This strategy promises significant changes to how we’ll work as an organisation, and the way we’ll work alongside others - so it makes sense that the way we understand our success will need to change as well.
During our last strategy, the number of people regularly active before the Covid-19 pandemic hit had grown by over one million. Our own target, agreed with the government, was an increase of half a million.
This increase in activity levels pre-Covid-19 was positive, but it didn’t solve the whole problem, nor reflect the complexity of the bigger picture, and as we recognise in this strategy there’s still much more to do beyond what the numbers might suggest.
We’ve traditionally viewed our ultimate success as the overall performance at a national level against targets like this, but we’ve learned they’re a blunt instrument.
They give a simple sense of overall progress, but don’t give useful information on the nature of a complex problem.
During our last strategy, the number of people regularly active before the Covid-19 pandemic hit had grown by over one million, but this figure didn't reflect the bigger picture
These population figures are ones over which thousands of organisations and thousands of individual factors have an influence. No single organisation could, for example, be held responsible for the impact of Covid-19 on physical activity levels. So this approach is a poor reflection of the efficacy of any single organisation, even one of the relative size, scale and influence of ours.
Alongside this, if we’re to work more collaboratively - at a local level, trusting and empowering our partners more, with fewer top-down national programmes – it’s hard to see how a single national target could ever capture the effectiveness of that.
But it’s also the case that we have a purpose, a vision and a mission that are about everybody, from every background, in every place having an equal chance to be active and benefit from it.
That’s a national aspiration, not confined to a specific area, a specific programme or a specific objective, and one we and others will want to see clear progress against.
Our specific impact and our collective mission
So we’ll now capture both our specific impact, through the programmes we fund, the interventions we make, the partnerships we forge and the influence we bring to bear, but also how our work – alongside that of countless others – could add up to change at a population level.
We’ll share an aspiration amongst all those that work within sport and physical activity, from government departments to individual volunteers, to see a positive transformation in the nation’s relationship with movement, sport and physical activity.
That means we’ll continue to capture, on behalf of the entire ecosystem, the most detailed population-wide picture of sport and physical activity for both adults and children anywhere in the world, through the Active Lives surveys.
This will show whether or not the collective action of all those individuals, organisations and government departments that share our purpose are having the impact we desire: to increase the levels of activity across the whole population, to improve people’s experience of sport and physical activity and to tackle some clearly defined inequalities in activity levels.
We’ll continue to capture, on behalf of the entire ecosystem, the most detailed population-wide picture of sport and physical activity.
But change at this level is never the responsibility of a single organisation, so it’s crucial we also understand the specific impact of the work we and our partners undertake, and the progress against our own specific objectives.
Key performance indicators
We know that what gets measured, gets done. But equally, we’ve heard strongly from partners about the risk of hitting the target, but missing the point.
We need measures, therefore, that are thoughtful and proportionate, helpful to others as well as to us, that give us useful information but also encourage the right behaviours and don’t bring with them unintended consequences.
So for each specific area of action, we’ll also develop a set of key performance indicators that can give assurance to us and those with whom we’re working that progress is being made, that the things we expect to change are changing and, crucially, we’re learning, adapting and refining as we go.
These indicators will be developed alongside the detail of each area. They’ll be outlined more fully in the plans we publish throughout the 10-years of this strategy and adapt and respond to changing circumstances and what we’re learning, in the same way our own priorities will.
This hybrid approach to understanding our success will mean we can evidence the overall progress being made by all those involved in supporting sport and physical activity, and also fulfil our role as a public body, spending public money, to evidence the specific impact we’re having. That we’re making the difference we see is necessary, in the areas that need the greatest attention, for those that need it the most.