In the Parks evaluation

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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.

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