships

Written by Mark Lawrie, CEO

On Wednesday 24 May, I had the pleasure of joining the APPG for Sport committee meeting, chaired by Kim Leadbeater MP, at the House of Commons where I joined colleagues from the sector to discuss the ever-growing evidence of sport’s impact on social outcomes across the UK.

In recent years, some of the delivery funding available to local sport for development organisations has undergone a transformation, thanks to innovative approaches and the recognition of the importance of connecting national policies with community-level, grassroots implementation. StreetGames, a systems partner to Sport England and a founding member of the Sport for Development Coalition, has been pioneering in this field for over 15 years. By working closely with locally trusted organisations (LTOs) in low-income, underserved communities, StreetGames has made a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and young people through sport.

Building Momentum

In our start-up phase back in 2007, StreetGames shared participant data and impactful stories of what works to engage young people from low-income families from 15 locally trusted organisations (LTOs) working in deprived areas. These early efforts laid the foundation for continued growth and success. Today, we collaborate with over 1,500 LTOs, and are the only national sports charity exclusively focused on increasing participation by children and young people from low-income, underserved communities. Throughout our journey to date, our commitment to learning and continuous development of our expertise, developed in close collaboration with LTOs, have allowed us to refine our Doorstep Sport approach and deliver against a range of social outcomes.

The power of sport to effect change is no longer based on hopeful anecdotes. There has been a significant shift towards the more sophisticated measurement of the impact on individuals and the identification of the critical ingredients that lead to success. StreetGames, alongside other organisations in the sport and sport for development sectors such as the Premier League Charitable Fund and Premier Rugby’s Hitz Programme, has played a leading role in this progress. The challenge that follows the distillation of what works in increasing participation by children and young people from low-income backgrounds is then how you replicate and sensitively apply that learning at scale, avoiding a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ approach to diverse local communities.

The Youth Justice Sports Fund

A major milestone for StreetGames was our involvement in a consortium of three national sport for development organisations. In just over six months, we collaborated with the Ministry of Justice to design and deliver a £5 million program known as the Youth Justice Sports Fund. The consortium, led by the Sport for Development Coalition and involving the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice, partnered with 220 local delivery organisations primarily serving underserved neighbourhoods. Through this initiative, nearly 8,000 vulnerable young people gained access to regular sports activities and tailored support, such as mentoring and training beyond their immediate surroundings.

Selecting 220 organizations from over 470 applications highlights the growing capability within the sector to deliver targeted interventions. However, challenges remain. Consistent and longer-term funding is crucial, as short-term allocations often strain the capacities of the most effective delivery organisations. Commissioning processes should put a greater focus on building the capacity of local delivery organisations, enabling a more consistent approach to leveraging sport for early intervention and prevention outcomes across criminal justice and other government departments.

Developing the Workforce and Demonstrating Impact

While sports organisations are not a cure-all, ongoing efforts within the sector aim to provide commissioners with confidence in the delivery of impactful programs. The Youth Justice Sports Fund’s emphasis on monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) serves as a replicable model. By providing appropriate support to delivery organisations, near-perfect returns of data and outcome measurements have been achieved, solidifying the evidence for the positive impact of sport.

The evolving understanding of sport’s potential, particularly in the context of sport for development, has paved the way for innovative approaches and partnerships. The Youth Justice Sports Fund is a shining example of sport aligning with government policies to drive positive change. Similar success stories can be found in areas like mental health, education, employability, and community cohesion. The Chiles, Webster, Batson Commission underlined the pivotal role of Local Trusted Organisations (LTOs) in deprived areas transforming lives through sport. By harnessing the power of sport, we can continue to make a profound difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

Uniting the Movement: Addressing growing inequalities in sport and physical activity among lower socio-economic groups

Uniting the Movement: Addressing growing inequalities in sport and physical activity among lower socio-economic groups

Written by Mark Lawrie, Chief Executive

Sport England’s latest Active Lives survey has provided a glimmer of hope amid the pandemic-induced stagnation. Results from the survey show that activity levels among adults have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, a positive development. However, the report also reveals that the activity gap between the most affluent and the least affluent demographics has widened, with a significant 20% differential. This finding is a clear indication that persistent barriers continue to hinder adults from lower-socio-economic groups (LSEGs) in their participation in sport and physical activity.

