They say time flies when you're having fun... It’s hard to believe, but it's three years ago today since we published Uniting the Movement, our 10-year strategy for sport and physical activity in England.
Back in January 2021, with the country in the middle of a national lockdown, we hosted an online launch event that was virtually attended by thousands of people from across our sector.
At one point in the broadcast over 5,000 partners and interested parties were tuned in – showing the interest and appetite there was for the direction of travel being set.
The midst of a global pandemic may not have been an obvious time to set out a long-term strategy and vision, but in some ways it was the perfect moment.
Covid-19 was having a seismic impact on how people could play sport and get active: many activities were unavailable and facilities were closed.
Why we're focused on levelling the playing field
It was also becoming increasingly clear that not everyone was being impacted in the same way.
Certain groups of people, often those who already faced additional barriers that prevented them from living active lives, were being affected more than others – compounding the inequalities that already blighted our sporting landscape.
We knew our sector would have to rebuild and we were determined to help it to build back better. As well as recover, we needed to reinvent.
It’s why tackling inequalities in sport and physical activity is at the absolute heart of Uniting the Movement. I am very proud both of this commitment and the determination my colleagues have to bring it to life.
For too long our sector has been set up to serve those most able to access it. Turning that around and seeking unashamedly to prioritise those audiences and communities previously less engaged, is a north star now in everything that we do.
In order to bring about the change we want to see, however, we also knew we would have to revolutionise the way we worked – both how and where we invest, and the relationships we hold.
Historically, a lot of our investments were transactional and short-term in their outlook. We would award an organisation money so they could do something that would lead to a positive but often transient outcome.
This was fine up to a point, but deep down we knew if we worked more collaboratively, and genuinely partnered with these organisations, we could create the systemic conditions which would bring about the change we needed.
It’s why we revolutionised our investment model, giving our key foundational partners – who all committed to tackling inequalities in return – a share of more than £500 million of National Lottery and government funding.
Each investment was set for up to five years, a demonstration of faith and trust as we backed them to make the right decisions to deliver while giving financial certainty as they emerged from the pandemic.
This may sound like a straightforward move but it really wasn’t – it was a sea change from the way many historic relationships have been considered and managed; as radical a move as we could have made at the start of a decade-long approach to change.