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Blog: engagement tips from the front line – part 2

Justin-CAlliance of Sport Co-Founder and Secretariat, Justin Coleman, picks out more highlights from our recent Ministry of Justice-commissioned review of community sport.

In last week’s blog we discussed that crucial first stage of engaging participants in Sport for Development projects. Some of your target audience may be hard-to-reach individuals with entrenched behaviour patterns and resistance to authority, which makes that first stage tough ‘coalface’ work for delivery teams.

However, the 13 organisations we visited for our Review of Community Sport in Criminal Justice were able to share their valuable experience and insight in this area, with tips on breaking down initial barriers and kickstarting a journey towards long-term desistance from crime.

Having got past that first stage of energising and sparking the interest of potential participants, the next step is to convert that into active participation. (This engagement stage is the third of five referred to in our Theory of Change as ‘Preparation (almost engaged/belong)’ or “Planning to do something about it soon.”)

Below are some tips on this stage of engagement from staff on the front line.

  • Slowly introduce them to your activity and the wider staff team

“Invite them in and deliver in safe locations according to their needs. Whether one-to-one or in groups, it’s all about them; helping them belong and be a part of something positive.”

  • Complete assessments/codes of conduct and build personalised timetables

“We motivate the participants and conduct a sit-down one-to-one and get to know them on a deeper level. The secret is to provide them a personal choice that is available and achievable – generating belonging and ownership for themselves!”

  • Engage through youth work, mentoring, with person-centred and solution-focused approaches

“Due to austerity and local services closing, we have employed many local and skilled staff and combined them with our graduated and employed ex-service users. We have consistent and ongoing handovers from our Outreach Team, back into the centre’s delivery staff. Everyone is focused on supporting the person first.”

  • Make it fun, fun, fun!

“We see so many young people arrive in a mood and always make sure they leave full of laughter. It makes our volunteering even more worth it and gives us a huge sense of achievement every day.”

  • Ensure good use of environment in both community and secure settings

“We use aspirational images of local heroes and mix them with international stars. We also allow our participants to design, paint and do up our facilities. Even if the building is not ours, we always leave it better than how we found it.”

In my next blog, I will share feedback from the 13 community sport organisations on getting service users active and keeping them motivated, determined and resilient.