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Develop communities

How activities organisations are using sport to develop communities

July 21, 2023

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The Drive Phase podcast has brought together a broad range of organisations that are using sport as a developmental tool. Sport is a great equaliser, but it can’t function in isolation. From building community-led programmes to producing programmes that empower coaches and children internationally – here are just a few of the ways that sport is powering positive development…


Create community-led sports programmes

Nana Badu, the founder of Badu Sports, didn’t set out to start a business. His vision began small and became an organisation that is the centre of it’s East London community. As the demand for their unique approach to Physical Education programmes grew, Badu Sports was born. His first step was to re-work what PE and sport should and can be:

“It was like setting up a high standard of PE lessons. School sport separated children into age groups, but I saw that method, and they weren’t challenging a child’s physical ability. My approach was: I want to try and find a child’s talent because I believed they were talented.”

Badu Sports

Badu Sports draws its team from the local area. For them, supporting their community meant using the resource, ideas and voices in the area to shape their programmes.

Based in London, there were high levels of disadvantage in their community, but it didn’t mean they would allow funders to pigeonhole their community projects. Brand manager Olivia Eastwood-Gray added:

“We don’t like to fit into a narrative that assumes we fit into the narrative. We are a black-led organisation that works in an area with high levels of deprivation. Yes, we use sport for social integration, but we’re not trying to fit the narrative of combatting crime or other stereotypes. It’s not an overarching banner for our community or our work.”


Centre coaches and children in your strategy

Founder Nick Gates and Chief Executive of Strategy Brian Suskiewicz introduced their bottom-up approach. Coaches Across Continents works with global partners to empower local communities and create impact through sport in 132 countries.

Founder Nick Gates built a truly entrepreneurial career through sport and football. He puts the success of this UN-affiliated organisation to its self-directed learning model. He added:

“Our self-directed learning methodologies are powered by broad knowledge from Brian Suskiewicz himself and my mother, Dr Judith Gates’ research. It’s question-based rather than answer driven. We listen to the communities we talk to, rather than come in with all our models and tell them what to do.”

Coaches Across Continents

Building a community-led programme through sport is about the participants and your coaches. Their coaches travel across the world and build their knowledge of those communities, so developing their “theory of change” was developed through these voices. Nick Gates added:

“In 2021, we had 9000 coaches working with 2.7 million children across 132 countries. When those voices come together, it gives us the roadmap, a design to follow, for what our organisation looks like, how we adapt our resources and then how we deliver our programmes from there.”


Developing research to evidence your programme

James Mapstone worked in prison when he realised the transformative effect of sport on young offenders. He realised that getting young offenders on the field or in the gym with a goal to work towards positively impacted their behaviour. For the founder of the Alliance of Sport – Criminal Justice, the question was how do you influence behaviour outside of the institution:

“How can we influence their behaviour in education? Or walking around the prison? We did so well in prisons that offenders were knocking on the door and telling me they were going to re-offend. Why? Because they wanted to come back to this prison. They had found something that they enjoyed so much, that coming back to prison was their best option.”

Alliance of Sport

Starting the Alliance in 2015, they wanted to bring existing evidence and what they already understood about the impact of sport and prove that they could make a difference. They understood the demographics – the same children and young people who were underrepresented in physical activity were overrepresented in the criminal justice system. James was looking to level the playing ground:

“These young people weren’t getting the same social capital, the same role models, the same support or opportunities. We thought if we can level the playing field and increase physical activity and role models, we can reduce the number of people involved in the criminal justice system. That’s why we started the Levelling the Playing Field research.”


Want to know more about how organisations develop communities through sport? Check out The Drive Phase podcast, where James Moore, CEO of Coordinate Sport, interviews leading actors in the activities sector. Listen, take, and compare notes with the best of the best!

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