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In the Parks evaluation

In the Parks evaluation

Client: Olympic Lottery Distributor

Rocket Science evaluated this youth project delivered by East London Business Alliance and funded by the Olympic Lottery Distributor. In the Parks aimed to increase and sustain young people’s participation in sport across the Olympic host boroughs, through a series of mass-participation sporting events for young people and their families, alongside a programme of capacity building support for local sports clubs. Using a number of online tools, focus groups, and interviews, we assessed the project’s achievements against three objectives:

  • To provide an attractive package of initiatives to engage young people in sport
  • To create pathways into longer-term engagement with sport
  • To help sports clubs develop their capacity

The In the Parks concept complemented government policy objectives of an Olympic sporting legacy. It aimed to increase participation among young people from areas with low levels of sporting activity, through a local approach which engaged the wider community in multi-sport festivals. The focus on the host boroughs reflected the aim of their “convergence” policy – to use the Olympics and its legacy as an opportunity for East London to catch up with other parts of London in terms of key social and economic indicators. The events also tested the SPEAR Review’s recommendation that the “festival effect” could be harnessed by delivering community-based events aimed at increasing participation in sport.

Rocket Science derived a number of lessons from the In the Parks evaluation which we have brought into the design and delivery of our grant management work:

Allowing flexibility in project design

As the project developed, the format of a park-based festival was adapted to fit the needs and opportunities in the different host boroughs and their respective communities. For example, one festival was centred on local schools, rather than families. During 2012, one was held at an Olympic venue, and two were held over more than one day as part of larger Games Time events.

Tracking performance and attributing/measuring impact requires planning and resourcing

The project set a target that 5-10% of young people attending a festival would go on to take up the offer of a free session at a sports club. The data used to demonstrate the achievement of this target was not robust, largely because the tracking process for the project was not appropriate for many of the small community clubs involved, at least not without further incentives for them to take part.

Building capacity of community sports clubs takes time and commitment

The club development programme was largely based around engaging and matching City-based companies with sports clubs in the neighbouring host boroughs. The programme was well received by participating clubs, demonstrating again the value of bringing people together to network, share experiences and learn from each other. Workshops covered relevant topics, such as volunteer recruitment, fundraising and marketing. The more intensive mentoring scheme was less successful, reflecting the challenges of brokering and sustaining effective mentoring relationships and of the considerable time investment this requires of both mentees and mentors.

Newcastle Fund

Newcastle Fund

Rocket Science provides annual grant management support to the City Council to assist in the distribution of its “Newcastle Fund.” The Fund consolidates Council grant funding for local charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises. In addition to a Bid Assessment Tool, we develop the application pack, co-design assessment processes with council officers and deliver training sessions for the internal scoring teams.

Client: Newcastle City Council

Team Member: James Turner, Anna Spinks

London Schools Excellence Fund

London Schools Excellence Fund

The London Schools Excellence Fund is part of the Mayor’s £25m Education Programme which is a joint investment with the Department for Education. It aims to support continuous professional development through the design and delivery of excellent teaching in London schools. More than 100 partnership projects have been awarded funding. Rocket Science is managing Round 2 of the LSEF, providing the Grant Management services to the GLA and 40 of the projects across the capital.

Client: Greater London Authority (GLA)

Team Members: John Griffiths, Anna Spinks



Client: Greater London Authority (GLA), 2014-2017

Team: John Griffiths, Anna Spinks, Mark Barratt

In March 2014, Rocket Science was appointed Managing Agent of FreeSport, a key part of the Mayor of London’s Olympic Sports Legacy Programme, on a three-year contract. FreeSport offers grants of between £400 and £1,500 twice a year to c.150 grass-roots organisations (ie c.£200,000 per round) in order to target groups which have below average participation rates (eg women, BAME groups and people with disabilities). We encourage existing sports clubs as well as organisation who have never offered a sport before to try something new and get London more active. There is a huge range of sports projects we support, from football and netball to ‘chairobics’ and boccia. Having managed three FreeSport rounds so far, Rocket Science has developed a keen understanding of the challenges faced by delivery organisations and the benefits which an efficient, digital grants management system can bring.

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We see an important role of a grants programme manager being to develop and support a community of projects. Our regular e-communications highlight particular projects, as well as relevant sports development initiatives such as the national campaign ‘This Girl Can’ which resonated strongly with FreeSport’s objective to improve female participation in sport. At a local level, small grants for sports development can be made to go further if individual recipients appreciate they are not working in isolation. Working closely in partnership with London Sport, we actively encourage and sign-post grant recipients to network within the FreeSport “community” as well as with specialist support organisations, including Disabled People’s Organisations, National Governing Bodies and Local Authority sports teams. In our experience, this enhances the likelihood of the success of the FreeSport project, and contributes to its sustainability beyond the lifetime of the grant.  

Flexibility and approachability on our part as grants managers are essential as there are a number of potential barriers to FreeSport projects’ successful delivery:

Lack of Capacity

  • Most FreeSport-funded organisations are part-time and volunteer-led. Rocket Science ensures that most of the grant is spent on sports delivery rather than administration. Each round is kept as streamlined a possible so that organisations can focus on the real challenges and delivery of their sport, keeping the bureaucracy of monitoring and reporting in proportion to the grant.
  • Often community-based organisations are run entirely by volunteers, so we allow multiple users to access the project’s account and keep information on the project up to date.

Unpredictable Income

  • Organisations often have unpredictable income streams depending on the outcome of other funding bids, which can result in the cancellation of projects if no match funding is secured. Smaller projects often struggle to manage cash flow. Rocket Science has developed a highly efficient, but still personalised system, for processing a large number of applications quickly in order to ensure organisations have the requisite funds to secure venues/equipment/transportation/coaches sufficiently in advance of beginning the project.

Skills gaps

  • Some applicants lack the technological/language/financial skills needed to submit an application and/or provide the required monitoring returns. Rocket Science reduces these barriers through careful design of the application form to extract and verify the required information. We have also developed highly-intuitive tools to ease the burden on projects’ collecting and analysing their user and performance data. Email and telephone support is provided to accompany our highly visual on-line guides.
Mayors Mentoring Programme

Mayors Mentoring Programme

Client: Greater London Authority

Team: Anna Spinks, Caroline Masundire, John Griffiths

The second phase of the Mayor of London’s Mentoring Programme (MMP) launched in October 2012, offering grant funding to enable local delivery partners (LDPs) to provide volunteer mentors to 1000 disadvantaged young black boys across 7 London boroughs who have been identified as underachieving and being at risk of possible exclusion. As the grant programme manager, Rocket Science helped the Greater London Authority (GLA) to promote the Mayor’s Mentoring Fund, assess applications, select and monitor 10 delivery organisations. The LDPs were funded to recruit, vet and train mentors, match them with a mentee, and then support each mentoring relationship for a period of up to 12 months. A range of different types of delivery partner was intentionally selected to run the programme – some school-based, others centred on youth centres.

Using sport to support mentoring

Two of the projects exploited their capacity to use sport as a hook to engage disaffected young boys, and of the close link between mentoring and coaching in the development of young people.

Tottenham Hotspur Foundation brought a strong focus on football, but also other team-based sports, which it uses to reach out to young people across North London. Connie Henry’s Track Academy, set up and run by the former GB Athlete, uses the disciplines of track-and-field athletics as the way of engaging and working with disadvantaged young people in Brent. Early evaluations of the MMP suggest that these sports-based elements of these two projects were an important feature of engaging young black boys and brokering mentoring relationships with appropriate volunteer role-models, and helping to sustain the mentoring relationships for up to a year.