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Our open call - enabling change in a crisis

Our strategic lead for data and innovation, Allison Savich, details why we’re using an open call approach to finding innovative solutions, who it’s for and what we would like to see more of before it closes.

26th June 2020

by Allison Savich
Strategic lead for data and innovation, Sport England

On Wednesday 10 June we launched our first open call for innovative solutions and we’ve received a great response so far with more than 400 proposals.

We’re seeing everything from tech to non-tech, from Cornwall to northern England and from charities to individuals.  

We’ve been so inspired by the response that we’ve extended our open call to noon next Wednesday, 1 July.  

An outdoor gym taped up because of coronavirus

It gives us confidence that many others believe, like us, that now is the time to act, innovate and do things differently to affect positive change. We feel the positive response is also reflective of our deliberate design of the process to make it as inclusive as possible and to embed our new organisational values in how we do things.

How is the open call different?

Our usual approach would be to announce a fund and encourage people to apply against a set of criteria. But we didn't think that was the most appropriate way to hear about the innovation that’s happening to help people and communities who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.   

The open call is all about starting a conversation with local people and organisations about how they could help solve one of three key challenges. The next step is how we can support them to deliver on this ambition.  

We wanted to remove as many barriers as possible to that conversation. For example, we’ve been conscious and deliberate in the way we’ve designed the online form, including its structure, the number of questions and the language used. And we’ve provided a captioned video to ensure the call is as inclusive as possible.  

This open call is our first step to doing things differently to support even more innovation that removes barriers and inequalities stopping people from getting the benefits of physical activity. We are going to learn loads, and while we won’t be able to support every idea, we are excited about how we can build on this in the coming months. 

What’s on offer?

We are offering more than just money – we are opening access to our connections, advice, research and insight, as well as the possibility of a small amount of funding. We don’t just want to put money in a place and step away. We want to support a group of 15-20 organisations that can learn and guide each other over the next six months.   

We are keen to connect with industries and sectors that may never have heard of us in order to build collaborative relationships, rather than just being seen as a funder.

Who’s it for?

This open call is all about reducing inequalities and this can’t be stressed enough. We want to hear about solutions that have been designed for one or more of the following groups: women, people on low incomes, older adults, people from BAME backgrounds, disabled people or people living with long-term health conditions.

We are focusing on these audiences because our data tells us people who identify with one or more of these categories were already less active before coronavirus (Covid-19) and have subsequently been hit hardest by the crisis.  

The strongest proposals we are seeing so far are already working with a local community that matches our priority audiences. 

What do we want to see more of?

Lots of people are contacting asking us what the criteria are. We purposely didn’t publish any, but we understand it is sometimes helpful to know if it is worth your energy in submitting a proposal. So to help guide you, we are really keen to see proposals that hit the sweet spot of these three things:

  • It solves one of our challenges
  • It’s specifically targeted at a community or audience we care about
  • The solution is right for both the challenge and the audience.

We would like to discover more solutions that are tackling the digital exclusion challenge. And we would like to hear more from individuals and organisations that are working with people with long term health conditions, disabled people or older adults.  

If you, or someone you know has a solution that helps people who are experiencing changes in circumstances, mental health problems or digital exclusion as a result of coronavirus, we want to hear from you by noon on Wednesday!

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