The most recent annual Active Lives survey, conducted between November 2021 and November 2022, tracks physical activity and sport participation in England. The survey found that 63.1% of adults aged 16 and over in England were physically active for at least 150 minutes per week, which is the Chief Medical Officer’s recommended level of activity. This percentage is comparable to pre-pandemic levels and is an improvement on the previous year.

Despite this encouraging news, the survey also found that fewer people from lower socio-economic groups (LSEGs) were  likely to participate in physical activity than those from higher SEGs. In fact, while 72.6% of adults in higher socio-economic groups reported being ‘active’, for those in the lowest socio-economic groups that figure is just 52.7% and for those who are currently unemployed, the figures showed a sharp downward trend with just 45% recorded as  ‘active’. The activity disparity is also clear in relation to the least affluent places, with those in the most deprived areas seeing activity levels remaining stubbornly below the pre-pandemic baseline.

These persistent and growing inequalities are extremely concerning and highlight the need to redouble the focus on supporting and encouraging participation in sport and physical activity among disadvantaged groups.

That’s a vision shared by Sport England and clearly laid out in Uniting the Movement, their 10-year strategy to make sport and physical activity more equal and accessible. Uniting the Movement’s end goal of ‘a nation of more equal, inclusive and connected communities’ feels absolutely the right one, and a goal which only becomes more urgent as inequalities between the top and bottom of society continue to widen. At StreetGames we are and always have been committed to working alongside Sport England and the wider sector to ensure these aims can become reality.

At StreetGames we know that a promising approach to addressing this issue is to support Locally Trusted Organisations (LTOs) that are already doing great work in engaging young people and their families in sport and physical activity. LTOs play a vital role in breaking down the barriers that can prevent people from LSEGs from participating in sport and physical activity. Moreover, local organisations have a unique understanding of the challenges faced by their neighbourhoods and can tailor their programs and initiatives to meet the specific needs of these communities. They can also provide support and encouragement to young people, who may be hesitant to participate in sport and physical activity due to a lack of confidence, inadequate equipment, or other obstacles.

By supporting these embedded, well-connected organisations, we can help ensure that everyone has access to a range of sport and physical activities that can improve their physical and mental health, boost their confidence and self-esteem, and enhance their social skills.

Making sport as accessible as possible, by ensuring every community has activity available close to home, at the right price, delivered in the right way is exactly what we at StreetGames work to provide through Doorstep Sport. Doorstep Sport offers accessible and affordable opportunities for young people to take part in informal sport within their local community through vibrant, varied, fun and sociable sessions. Effective Doorstep Sport delivery has a strong emphasis on youth leadership, offers personal development opportunities and encourages lifelong participation. Delivered in the right way, Doorstep Sport can also be hugely adaptable, and can be modified to achieve a wide range of positive impacts in communities, including combating holiday hunger, preventing youth offending, and supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Initiatives like Sport England’s Together Fund are a great contribution to this work. StreetGames are using this fund to support community organisations to provide attractive, varied and vibrant sporting offers for the young people in the underserved communities in which they work. Examples of this in action are how we’ve supported the East African Association based in South London to provide new activity sessions, facilitate trips, and offer wrap-around support for young people facing issues linked to housing and immigration, and our work with Salford Community Leisure who organise a range of activities, including the Salford Summer Festival, to promote sports opportunities in underprivileged areas. In this final phase of the fund, StreetGames have supported over 100 community organisations to deliver life-enhancing Doorstep Sport to young people in their local area.

But we also need to tackle the feeling that exists for too many young people that playing sport or being part of major sporting events is for other people and beyond their reach. For many young people living in underserved communities, major sporting events can feel a million miles away – geographically and culturally. That’s why StreetGames launched our Inspiration campaign last year to open up access to major sporting events for young people, create brilliant volunteering opportunities and give young people the chance to broaden their horizons and set their sights higher. With 24,000 young people from 725 communities engaged in last year’s campaign, we know the appetite is there – what is too often missing is the means.

While the overall bounce back to pre-pandemic activity levels is a positive development, it is concerning to see the activity gap between the most affluent and least affluent demographics widen. To address this disparity, we need to focus on supporting local community organisations that are already doing great work engaging young people and their families in sports and physical activities. By doing so, we can help create a more equitable and inclusive environment in which everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the many benefits of sport and physical activity.

Sports Leadership Academy

Sports Leadership Academy

We are delighted to share that applications are now open for a new and exciting sports and employability programme – the Sports Leadership Academy.

