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How we'll work

Our guiding principles and our values are the things we hold true to, irrespective of circumstances.

A man cycling through a park.

In an ever-changing world, it’s crucial we’re flexible and able to adapt. Over the course of this strategy period, things will naturally change, but we also all need some predictability and consistency so we can move forward together.

This means being consistent and committed to a way of working with our colleagues and our partners.

Our guiding principles and our values are the things that we hold true to, irrespective of circumstances.

Our guiding principles

When we choose where to spend time, energy and money, we’ll be guided by three principles built into the way we operate.

They represent the biggest commitments to change for us as an organisation. In many ways, this strategy is an evolution of what we do, but a revolution of how we do it. We’ll start applying these principles right away, but in reality we know it’ll take time to be expert at these, and we’ll need to learn from others:

1. Investing most in those that need it most

We’ll follow the established concept of “proportionate universalism” in the work that we do, balancing targeted and universal provision in a way that’s proportionate to the level of need. 

The right thing to do is ensure we all have what we need to be active, regardless of who we are, how we earn a living or how much we make. For some this needs relatively little from us, but for others far more work, time, energy and investment is needed. We’ll no longer say this is too difficult, but instead live up to our values, keeping fairness and equity front and centre.

A mother and her daughter smile as they do yoga in an indoor hall.

2. The right blend of national and local action

Top-down, national solutions rarely, if ever, solve local problems and local solutions rarely, if ever, scale up successfully across the whole nation. It’s our belief that stewardship of sport and physical activity is a shared responsibility across both local and national systems. 

By prioritising the right blend of local and national collaboration, we can draw on the experiences and knowledge of people in places and communities closest to the issues, alongside the influence, views and understanding of national partners. 

We view this blending of the strengths of national and local mindsets and approaches as a critical part of our role: ensuring local intelligence and ‘on the ground’ experience informs the design of national programmes, and in turn informs the best versions of national insight and programmes.

3. Simple as standard

We’ll make the things that underpin all our work simpler and easier for our colleagues and partners. Across all our relationships and investments, some of our systems, platforms and processes can cause frustration and delays for us and partners. 

We plan to invest so the basic information, guidance and support feels brilliantly simple to give and receive. It’s important our ways of working are easy and accessible to all, and that we’re consciously removing the barriers in our processes that could reinforce unequal access to support and funding, while constantly learning about what we can refine.

Our values and behaviours

Our four values are the ways we’ll enshrine our mission in our everyday choices. We’re determined to not just say them, but to live them. Our values steer the ways we shape our organisation’s skills, capabilities and behaviours. 

We’ve applied our values in the creation of this strategy and the way we’ve consulted and engaged. We’ll apply them to choices we make about how to implement it, and we’ll apply them every day as we act on our plans.

Sport England's values icon - collaboration. The black outline of a hand holding a jigsaw piece.

We are collaborative

One team, committed to delivering together and working with others to make a difference to people’s lives.

We cannot achieve our ambitions alone. There’s a growing cohort of people across various sectors exploring the potential of movement, sport and physical activity for social change. We can achieve so much more when we work together - as a single organisation we’re constrained, but as a network we’re unlimited in our capability. 

This strategy defines what we see as our contribution. We believe we can create the conditions for greater collaboration around movement, sport and physical activity. Embedded within that is an understanding that our people, support and resources are best used where they can unlock more people, support and resources. 

We believe in building strong, compelling partnerships founded in integrity, honesty and trust.

A common misconception is that good relationships rely on constant agreement. We don’t think that’s the case. We believe trust is deeper when there are healthy tensions, underpinned by an established shared purpose. 

We recognise everybody has strengths, weaknesses, experiences, knowledge and skills, and part of the process is to discover this so that solutions are better. This means having honest two-way conversations, because listening is as important as talking. 

Collaboration is also about sharing great ideas and ways of doing things. We can connect people and convene groups to solve problems and share what we’re seeing and learning. We can also be ready and willing to be convened by others - brought into a network to add our expertise. 

When we’re being truly collaborative, we know when to ask for help, offer support and step back, because we trust each other to do the right thing.

Sport England's values icon - inclusivity. The black outline of four hands, one on top of each other.

We are inclusive

Harnessing our collective strength and respecting difference to create the conditions for everyone to engage and excel.

We believe deeply that everyone should have the right to benefit from sport and physical activity regardless of age, background or ability. We know that by being more inclusive we’ll make better decisions, be better able to meet the needs of the breadth of people we serve and reduce the inequalities in sport and physical activity. 

An empathy gap often exists between those making decisions and those most affected by them. This isn’t because decision-makers don’t care. It’s because they often don’t have the lived experience to draw upon, and important factors get missed. By the time someone can spot the problems, the rules are normally already in place. 

One of the first things we need to do is increase the diversity of our own workforce so there are more voices around every table.

Beyond that, we need to get better at involving people in our work, and hold the principle that if something directly affects someone, they should be part of the conversation. We’ve been learning how to do this, and this strategy is a commitment to get better. 

Two men laughing during a game of hockey.

This often means reframing our language, adapting how we communicate and pushing aside any preconceptions. Change that emerges from within a community is best able to address the needs of local people over the long term. It’s our job to support that change, not dictate it. It means valuing diverse perspectives and treating everyone with dignity and respect. It means creating spaces and relationships where people feel able to share ideas and concerns. 

We’ll democratise the creation of insight and access to information, and we’ll work harder so our collective knowledge can be shared in a way that feels inclusive, accessible and empowering. We seek to unite, through embracing and learning from our diversity and our differences.

Sport England's values icon - ambition. The black outline of an arrow hitting the centre of a target.

We are ambitious

Determined in pursuit of our goals, prioritising work and partnerships that will most advance our mission, help us succeed and make a positive impact on the nation.

We have a big ambition to transform lives through sport and physical activity – this requires focus, prioritisation, energy, commitment, consistently high standards and a ‘can do’ attitude from everyone.

We’ll be stubborn on our vision, and flexible on what it takes to get there. We know being wedded to plans and the details of something can often hold you back from the bigger purpose.

Instead, we’ll have a laser focus on what we’re trying to achieve and be willing to look at the best ways to use all the tools in our toolkit.

We’ll build on shared ambitions too. Instead of trying to create momentum from scratch, it can often be more useful to find the places where common purpose and enthusiasm exist and start there. In doing so, we’ll bring energy and enthusiasm to the pursuit of our goals and strive for new ways of working while keeping our purpose and mission in mind.

Sport England's values icon - innovation. The black outline of a lit light bulb.

We are innovative

Curious, optimistic and relentless, we question established ways of working and learn from each other and from our experiences.

To change the behaviour of the nation we need to think, work and behave differently. Just offering the same thing will lead to the same results – we must be committed to continuously learning from our past, our partners and each other. 

The more we learn about what really works, the more we begin to value a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurialism within our work.

At the core of innovation is taking a more open-handed approach, where we’ll take the role of creating a clarity of purpose and then making space for people to innovate. This will help inspire and encourage others to create and share new ideas. 

Being comfortable with the uncomfortable is necessary for innovation to emerge. This is because more risk and experimentation is needed to unearth new ways of doing things. This might mean some things won’t work, but the value of learning is vital for the next part of the journey. Creating a culture that embraces things not working, or not going to plan, as part of the road to success is the only way to foster innovation.

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