Data opportunities to inform community sport practice innovation

Posted: Sat, 30 Jun 2018 12:47

Data opportunities to inform community sport practice innovation

Have you ever thought what could be achieved, if you were able to bring together every organisation who has even a single data set on children that could help government, agencies and NGB's to target specific groups and help children to become physically active?

But if we think maybe 15 to 25 years ago, mobiles were only just being invented and not everyone was using the various different Microsoft tools such as Excel and PowerPoint to their full potential. But how times have changed. Within a space of 10 years, we have had tools and products developed such as:

  • Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatApp
  • Virtual Reality
  • Pokemon Go
  • Health watches like Nike+
  • E-Gaming
  • Google analytics

All of the above tools and technologies are disrupting the market space and some are actually promoting sedentary behaviour. Likewise, they now exist alongside more traditional data sets such as customer databases, NGB membership customer relationship management (CRM) systems and even attendance data from the School Games or Get Inspired web page downloads. How much data we actually have stored away about children and their physical activity habits is not in question. The harder question is how we transform this into actionable information for a range of partners. Here at the UKSDN Conference, hosted by Hartpury University Centre in 2018 we will be considering data, research and evidence in all its forms and its place in driving innovation in community sport policy and practice.

How much data do some companies have available on a person's lifetime from when they are a child to adulthood?

In a world where information is king and queen, we have a data etopia about children and young people from a commercial sense but this doesn't necessarily translate to individuals actually on the ground.

One possibility is the opportunity for industry to form closer linkages with universities to build on-going sector wide portals to mine data from some of the sources mentioned above. PhD projects between public, private and data companies can combine the best ideas, technology and bright graduate minds to help shape sustainable solutions and provide information going forward. But this takes investment, in relationship building as well as in the research itself.

Should commercial organisations freely give away some data to government to help improve lives?

And the current 'Active Lives' research programme reflects the lack of children and young people data freely available online. Sport England are slowly rolling out a CYP Active Lives programme targeting young people to understand actually how physically active they are. The survey will cover measure of children's activity levels, physical literacy, swimming proficiency, well-being, self-efficacy and levels of social trust. With this survey, it is hoped that the results will help to shape and influence local decision making as well as government policy.

But, in a world where technology and mobile phone apps are king and queen, is it correct to still be using online surveys to ask children and young people questions about their wellbeing and even levels of social trust, or are there other methodologies and tool to assert these questions at scale?

There are examples too of university academic research centres exploring social media in the lives of young people, but too often these data sets become hidden behind the 'invisible library firewall' that an average NGB, community organisation or leisure trust simply will never see. HEI's are beginning to engage with the public, but they are also driven by their own metrics and academia facing outputs such as the traditional research paper.

Genuine data sets, of high quality, with flexibility of use are rare. Is this something that the sector itself needs to now be more aware of, respond to and consider strategically rather than simply acknowledging that technology has changed the market and shifted how even the most local of community club operates.

This year, @UKSDN2018 we will be exploring the funding of research, collaborations between public, private and community organisations but in the specific context of better developing community provision. Data it appears, is all powerful.

But, the same challenges of addressing inequality, improving quality of experience and providing new routes to access opportunities for hard to reach groups remain. Data is itself still a little understood term, and having access to robust, quality and theory-driven information sets is something most practitioners have moved towards. Just presenting data, offering a short-term justification is not what will bring about genuine innovation in community sport development.

Data should not be the preserve of experts, but opened for community use, just like the local school swimming pool on a weekday evening.


Jake Pryszlak is a Senior Research Executive at SMS. INC where he works with National Governing Bodies, Federations and sports brands. Jake is an award-winning market research blogger who has been ranked in the top 25 most influential market researchers on social media in 2018. His blog enables him to share his latest thoughts on market research and insights, whilst giving away free resources for others in the sector. Ultimately trying to develop the sector.

Email: Twitter: @Jake_pryszlak

Dr Chris Mackintosh is Chair of the UKSDN an academic at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School with experience of over 100 research and evaluation projects. He is currently working with England Golf, Greater Sport, Sport and Recreation Alliance, Sport England and a number of other organisations on PhDs and sustainable research projects that consider the community impact of sport and physical activity.

Email: Twitter: @sportdevdebate

Tags: Featured, Policy, Sport, Sport and Development, Sport for development, community sport, development


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