Job search
Job Search

UKSDN conference: Challenging the Status Quo

The United Kingdom Sport Development Network (UKSDN) 2018 Conference took place recently, with delegates discussing community sport development research, policy and practice. UKSDN chair Dr Chris Mackintosh reports

Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 3
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
Over 60 delegates attended the 
two-day conference
Over 60 delegates attended the two-day conference

On 2-3 July 2018, over 60 key policy makers, practitioners and academics met to discuss, frame and shape the landscape of sport development at Hartpury University Centre in Gloucestershire supported by the United Kingdom Sport Development Network (UKSDN) partnered with ConnectSport. It is now over ten years since the network was founded.

New themes
The purpose of the two day conference was to revisit the founding principles of the collective, which has engaged over 1000 delegates in community sport development in ten years at multiple higher education institutional (HEI) settings. Sport Development is an HEI undergraduate course provided at over 50 universities, in over 130 derivatives of the course.
As the network now includes over twenty international collaborators and over 40 of the 50 providers of HEI sport development that have engaged with us, growth of the industry was not the theme of the conference. Instead, fiscal tightening, renewed focus on budgets, targets and performance of key agencies in this domain are drivers of our industry.

Sport for social development
The keynote presenter that opened proceedings was Professor Rosie Meek, an advocate for considering the role of sport in prisons and prisoner rehabilitation. Fresh from undertaking a government review of the role of sport, Rosie offered 12 key areas for improving prisons’ use of sport and physical activity. The clear parallels with wider social objectives were immediately apparent and alongside talks from The Alliance of Sport, Street Games and others working in this field we saw the powerful synergy of researchers and practitioners, and embraced Rosie’s ‘call to arms’ for new ways of collaborating, creating projects and collating information to develop evidence.

Numerous PhD students embedded within practice illustrated how the traditional PhD is increasingly available in more innovative practice-facing or even policy-led ways. This three-year model of sustained research that aims to understand, evolve project learning and draw upon and use theory to drive effective outcomes was apparent in diverse fields within the industry.

Integrating academics
Research was favoured over ‘insight’, as a broader term that encompasses the PhD and market research surveys from private industry, through to advisory collaborations between HEIs and NGBs, CSPs and the third sector.

As more sports and physical activity organisations have non-executive directors (NEDs), there was a plea for more academics to be engaged by the industry in such roles, to make their expertise available to decision-makers.

Furthermore, the question was raised as to why there are still longstanding perceptions and stereotypes in sport of ‘the ivory tower academic’ that don’t exist in other vocational fields. Sport, and now physical activity, were considered alongside ‘evidence-based policy, which needs to be replaced with considerations of ‘intelligent policy’, according to Dr Haydyn Morgan from Gloucester University.

This was a theme of multiple other papers, including research by Emma Staples, who shared lessons of how to build, transform and challenge culture around LGBTI in cricket development.

Across the UK and Australia it is apparent that lesson learning is available. The question is whether there is capacity or indeed inclination from government to challenge the status quo – given the funding pressures and rapidly shifting agendas of community sport.

Evidence is essential
For too many community sport organisations, from the RFU through to England Golf and back again to micro initiatives within housing trusts, the NHS, workplaces and the voluntary sector, there remains a need to evidence ‘what works’. Perhaps, as many delegates commented and engagement on Twitter suggested, the time is right for allowing practice ‘experts’ to draw upon community sport researchers in HEIs to co-produce intelligent policy from the bottom up, rather than top down. In too many cases it was apparent that the pressure to ‘prove’, fulfil funding ‘evidence box ticking’ and show ‘effect’ is generating a new industry in sport management.

For some, perhaps this is the insight industry, while others note the growing body of expensive consultants and contracts in commissioned research. The Alliance of Sport, Connect Sport and other information and evidence ‘portals’ are superb examples of just where duplication of effort in austere times can be avoided.

The link with academia, peer reviewed research and information must be made stronger. This seems to be the gap.

Developing knowledge
The current obsession in HEIs driving towards the juggernaut of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) asks academics to focus on producing internationally renowned and ‘rated’ research papers. This sits a long way from the role of the public academic I value.

With an estimated 10,000 students and 500 academics across the UK, we have a key role to play in shaping agendas and supporting communities in developing knowledge about what works.

We see this as the start of a conversation with organisations, individuals and communities. Dropping in and collecting information to publish a paper that sits behind a university library firewall is not public knowledge engagement. We saw in our two days of conversations, just how powerful meaningful sport and physical activity research can be.

The uksdn:

Is a collective of NGB, CSP, third sector, HEI and community sport development organisations that offers a series of symposiums, and annual conference and face-to-face networking for professionals looking to bridge the academia-policy-practice gap. For further information on its work, contact [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @UKSDN

About the author:

Dr Chris Mackintosh is a senior lecturer in Sport Management at the Institute of Place Management of Manchester Metropolitan University and chair of UKSDN.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @SportDevDebate

Sign up for FREE ezines & magazines
Sports jobs
Everyone Active
featured job

Swimming Teachers

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive hourly rate
Job location: Nationwide

Managing Director - LACC

Harrogate Borough Council
Salary: Grade ACE: £69,871 - £74,307 per annum
Location: Harrogate, UK

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Middlesbrough, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Rossmore, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: St Albans, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Alton, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Fleet, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: West Lindsey, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Washington, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Stratford Upon Avon, United Kingdom
recruiting with sports management

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Watford, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Nuneaton, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Bordon, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Blandford Forum, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Spelthorne, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Leicester, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Watford, United Kingdom
recruiting with sports management

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Blaby, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Bishop's Stortford, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Slough, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Dunstable, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Plymouth, United Kingdom

Programme Director

The Little Gym Godalming
Salary: Competitive + performance related bonus
Location: Godalming, UK

Developmental Gymnastics Instructor

The Little Gym Godalming
Salary: Competitive
Location: Godalming, UK
training with sports management

General Manager

truGym
Salary: Competitive
Location: Gateshead, UK

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Cotswold, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Stroud, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Poole, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Chichester, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Ealing, United Kingdom

Gymnastics Coach

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive
Location: Ealing, United Kingdom
lifeguard jobs  swimming teacher jobs  recreation assistant jobs  apprenticeships jobs  personal trainer jobs  Gymnastics Coach jobs  duty manager jobs  assistant manager jobs  general manager jobs  assistant general manager jobs  Catering Assistant jobs  Customer Services Advisor jobs 
More jobs

Catalogue Gallery

Video Gallery

British Military Fitness
BMF with Bear Grylls has put up a £1m fund to get personal trainers, fitness instructors and class instructors back to work and earning money.
Visit website
More videos

Company profile

Company profile: Crown Sports Lockers
Crown Sports Lockers has designed, crafted and fitted bespoke timber furniture for spas, hotels and the sport and leisure sectors since 1993.
View full profile >
More company profiles

Featured Supplier

Digital education: TRX trains more than 14,000 professionals for free using live virtual training
In response to the pandemic, TRX, the global leader in functional training equipment, world- class training content, and app-based training technology, transformed its TRX Suspension Training Course into a free, live virtual edition via Zoom.
View full details >
More featured suppliers

Property & Tenders

Location: Waltham Abbey, Essex
Company: Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
More properties & tenders

Diary dates

21-24 Sep 2020
Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
21-24 Sep 2020
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
22-23 Sep 2020
Heythrop Park, United Kingdom
17-23 Oct 2020
Pinggu, Beijing, China
More diary dates