It’s been just over a year since we launched our organisational values of ambition, inclusivity, collaboration and innovation.
Each of these hold equal weighting for us as an organisation, and they can’t just be words on a piece of paper – our values define who we are as an organisation and highlight what we do to go the extra mile to set us apart.
But innovation has particularly come into its own this year, in terms of how we want to be and how we can help our partners and the people we work with to view this pandemic as a chance to create opportunities for growth.
The unpredictable nine months we’ve just come through have provided an accelerated opportunity for us, and the sport and physical activity sector as a whole, to put our talk about innovation into action.
2020 - a year to innovate
For so many, it’s been a terrible year and has presented challenges for sport and physical activity like no other. Survival has been paramount for many businesses in our sector, yet without the headspace to consider adapting and innovating. For others, with the normal rules thrown out the window, 2020 presented an opportunity for change and great ideas to get people moving in different ways.
According to Be the Business, British businesses had to do three years’ worth of innovation in three months to keep their businesses going during the first national lockdown, with over half a million businesses (37%) in the UK changing their operating model to find new ways to meet customers’ needs – our sector was no different.
When we were told we had to stay at home we switched our gym classes, 5-a-side football matches and socialising with other households for Instagram fitness challenges and Zoom quizzes. Face-to-face sport and physical activity ceased to exist overnight and the traditional ways we deliver and reach our audiences didn’t fit the new world order – we all had to improvise and adapt.
But innovation means different things to different people. We’ve been thinking about what innovation means to us and come up with some starting principles. This isn’t the final list, and we’re exploring this further, but for something to be considered innovative it we think it:
- is driven by, and connected to, the needs of the community that it’s trying to serve
- addresses a specific consumer problem rather than just being a light bulb idea in the night.
How did we respond?
Like everyone else, the pandemic challenged us do things differently. As part of our overall coronavirus (Covid-19) response, we ensured £5 million was dedicated to innovation - particularly for those who the pandemic’s affecting the hardest.
Our research showed the major inequalities causing some audiences to miss out on opportunities, were being widened. And we believed that now was the time to find out more about who was out there working on innovative solutions to support key audiences like women, people on lower incomes, older adults, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people or people living with long-term health conditions.
Our first offering was our first ever ‘Open Call for Innovative Solutions’, which was deliberately different to our more traditional funds and looked to address widening inequalities. Its aim was to find solutions that are using innovative methods to tackle the very real problems that certain communities were facing. We discovered, and are in the process of supporting, 27 organisations.