New AoS report outlines model for effective partnership working in sport and criminal justice
The Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice (AoS) has released a ground-breaking report which outlines a model for effective partnership working in sport and criminal justice.
The potential of sport and physical activity to promote wellbeing and impact positively on crime prevention and rehabilitation has up until now been under-utilised and under-researched.
But the new AoS report, produced by Dy Haydn Morgan (University of Bath) and Dr Colin Baker (University of Gloucestershire), sets out principles of effective practice for sport, criminal justice and other sectors to work together most effectively to achieve positive outcomes in this area.
Previous research by Morgan and Baker in 2021 showed the high prevalence of strategic partnerships within the sport and criminal justice sector, characterised by criteria-driven and ‘incentivised’ delivery, which responds to short-term targets. This leads to intensified scrutiny of outcomes, increased competition between partners, persistent fear of failure and a transactional approach to partnership operations – and can overlook the importance of relationships, cooperation and consensus.
Consequently, Morgan and Baker propose that communicative partnerships, which emphasise processes over outcomes through co-evolution and co-design, may present a more effective approach to partnership working. These focus on social action and transformative change for beneficiaries.
It is an effective communicative partnership model which this new report sets out, identifying four outcome indicators – synergy, satisfaction, commitment and effectiveness – supported by three theoretical pillars; structure, impact and sustainability.
The research underpinning the report used two case studies – one in Newport, South Wales, the other in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Both are part of Levelling the Playing Field, the £1.7m project to reduce over-representation of ethnically diverse children in the Youth Justice System through the power of sport and physical activity, co-managed by the Alliance of Sport and the Youth Justice Board.
The research concludes that:
- There is not a ‘one size fits all’ model of effective partnership working, but if all partners understand the three pillars of structure, impact and sustainability and apply them to local context, then success becomes more likely
- Effective partnership needs awesome people with commitment, passion, diversity and shared values
- Effective partnerships assert a strong ethical and moral stance, evolve in response to community need and have a commitment to decision-making based on consensus and healthy debate
- Effective partnerships generate genuine transformation, recognising that positive change is a journey rather than an end in itself.
The report’s co-author, Dr Haydn Morgan, explained: “What the research has found is that communicative partnerships – which are based on consensus, an openness to different or new ideas, and have a genuine investment in their local communities – generate the necessary levels of commitment from partnership members to ensure that collaborate working is both impactful and sustainable.”
Justin Coleman, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of the Alliance of Sport, commented: “We have undertaken research over the last six years with communities and services that the Alliance of Sport is privileged to call our specialist partners. I take pleasure learning from their stand-out characteristics: being community-centred, long-standing, forward-thinking, sustainable and ambitious.
“This research reveals only a small part of the experience and knowledge we are gathering in this area, but providers a clear model which we plan to augment with more evidence-based resources and research to benefit the Sport for Development landscape.”
Keith Fraser, Chair of the Youth Justice Board, added: “I know how important effective partnership working is to ensure children who are in, and at risk of entering the justice system, get the support they need to live positive, happy and healthy lives.
“Therefore I welcome this report which makes a strong case for thinking about the way we work together. The report recognises that one size does not fit all and that if delivered correctly, effective partnerships can generate genuine transformation.”
Download the full Model for Partnership Working in Sport and Criminal Justice report below