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The importance of honest appraisal

Submitting views to consultations can be time consuming – but it can make a huge difference, writes Andy Reed. The former MP is currently undertaking a review of the County Sports Partnerships

by Andy Reed | Published in Sports Management 27 Jun 2016 issue 123
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Opinion: Andy Reed
Opinion: Andy Reed

When I was asked by DCMS to carry out the review of County Sport Partnerships (CSP) – first announced in the government’s Sporting Future strategy – I jumped at the chance to help. Although, for very good Civil Service reasons, the ‘review’ became an ‘appraisal’, but that’s another story.

Having worked inside government with civil servants on policy development over the years, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to help address some of the challenges set out in the strategy and the Sport England response. It’s one of the reasons I set up the Sports Think Tank – to develop good long-term policy solutions based on evidence.

Strategic challenges
The new strategy sets tough challenges, such as working with new groups of consumers and measuring outcomes differently. In many respects we’re entering uncharted waters. So the appraisal isn’t intended as a review of past performance, but is about how we can get the most out of the current network and partnerships.

I’m sure there was a degree of ‘consultation fatigue’ in the sector by the time I launched the CSP Future online survey and set up workshops across the country. But I was determined that we listened and encouraged stakeholders to participate. I was also genuine in my intention to start with an open mind.

The fact that more than 300 people and organisations took time to submit useful and interesting insights was powerful for me. I spent my Friday evenings individually reading all weekly submissions. I’m sure there are some who wonder if it’s ever worth submitting views to consultations. From my experience and engagement in this process, I’d always encourage thoughtful interventions. I picked up new information, fresh ideas and perspectives and some very honest feedback. This is vital in any policy-making process.

The consultation events were lively and engaging and some people certainly took the opportunity to be very honest. I love this sort of input and challenge. It’s good we can be robust in a mature way with each other if we are to get the best out of our combined efforts.

Consistent messages
If new community sport and physical activity partnerships are to work they will have to be consistent in their mission and delivery of services and strategic in their approach locally. This may mean partnerships looking different across the country and working with different agencies but the objective of a joined-up sport and physical activity system at local level still remains a dream worth pursuing. Where the tensions do exist we need to act quickly to resolve them in the interests of the consumer.

I trust that as we develop and deliver the new Sport England strategy all those who submitted their views will recognise their input has been part of the answers to making the system work better for the people we are here to serve.

Consultations, reviews and appraisals are far from kicking an issue into the long grass. They are a great opportunity to listen, share and shape solutions.

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