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Planning for the future

Our head of customer insight Simon Pang blogs about a horizon scanning project conducted to help inform our future work and inform our partnerships that are part of Uniting the Movement.

26th January 2022

by Simon Pang
Head of customer insight, Sport England

In 2021 we undertook a horizon scanning project, to provide foresight on the trends that will impact sport and physical activity to 2031 and beyond.

The project explored the implications for the sector and helped us to identify and understand future strategic issues - ensuring we’re fit to face the future.  

This foresight, coupled with other insight and learnings, gave us a clearer and more rounded view of some of the issues that could be lying ahead as we developed, and embarked on delivering our 10-year vision - to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity. 

What is horizon scanning?

Horizon scanning is one of many ‘futures’ techniques that can help inform strategic long-term thinking.  

It is the process of identifying and investigating evidence about emerging trends that could have an impact on a specific strategy or policy area in the future. 

Horizon scanning is not about predicting the future.

Rather, its value lies in cultivating a future-focused mindset, challenging assumptions, providing the ‘big-picture’, to help us make sense of and respond to long-term change and the opportunities and threats that could come with it.  

What we did

With the support from a specialist foresight agency, Trajectory Partnership, we undertook an extensive six-stage process including stakeholder engagement, trend analysis and working with colleagues to identify 15 of the most likely and impactful trends that will shape the sport and physical activity landscape over the new 10-year strategy period,  

We dived deeper into each trend, including speaking to industry experts, to build a better understanding of their current trajectories, how they are likely to develop in the future and the key implications this would have for our sector.  

This generated collaborative thinking across a wide spectrum of, often, inter-connected issues.

Connecting to our Big Issues and catalysts, through several workshops we then explored what the trends mean in more detail, looking at the implications, opportunities and threats the trend might have on their respective areas. 

This longer-term thinking about trends and drivers of change has been used to inform our contextual understanding when developing theories of changes, helping us to ensure we understand not only the more immediate operating environment, but also the future world we might be operating in - giving us confidence our strategy will be resilient to different possible future scenarios. 

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