Spotlight on: The Innovation and Digital Accelerator

We take a look back at the Innovation and Digital Accelerator so far, and glance forward at what we - and the participating National Governing Bodies - hope to achieve as the programme progresses.

The Innovation and Digital Accelerator (IDA) is a new initiative, developed by CAST as part of Sport England’s B2022 Fund. It aims to help National Governing Bodies (NGBs) across England harness the power of digital, to help more people from more communities access and enjoy sport - during the Birmingham 2022 Games and beyond. 

As the Games begin, we pause to look back at activity since the launch in May of this year, and glance forward into what we - and the NGBs - hope to achieve as the IDA continues, not just for the duration of the Games - but throughout the rest of this year and on into 2023. 

We spoke to the programme design and delivery lead Charné Tromp (Service Designer at CAST) about the journey so far - and the road ahead…

Can you give an overview of what the IDA is, and what it is hoping to achieve? 

Charné Tromp (CT): The Innovation and Digital Accelerator gives NGBs an opportunity to develop innovative solutions using digital, data and design to address barriers to access and participation in sports for new and existing communities.

How did you go about gathering information and designing the programme? Were there any surprises in the initial design stages; any moments where you had to pivot and change direction or modify the anticipated elements of the programme? 

CT: We’re co-designing the Accelerator with NGBs, funders and partners to ensure we all have a good understanding of the challenges and the support needed to address these. 

In practice, we’re experimenting with a combination of programme design and delivery happening simultaneously, which has already provided some incredibly rich learnings. We started off with some initial chemistry calls with NGBs which highlighted the need for some further discovery to learn more about NGBs, their needs and capacity. 

Before the project kicked-off we anticipated that building on the learnings from our work on the Digital Fund, the programme would be designed around two distinct cohorts. The first, a discovery cohort working with digital partners on validating a problem area through engaging directly with the people affected by a problem. And the second, a definition cohort who had completed a discovery phase and would work with digital partners on prioritisation, challenging their riskiest assumptions, prototyping and testing.

Through our discovery with NGBs we’ve gained greater clarity on the different strands of support that would be needed and also the operational challenges they’re facing in addressing these challenges. We wanted to reassure NGBs that we’ve listened to their views, and our most recent sign-up calls created an opportunity to talk through what we’ve learnt about NGBs so far and help them make decisions on the support offers that best suit their needs and priorities.

What stage is the programme at currently; what have NGBs been doing?

CT: We’ve just completed the initial onboarding and start up phase, where NGBs have been building their knowledge of digital design principles, matched to their peer cohort and introduced to their CAST Connectors, who will support NGBs on their digital journey ensuring the support they need is in place.

What do the NGBs want to achieve as the programme progresses?

CT: We’ve summarised this in a project snapshot, outlining the focus for each individual NGB - as below:

The B2022 Games are acting as a springboard for the IDA, but this is really just the start: activity will run for another six months, into early 2023. Can you give us an idea of how the programme looks over this time: what are the key elements and interventions? What strands of support will be available to NGBs as they progress?

CT: The Accelerator support runs until March 2023 and we’ve designed the support timeline to make the most of the momentum and initiatives pre- and post-Commonwealth games. Over this timeline, NGBs will have access to core support through regular Connector Calls (every 6 - 8 weeks) and Peer Support Meetups - remote sessions where NGBs meet with peers to share learnings, challenges and experiences of their digital work. 

We’re also designing a variety of one-off workshops based on priority areas highlighted by NGBs, such as user research, social media and marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and analytics. This will be a great opportunity for projects with all levels of experience to benefit from some tailored support in different areas and tap into the wealth of experience from our network partners, such as Neontribe, who will be delivering user research workshops and some one-on-one support for NGBs. Alongside this we have also made use of existing resources available to the sport sector, such as the Digital Marketing Hub and the OpenActive open data initiative.

Finally, we’re partnering with specialists in our network to support NGBs with more long-term in-depth support in areas where either skills or capacity (or a combination of both) has been a barrier to progress. Our Open Working support delivered by We Are Open and Working with Joe is focused on building better open working practices across NGBs by exploring key opportunity areas for open working, such as: open access (which has a direct effect on inclusion, diversity, and equity within programmes aimed at marginalised groups) and open participation (helping to build community and foster a culture of agency and authenticity within organisations). 

Will any of the digital support needed be outsourced? If so, how can digital agencies get involved in pitching for available briefs? 

CT: We’re currently looking for opportunities to partner with data and insight specialists in our network, for another strand of in-depth support focused on building data and insights capabilities within NGBs (more here). 

There’ll also be more opportunities to get involved in workshop delivery in the coming months and we’ll be sharing opportunities on Catalyst Open Projects and through our network channels. 

How will the programme work going forward: will participants be grouped into cohorts depending on their objectives and / or audiences? Will NGBs be encouraged / supported to work together, or will all work be carried out on an individual basis?

CT: We’ve developed four distinct cohorts based on our discovery and worked with NGBs to validate our suggested cohort groupings. The four cohorts are: 

  • Test and learn leapers: NGBs who already have strong research and digital partners and make data driven decisions. They may be interested in gamification or quite complex user journeys.
  • Digital Solution Swoopers: Have a really focused digital product goal for this project whether it be an app, community or booking system. They’re interested in how to test the product and improve it. Many are interested in content creation.
  • Data to Real World Dancers: Have mentioned understanding data or needs as a really important focus. For many, the main focus of their project is activity delivery, although some are looking at booking systems.
  • Determined Drivers: All have quite different projects often focused on a group such as apprentices or clubs. They are exploring how to use digital to support that.

NGBs will meet in their cohorts every 6-8 weeks through Peer Support Meetups, and will be encouraged to share their learnings and challenges with one another, in order to harness the power of collective learning and highlight opportunities for collaboration or synergy. (See peer support sessions highlighted above re how they will work together.)

How will NGBs share their work and learnings throughout the programme?

CT: Through our Open Working support we’re providing NGBs with the tools and techniques to share their stories with colleagues, funders and the broader community. We’re showcasing these stories through our Innovation and Digital Accelerator Medium feature page, with contributions from NGBs, Sport England, CAST and our network partners shared openly. 

How will NGBs monitor their progress and measure the success of their participation in the programme? And how will you evaluate the programme as a whole? Is there a minimum output / achievement that all NGBs need to reach by the end of the programme?

CT: We’re working with NGB Project Leads to identify their project roadmap and professional development goals on this Accelerator. We’ll regularly review project and professional goals in Connector Calls and at the end of the programme to track progress of NGBs and respond to any needs as they arise. 

They’ll all have access to our new Digital Leader Star prototype tool to map their professional development goals, with a focus on four key areas: confidence, knowledge, influence and connection. They can then track their progress through the tool, working with their Connector to identify key opportunities for learning and development in these four areas. 

Each NGB is also being supported to develop their own personalised project roadmap with key milestones, with the overall goal of improving their existing product or service or creating a minimum viable product (MVP) to attract early-adopters and validate early ideas.

How will you be sharing resources that will be of use to other social impact organisations that are looking into how best to harness the power of digital? 

CT: We will be sharing blogs from workshop session leaders via our Innovation and Digital Accelerator Medium feature page, and we'll also continue to upload video and audio resources to our dedicated hub on YouTube.

We hope you have found these insights useful! If you have a question about the IDA, please email accelerator@wearecast.org.uk. And don't forget to tune in to BBC from this evening (28th July) onwards, to catch all the action from the Birmingham 2022 Games!

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