Digital Bootcamp: Building skills to enable local sporting and activity groups to get more people active

The digital bootcamp supported over 20 organisations to build on their digital marketing and business skills, which in turn helped them to connect to their members and communities, develop their digital business and access guidance and funding.

West Midlands Combined Authority

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) recognised a need to develop the digital skills and competence of voluntary sport and physical activity organisations in the local area. They set up a ‘digital bootcamp’ which enabled businesses to develop their digital offer and get more people active following lockdown. The digital bootcamp supported over 20 organisations to build on their digital marketing and business skills, which in turn helped them to connect to their members and communities, develop their digital business and access guidance and funding.

The challenge

During lockdown, sports and leisure centres across the country were closed. Organisations needed to find alternative ways to reach members and support communities to stay active. This meant working in a new way and many organisations across the West Midlands needed support to enable them to develop their digital knowledge and skills.

Intelligence from local delivery partners told the WMCA that there was a cohort of sport and physical activity organisations who were finding it difficult to engage with their networks due to lack of digital skills. This became a more serious challenge during lockdown, when digital engagement was in many cases the only way of reaching communities. WMCA sought to support these organisations to increase their digital skills and competence to help them connect to members and services and to kick start their business planning, delivery and organisational resilience.

The solution:

WMCA piloted the delivery of a ‘digital bootcamp’: a free to access online bite size digital skills training programme funded by Sport England. Twenty micro and small voluntary community and sport organisations which were identified by Sport Birmingham, The Active Wellbeing Society and Street Games were invited to participate.

The digital skills training programme was developed following the completion of a hard copy and online COVID-19 digital skills audit. This highlighted the impact lockdown was having on their work and any digital skill gaps and shortages

Seventy one per cent of respondents to the survey told the WMCA that they felt disconnected from their customers/members. Areas where respondents noted greatest skills gaps included:

  • Running a digital media campaign.
  • Making, delivering and uploading films such as fitness programmes.
  • Using platforms such as PayPal, GoCardless etc to make digital payment.
  • Using Data Management Systems to process online bookings and staying connected with members such as through CRM systems.
  • Using Google analytics to evaluate and measure business success.
  • Developing business plans and understanding how to implement them.

The WMCA contracted Tech Talent Academy, one of its expert digital inclusion providers to develop and deliver the digital skills training programme. The six-week programme started on the 17th August 2020 with 20 organisations taking part.

The impact:

It is too early to measure impact, but the WMCA has seen considerable interest in the free bite size programme. The impact measurement for those who are attending the training will include whether the training has it enabled them to:

  • Be better connected with their members and customers
  • Be more confident in using digital media and resources such as CRM to recruit new members and participants
  • Improve their bottom line
  • Get more people physical active and as active citizens by reaching a broader audience including people who are unable to leave their homes.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Income generated from training programmes for the wider West Midlands sport and physical activity sector will be used to part subsidise and where appropriate sustain training. The audit will be repeated after 12 months to capture the progress and learning of those organisations who have accessed training.

Lessons learned:

  • COVID-19 has exposed the significant digital skill gaps and shortages for many micro and small voluntary sport organisations.
  • This lack of digital skills has led to many organisations being disconnected from their members/customers and unable to access Government and other organisation guidance and funding.
  • There is a need to be flexible in approaches to capturing information, not relying entirely on online surveys. Often a phone call will help to reveal challenges and issues.
  • The WMCA is reliant on delivery partners such as local authorities, Active Partnerships and Street games who have local knowledge and access networks.
  • Training needs to be adaptable and responsive to learners needs and abilities. This includes ensuring that they can access equipment and WiFi.

Leader of Warwickshire County Council and WMCA portfolio lead for wellbeing, Cllr Izzi Seccombe said: “Like most sectors the physical activity sector needs extra help in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Spreading digital skills across the sector will help the wide variety of providers to better communicate with the public, and in turn, encourage people to become more active and improve their wellbeing.