The one-year programme is being managed by London Youth and supported by StreetGames and League Leaders, in partnership with the Mayor of London (MoL) and London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).

The Sports Leadership Academy will increase the skills, knowledge, confidence and aspirations of 100 young people aged 14-24 who live in some of London’s most underserved communities. It will be delivered through a series of bespoke training opportunities, practical work experiences and Sports Industry Insight Sessions.

Central to the Sports Leadership Academy will be the formation of a Youth Academy Board, made up of 20 of the 100 young people, ensuring the programme is created by young people, for young people. Youth voice and the lived experiences of young people will be the key driver behind the curriculum.

The aims of the programme are to:

  • Identify and engage underserved young people who desire to enter the sport workforce
  • Provide exciting, fun and positive development opportunities to inspire and ensure the next generation of the sports workforce are more work ready and have greater knowledge and understanding of opportunities in the sector
  • Work with partners, youth organisations and young people to better understand underserved young people’s journeys, including barriers and the key pillars of support and training required
  • Allow youth voice to play a key role in programme design and development, ensuring the programme is created for young people, by young people

How to Apply

Let us help you develop your young people to become more work ready. From your organisation, we need one committed young person to be part of our Youth Academy Board, and four others to be part of the opportunity.

Applications are now open and the deadline to apply for this opportunity is Monday 15th May, at 5pm. We are especially keen to hear from organisations in: Bexley, Brent, Croydon, Enfield, Hackney, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham and Redbridge.

To find out more about the programme, access the Application Guidance Document and submit an application, please visit the dedicated programme page on London Youth’s website.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Marco (Employability Manager) or Radhika (Programmes Officer) at sports@londonyouth.org.

StreetGames launches this year’s Inspiration campaign, bringing unforgettable sporting experiences to underserved communities

StreetGames launches this year’s Inspiration campaign, bringing unforgettable sporting experiences to underserved communities

This weekend, 30 young people from Girls United in South London got to witness the Women’s League Cup Final at Selhurst Park, marking the start of a series of unforgettable experiences that the Inspiration campaign promises to bring in 2023. 

Following the massive success of last year’s campaign, which connected over 24,000 young people and 725 community organisations to major sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Rugby League World Cup, this year’s campaign is set to take things even further by creating even more access to major sporting events, opening doors to experiences that will stay with young people from underserved communities for a lifetime. 

The Inspiration campaign isn’t just about providing unforgettable sporting experiences for young people – it’s also about creating real change. StreetGames aims to leverage its expertise, knowledge, and connections to influence mainstream sports providers to better meet the needs of young people from low-income communities. 

By collaborating with National Governing Bodies (NGBs) that share its commitment to creating a lasting impact, StreetGames aims to identify those with the potential to make the greatest impact on young people. Together, we will work to develop a strategic approach that ensures all young people have equal opportunities to access and enjoy sports, regardless of their background. 

The campaign will also provide young people with volunteer opportunities to support their local communities. To make sure that these volunteering opportunities are maximised, StreetGames will provide training and development support to community organisations in the StreetGames network.  

Mark Lawrie, CEO of StreetGames said: “We were blown away by the success of the #Inspiration2022 campaign, which saw first-hand how connecting young people with major sporting events can have a ripple effect, inspiring them to get more involved in sport and physical activity. With the Inspiration campaign in 2023, we want to build on this success and create even more opportunities for young people to get involved.” 

“We know that volunteering can be a hugely rewarding experience for young people, and can help them to develop skills and confidence. By linking up young people with key people within NGBs and event organising committees, we can create more opportunities for them to make a real difference in their local communities.” 

Abigail Ingram, London Manager at Girls United said: “The Inspiration campaign is truly life-changing for the young people we work with. By providing opportunities to attend major sporting events like the Women’s League Cup final, we are giving them memories that will last a lifetime. But it’s more than just the thrill of the game – attending these events is an experience that shapes their development in countless ways. From navigating public transport to witnessing the inspiring players in action, it’s a journey that opens doors and broadens horizons.” 

Why are residentials important to young volunteers?

Why are residentials important to young volunteers?

For most young volunteers that attend StreetGames residentials, it is the first time they’ve had the opportunity to travel outside of their communities and play a crucial role in their development.

