Charity Support, Advice, Impact Measurement, Philanthropy Impact – NPC

The Olympic legacy: Using sport to change lives

By Dawn Plimmer 13 July 2012

Legacy was at the heart of London’s Olympic bid which pledged to ‘inspire a generation’. What will this mean in practice? How can we harness the energy around sport this summer to engage disadvantaged young people and communities and improve lives? How can we measure the benefits of sport? These were some of the topics debated at an event NPC chaired today on ‘sport for good’.

Sport can be used as a hook to tackle all sorts of social problems: promoting good physical and mental health, improving educational attainment, reducing crime and bringing communities together. The charities, funders, corporates and measurement experts who attended the event all shared an interest in ensuring that the Olympics supports the achievement of these social goals, as well as promoting sports participation as an end in itself.

Sir Keith Mills opened the panel discussion by providing a timely insight into the opportunities and challenges facing the sport for development sector. His conviction in the ability of sport to transform the lives of young people led him to establish sported, a charity that supports community sport organisations that work with young people in disadvantaged areas. Sported has helped many organisations to transform the lives through sport. But at a time when many groups are struggling to survive due to lack of funding, more investment is needed if Olympic inspiration is to translate into real benefits for the most disadvantaged communities.

If sport for development is to get onto the political agenda, the sector needs to do more to convincingly demonstrate its impact. Ned Willis of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, and Tim Crabbe of Substance, acknowledged that there is currently not enough evidence of cost savings to allow informed policy decisions. We know that as part of a well-structured programme of support, sports projects can improve the likelihood of positive outcomes across a range of policy areas. But this knowledge is often anecdotal. These impacts now need to be robustly evidenced.

The Boxing Academy provides an example of how measurement can both demonstrate impact and improve project delivery. Last year, NPC researched the value of sport in tackling youth crime for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. We found that the Boxing Academy achieved lower rates of re-offending, increased qualifications, and improved health for students who struggled in mainstream schools. For every £1 invested the programme creates £3 of value for the young people it works with and for society.

As well as demonstrating its impact to funders, Anna Cain, Head of the Boxing Academy explained today that for charities immersed in day-to-day project delivery, evaluation can bring new insights. Only through measuring its impact did the Boxing Academy realise the importance of length of engagement in determining successful outcomes. While young people on the programme made strong initial progress, this is typically followed by a ‘crisis’ period. It is providing support through this crisis period that allows the Boxing Academy to transform the lives of young people.

James Moore, a participant on the programme, spoke of his own inspirational journey at the Boxing Academy. Once disruptive in lessons, James has learnt to control his anger, completed his GCSEs and is now ready to start college in the autumn.

Clearly, sport can be a catalyst for changing lives. It’s now time to capitalise on the Olympic opportunity and to achieve a real legacy: a strong, community sport sector which attracts and engages hard-to-reach young people, and spreads positive change throughout other areas of their lives. To make the case, the sector needs to work together to convincingly demonstrate its impact. To achieve this, funders must recognise and invest in the potential of sport for good.

To find out about future NPC events like this one, or to read more about our work with funders, visit our website.