Since its launch in 2012 Sport Wales has invested £4million of National Lottery funding over two phases of its Calls4Action programme in 21 separate projects. It has demonstrated exemplar practice through innovative partnerships to achieve participation by hard to reach groups.
Carwyn Young – Sport Wales’s lead officer for Calls4Action provides his personal perspective on the learning that is emerging from UK Research Consultancy Service (RCS) longitudinal evaluation of the programme and what it could mean for Sport Wales and the sector.
I can still recall the conversation in January 2014 that resulted in me being given the task of bringing Phase 2 of Calls4Action to fruition. Armed with the findings of an internal evaluation of Phase 1, an indicative budget commitment of £3million and four Focus areas of:
- Girls & Young Women
- People with a disability
- People from a BME background
- Young people living in poverty
I quickly established a pan organisational working group, so I wasn’t alone!
So, three years later, with 11 projects supported, two years’ worth of progress reviews and evaluation findings, what learning has emerged?
I’m going to start with some of the “Big Lessons” that RCS have concluded from their most recent findings:
- It is possible to engage hard to reach groups
- Engaging these groups entails innovative methods……
- ….both in terms of governance and partnership…..
- ….and delivery.
- Also entails a degree of reputational and financial risk which can be accepted and managed, but which remains……
- Lessons from C4A can inform Community Sport, public health, and wider well-being objectives
All positive stuff I’d hope you’d agree, so what is the some of the learning behind these “Big Lessons”?
I’m going to revisit the key findings of RCS first Interim Impact report, however I have summarised the key findings into my own words:
Timing and Pace: In your planning allow time to get to know and engage with the target group before delivery starts.
Predicted Outputs: Be clear in terms of what your project is meant to do and what it can deliver
Participation: Make sure you capture impact on individuals not just the numbers
Governance and Partnerships: Projects are effective when partners combine their areas of expertise. Be clear in terms of what you want from and can provide to the partnership
Ways of Working: Understanding the person you want to engage with and personalise your messaging/engagement. Deliver what people want not what we think they need to build confidence and trust.
Demonstrating Value: Make sure you have the processes in place to capture all the impact of the project from the start
Structural change: Be flexible and have the ability to adapt the project as challenges arise
I’d like to think that as you’ve read through these findings you’ve thought, “that’s pretty obvious” however I’d also like you to consider whether your current ways of working always incorporate them? If you do, could you make it even better?
One of my favourite pieces of learning has emerged from the StreetGames ‘Us Girls’ project and it’s what they’ve termed “pre-pre engagement”. It’s about engaging with the target group to build trust and understanding so that a relationship forms between them and the project before even broaching the subject of them becoming physically active. From an ‘Us Girls’ perspective, the “pre-pre engagement” took the form of makeup sessions, virtual chat sessions, visits to activities, and the time and effort to do this became a key element of the project. “Pre-pre engagement”, wasn’t an approach you’d normally associate with a Sport Wales supported project but one that has proved to be essential to successfully engage this group of girls.
To finish I’d like to reiterate one of RCS’ “Big Lessons”, “It is possible to engage hard to reach groups”. Calls4Action projects have confirmed it’s not easy, however it is very rewarding when you see the impact that the projects are having on people lives. Here are links to a couple of videos that show what I mean:
I also want to point out that the climate we currently operate within, is significantly different to that of 2014 when Calls4Action phase 2 was launched. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 didn’t even exist! You could argue that Calls4Action had already started to implement some of the ‘5 Ways of working’. Implementing the learning into a phase 3 of Calls4Action would be relatively straight forward a bigger challenge is to implement it into what we do on a daily basis and It’s one that I and Sport Wales are up for.
I’m therefore quietly confident that in this ever-changing environment that we find ourselves operating within, we’ve got a lot of things going for us and don’t just take my word for it, read the RCS evaluation reports.