Building capacity in culture and sport voluntary sector organisations

The specific challenge this report addresses is, ‘How can culture and sport organisations make an increased contribution to civil society and to better outcomes for local people through the emerging new arrangements and direction for public service delivery?'

It aims to set out the current context of public policy and the nature, scale and place of culture and sport within civil society. It looks at:

  • ‘new' models of service delivery
  • the needs and opportunities of culture and sport organisations in responding to change
  • a potential ‘Prospectus' for capacity building with culture and sport civil society organisations in the future.

Culture and sport is a huge part of civil society: a fact that may be unsurprising to some. However, culture and sport has generally identified itself separately as a sector and not routinely engaged in wider civil society structures and programmes. This means that its position has perhaps been under-recognised. In reality, culture and sport has the largest involvement of adult volunteers than any other service type or category. It is also second only to social care in the number of organisations involved, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations categorisation.

Building the capacity of organisations to deliver public services is multi-faceted. The smallest grass-roots organisations who ‘just want to play sport' or are ‘concerned to restore a heritage asset' may have little interest in anything further. At the other extreme, social enterprises, trusts and companies may have multi-million pound budgets. There is a huge range in between, including independent professional organisations as well as amateur clubs and societies, so there are many different needs and aspirations.

Capacity building needs to be a ‘planned and self-conscious activity'. There is a recognition of the need to have a more purposeful and coordinated approach, built upon local authorities but with support from a range of other agencies and capacity builders. Ten types of capacity-building activities are identified:

  • information and advice
  • financial resource development
  • training and development for staff, trustees and volunteers
  • research and intelligence
  • guidance and standards
  • community development
  • market development
  • networks and linkages
  • representation
  • innovation.

Capacity builders need to coordinate their efforts and identify their respective roles and expertise.

New models of service delivery and business and governance structures are developing continuously and there is a indication of an increased activity in exploration of civil society models. Some models are identified:

  • leisure trusts
  • community development trusts
  • community interest companies
  • asset transfer
  • worker cooperatives and or new public service mutuals
  • co-production
  • collaboration
  • consortia.

This context information and other related research and development was supplemented with a small number of interviews with councils, non-departmental public bodies, culture and sport and other civil society organisations. There is an enthusiasm to build better partnerships and relationships between local government and civil society. Funding and sustainability are key concerns: organisations are realistic but would welcome creative conversations at local level to explore different solutions based around investment and enterprise rather than ‘subsidy'. There is evidence of a great deal of exploring and implementing new business models and collaborations, and some examples are included - but there are many more.

The emerging themes were:

  • Turning challenges into opportunities through new business models
  • Getting to grips with commissioning
  • Being more business-like
  • Capacity building needs
  • The potential for culture and sport to innovate.

These themes are suggested as the framework for a ‘prospectus' to support culture and sport in delivering public services and being a key player in civil society.

Phase two of this research was to explore the role of ‘brokerage', specifically in relation to the delivery of arts opportunities for children and young people. Arts Council England has agreed to set up a network of strategic organisations to build relationships and capacity with regard to arts organisations and children and young people's services. Among other functions, these organisations will build relationships with commissioners in response to local needs and build capacity and local consortia in response.

A framework involving 10 sets of roles and functions was identified:

  1. Honest broker
  2. Bringing coherence to the creative landscape
  3. Bringing coherence to the commissioning landscape
  4. Understanding the landscape for children and young people
  5. Relationship building
  6. Capacity building
  7. Knowledge management
  8. Managing interfaces
  9. Exploring new ways of doing things
  10. Doing business
  11. Providing leadership.

This framework is included as part of this report as it has transferability to other service areas, such as County Sports Partnerships and Renaissance in the regions which also provide brokerage. The model is designed as a framework for further debate and development and can be used to draw up a consistent table or roles, activities, competencies and performance measures.

The report provides a framework for further debate and development across the sector as we respond to the changing landscape.

Building capacity in culture and sport civil society organisations (PDF, 67 pages, 471KB)


If you have any comments on the document or would like to contribute to its further development please contact:

Laura Caton


24 May 2013

Useful links:

A passion for excellence (PDF, 40 pages, 1.04MB large file)

A passion for excellence – one year on (PDF, 20 pages, 1.4MB large file)

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