In October, StreetGames held its first residential for young volunteers since May 2018. This was the first opportunity since the pandemic began for young volunteers to come together at the picturesque Brathay Trust Outdoor Activities centre in the Lake District.

StreetGames residentials have been taking place since 2007 and bring together young volunteers from some of the most deprived areas of the UK. For most, it is the first time they have been away from home, and offers them a chance to experience the world beyond their own neighbourhood. They return home with different outlooks on life, ready to work hard to achieve a better future for themselves.

A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner Rachel De Souza offered a fresh perspective on what young people are thinking and feeling as we begin to recover from the pandemic. What young people make very clear throughout the report is that they want more and better opportunities to get active, socialise and enjoy sport.

Making friends and developing skills

StreetGames residentials are designed and delivered to support all participants taking part to develop their teamwork, leadership and communication skills. But it is often the experiences they have that are the most valuable – participants face their fears, they support and empathise with others, and they make connections and friends that can last a lifetime.

Young people tell us how special it is to meet others who are like them from across the country, these shared experiences create a bond and a sense of belonging that come with meeting new people and being out of your comfort zone. The skills, knowledge and behaviour that the young volunteers develop at a residential are all transferable, lifelong skills that will prepare them for future challenges that life throws up.

Our three-day leadership course has been designed over a number of years by our volunteering expert staff, with significant input from young people. Our most experienced and talented volunteers are called ‘Young Advisors’, and we select six of these to play a crucial role in the delivery of the course.

This in turn helps develop their skills even further and provides them with these experiences that they can share during job interviews or on applications to make them stand out. It’s an incredibly special experience getting to watch the journey of a Young Advisor, from the first planning meeting to seeing them open the residential and bring all their ideas and hard work to life.

Mountain top moments

Youth development is one of the key ingredients in StreetGames’ central programme Doorstep Sport. The opportunities and experiences created through residentials really help to motivate and further empower young volunteers to make a difference in their communities. At StreetGames our ethos is getting young people to be the best that they can be and that means supporting them to take control of their lives.

We have clear evidence that our bespoke leadership course has a profound impact on the lives of the young people who attend; research undertaken by StreetGames shows that these ‘Mountain top moments’ are potential turning points, and if StreetGames can provide more of these moments then we are meeting our mission of addressing the issues faced by those living in the poorest communities.

StreetGames wins Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Volunteering Award

StreetGames wins Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Volunteering Award

StreetGames has been announced as one of the 20 national charities receiving the award, which recognises outstanding work empowering and supporting 16-25 year olds across the UK.

Since StreetGames was established in 2007, our Doorstep Sport approach has enabled over 30,000 young people aged 14-25 to volunteer, give back to their local communities and develop transferable skills for the future. Having been awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award in 2012, we have continued to grow our volunteer impact year on year, creating more opportunities for young people to try new sports and activities, develop skills, go to new places and meet new people.

Doorstep Sport sessions delivered by the fantastic community organisations in our network are at the core of creating these opportunities, with young people encouraged to help shape sessions, make their voices heard, and take on volunteering and leadership roles. These roles vary from delivering activities or mentoring other young people, to assisting with admin or social media, ensuring that everyone has the chance to take part.

In addition to the opportunities provided locally by our network, young people are also encouraged to take up youth empowerment and development opportunities with StreetGames ourselves. These include:

  • Becoming a Young Advisor for a StreetGames event or project, taking a leading role in planning and delivery

  • Taking on key roles at our national and regional conferences and network events, including as speakers, comperes, and workshop facilitators

  • Undertaking Peer Research to understand and amplify the voices of other young people in their local areas

  • Playing active roles on our recruitment panels for jobs within the charity

  • Attending events such as our 2022 Youth Summit, providing opportunities for young people to share their opinions and views as well as developing key skills for employment

Our #Inspiration2022 Awards were an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic work of young volunteers up and down the country, with the stories of our nominees, regional winners and national champions all highlighting both the invaluable contribution of the young people themselves, and the brilliant work of our network to support them to thrive within their volunteering roles.

Lucie Vickers, StreetGames Head of Volunteering and Youth Voice, said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Volunteering Award. Creating opportunities for young people from low-income, underserved communities to become volunteers and future community leaders is at the heart of our Doorstep Sport approach, and we are delighted that the impact of this work has been recognised through this prestigious award.”

Read more about our youth voice and volunteering work here, or contact us to find out more about current opportunities.

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