On Friday 19th October, UpShot and Sports Think Tank hosted a one day event called ‘The F Word – Learning Through Failure’. The purpose of the event was to bring together leaders, peers and stakeholders from the third sector to discuss the concept of failure and how we can learn from it, through a series of talks, roundtables and workshops.


In line with its values, Sport 4 Life UK believes that failure is an opportunity to grow. Here are 3 areas where we’ve failed, and improved as a result.


Failure 1 – Engaging and supporting young women

In 2016 we recognised our offer and support for young women across our services was not good enough – of the 929 young people we supported only 164 (18%) were female.


What we have learnt and changed

We consulted with young women who accessed our services and found that they were alienated by the majority of the group being male. In addition to this, their needs were often more nuanced, including certain cultural challenges with employment. We therefore co-designed a female-only NEET programme for young women aged 16-29 called ‘Project You!’. Since February 2017, this initiative has engaged 68 young women, with 36 progressing into sustained employment, education or training. We’re pleased that female numbers have increased (from 164 to 303 in the past year), however females still only represent 20% of our beneficiaries. Over the next year we will continue this improvement by increasing female provision and services to the younger cohort of our work (12-16 year olds).


Failure 2 – Leadership diversity

Last year 84% of the participants we supported were BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). This is testament to the fantastic work of the organisation and delivery staff, of which 35% are female and 53% are BAME. Yet, the leadership of the organisation (consisting of 4 senior managers and 5 Trustees) is not as diverse – 7 out of 9 are white and only 1 is female.


What we have learnt and changed  

We have structured policies and process on Equality and Diversity, and are proud to recruit on a ‘Positive Action’ basis. Key senior staff are trained in unconscious bias, and diversity training now makes up part of the training package to the whole team, in line with our ‘Learning & Development’ policy. An annual diversity survey now monitors diversity levels throughout the whole organisation, to give vital insight into progress. We are also about to commit to regional and national pledges to showcase this commitment. A formal Governance Review has produced recommendations on increasing the diversity of the organisation’s leadership including youth representation.


Failure 3 – Delivery model

Whilst we have achieved a very good track record of progressing young people into meaningful and sustained impact (877 outcomes in 2017/18), internal and external evidence suggest that our ‘one size fits all’ project-based approach can be inefficient. However, a more bespoke, tailored and client centred mentoring model is more efficient, relevant, needs-led and ultimately – impactful.


What we have learnt and changed

On the back of funding from the ‘Impact for Growth’ strand of Access Foundation’s ‘Impact Management Programme’ in early 2018, Sport 4 Life UK is proud to be working with impact management consultants ‘Aleron’ to improve its organisational impact. This initiative looks in detail at target population, outcomes, programme design, delivery model and performance management – supporting this strategic shift towards a more mentored based model. We will launch the new model later in 2019, and are proud to continually improve the offer and services to our young people.