By Judith McComb
Sported is a free membership organisation that supports thousands of community groups and clubs across the UK that use the power of sport to change young lives.
As part of the Inspiring Impact Northern Ireland pilot, Sported helped 20 of its member groups to sign up to Inspiring Impact’s Code of Good Impact Practice, complete the Measuring Up! online self-assessment tool and develop an ‘Impact Practice Action Plan’ for their individual organisations.
To help other organisations who may be considering doing the same but are not sure how to approach the task, Judith McComb has shared Sported’s experience below.
95% of Sported’s Northern Ireland member groups are volunteer-led, with less than five paid members of staff. The concept of impact practice, along with the time and resources associated with measuring impact, therefore often appears daunting.
The support we offered to our member groups was an important way of facilitating their ability to measure impact. This included group sessions, one-to-one support to complete Measuring Up! with specific help around action planning, and remote support via email and telephone.
With this level of assistance from Sported, the project has been hugely successful. All 20 of the pilot groups have pledged their support for the Code of Impact Practice and, to date, 14 have completed the Measuring Up! tool and are implementing their Action Plans.
Code of Good Impact Practice
Sported held an initial workshop with our 20 groups to explain the concept and key terms in the Code of Good Impact Practice so participants could take their learning back to their committee and volunteers. Following this, we attended committee meetings for a number of the groups to ensure the language, definitions and concept of Impact Practice was fully understood.
Feedback from participating member groups was very positive, with all groups pledging their support to the Code of Good Impact Practice.
At Sported, we undertook the Measuring Up! assessment for ourselves and found it really useful for identifying areas of strength and where we needed to develop our impact practice. This first-hand experience was a valuable source of learning that we were able to share with our members.
In particular, we found that using the Guidance Notes and Add Notes features of the tool was important. The notes that are added become the basis for generating an ‘automatic action plan’ so it’s crucial to take time to think about this. The guidance notes were vital for our groups as they provided definitions and direct links to additional resources and information.
To speed up the learning curve and try and reduce the conflict between time spent on planning versus delivering activities for young people, we also developed a glossary of key terms for the groups.
Through the self-assessment tool, our pilot groups were able to identify areas of impact practice where they had gaps and prioritise these areas of development. We helped the groups with the Plan section of Measuring Up! which took around an hour and a half. They were then able to complete the three remaining sections—Do, Assess, Review—by themselves, taking about thirty minutes on each section.
Overall, groups found the Measuring Up tool very practical and easy to use, although some found some of the detail difficult to engage with:
‘A lot of the measuring tool didn’t apply to us as it seemed more fitting for large organisations with full time staff. But we all found it very useful and it really opened up the eyes to non-committee members of what goes on in the background and the work and commitment that keeps us driving forward.’ —Northern Ireland Cross-Community Angling.
In their feedback, they suggested a ‘light tool’ could be designed for smaller voluntary groups, but they did recognise the benefits of completing the tool.
Impact Practice Action Planning
Upon completing Measuring Up! groups found the action plan—automatically generated from the notes they had added throughout—to be a really useful document. It enabled them to add activities and timeframes to their plan which they could quickly and easily share with Sported.
Using these, we were able to offer advice and signposting on a number of areas for each group. It also gave us the opportunity to recognise common areas of development across the groups which we capitalised on by holding workshops on theory of change, communications, and Sported’s own shared impact measurement tool, Sportworks.
The tailored and intense level of support offered by Sported to these groups has been a key factor in the completion of this pilot programme. We would strongly recommend this level of support for smaller, voluntary-led groups. We would also recommend collecting feedback about the experience and passing it on to the Inspiring Impact partnership group. It all helps refine the process, and is an important part of the wider ‘sharing’ aspect of the programme’s shared measurement vision.