Culture and sport improvement toolkit

The Culture and Sport Improvement Toolkit (CSIT) was developed to help the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectors continually improve performance based on self assessment and external challenge through validation and peer supported improvement.


There has been major change in public sector financing and a significant move from nationally-driven improvement through indicators, inspection and intervention to sector led improvement. CSIT is  ideally suited to this new environment. However, the old benchmark did not properly reflect this new landscape so it has been updated and made more flexible, enabling organisations and partnerships to use the material to develop the organisational capabilities which will enable them to:

  • Re-group in the face of these challenging times
  • Survive amidst all the changes
  • Re-grow the services provided for the community with a different role and level of resources

CSIT is supported by a range of organisations serving the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectors, including the Local Government Association, national cultural agencies and professional bodies.

CSIT aims to encourage and enable high-level, self-driven and peer-supported improvement within the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectorsIt is not an external assessment scheme, an ‘award’, a ‘badge’ or a one-off initiative; the toolkit comprises flexible improvement tools underpinned by self-assessment and peer-supported improvement, which can be applied in a number of ways to a wide range of organisations and partnerships. 

These tools build on the previous version of CSIT and other sector-specific and generic improvement tools. They have been developed by specialists from the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectors, the wider public sector and the world of business excellence and subject to testing and refinement.

What makes CSIT useful?

We know that the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectors must change and adapt in the light of significant and fast-moving alterations in the external environment and funding landscape, and, the changing needs, expectations and role of the community

We cannot change this, but we can respond by delivering different types of services, at significantly less cost, through different types of partnerships and collaborations between public sector bodies, commercial sector organisations and civil society organisations.

It is not possible for any organisation or partnership to play to a significantly different role without considering, changing and enhancing its organisational capability. CSIT contains tools to help public sector bodies and their partners from the commercial sector and civil society develop the necessary organisational capabilities to enable them to be resilient and achieve sustainable, positive results for the community in the light of the changing landscape.

Using CSIT is an investment and will help your organisations and partnerships to develop and enhance the necessary capabilities, whilst demonstrating that the organisation is serious about improvement.

Who is the toolkit for?

CSIT is designed for all organisation’s and partnerships with strategic and capacity-building responsibilities within the culture, sport, green space and tourism services. It can be used by the following:

  • Portfolios of local authority culture, sport, green space and tourism functions (these might be in various departments) or single services (e.g. sports development, arts, museums, parks)
  • Contracted delivery partnerships (e.g. between local authorities and commercial or not-for-profit organisations)
  • Regional, sub-regional or national strategic bodies (e.g. national cultural agencies, CSPs, NGBs of Sport, etc)
  • Wider partnerships (or consortia) comprising a range of different bodies in an area
  • Regional or sub-regional public sector collaborations (see the section below on peer-supported improvement)

This version of CSIT also includes a tool designed to help the above organisations build capability and capacity within civil society organisations (e.g. community interest companies, community trusts, social enterprises)

Experience shows that the tools work more effectively when supported by a skilled facilitator and challenge agent. This could be someone within the organisation, an external coach/consultant or an external peer (this option provides a number of additional learning and improvement opportunities and could be part of a peer-supported Improvement programme). Many of the tools in this toolkit are designed as guides for facilitators/challenge agents rather than prescriptive processes. It is for you to decide how you want to use the toll to help you improve.

Peer-supported improvement

CSIT provides the ideal basis and springboard for a structured peer-supported Improvement programme within a regional or sub-regional network (or another cluster). Peer supported improvement underpins the LG Groups approach to sector lead improvement as a replacement for inspection and intervention.  This has become an increasingly significant concept and practice for the culture and sport sector: it provides an ideal opportunity for organisations to make the best use of the practices, knowledge and skills existing within peer networks, develops and strengthens networks, opens the door for future collaborative working and helps to make the improvement programme sustainable. The added advantage is that the providers of the support learn from the process, which helps to grow the capacity and capability of the sector.

Peer-supported improvement essentially involves the following elements:

Peer-led challenge
Organisations within the network pair up (or group into mini-clusters) and provide a challenge to each other’s self-assessments, to ensure accurate, rigorous and incisive self-assessment (whilst the organisation maintains ownership of their findings) and to develop the relationships which will enable future partnership working. Peers are also used to facilitate self-assessment sessions. More on peer-led challenge.

Leading and challenging improvement planning
People within the network facilitate and challenge the process of improvement planning for each other.

Collaborative improvement activity
The organisations within the network use the above practices as the basis for best practice benchmarking, joint improvement and efficiency projects, collective development of knowledge and skills, sharing of resources and joint service development/marketing projects.

What tools are in the toolkit?

CSIT is based on a recognised cyclical process of vision/goal setting, self-assessment, improvement planning and action. This is represented by the acronym RE-GROW:

RE = Realise (at a senior level) that the time is right for structured improvement…and Respond
G = Agree a clear and compelling vision and organisational change Goal
R = Assess and understand the organisation (or partnership’s) current Reality
O = Think innovatively about Options for future improvement
W = Plan and commit to a Way Forward….and act

CSIT contains a collection of interrelated documents covering the above elements. These can be used separately or collectively depending upon the needs of the organisation or partnership. CSIT also includes an additional document for civil society organisations. These documents contain the following tools, comprising guidance and working sheets which can be used during the improvement activity – these sheets are depicted by the symbol

The working sheets can all be used electronically so be sure to print only what you need for workshops

  1. Realisation and response 
  • A tool to prompt realisation amongst leaders that the time is right for structured improvement
  • Tools to scope and plan your improvement activity
  1. Vision and organisational goal
  • A definition of Excellence and Characteristics of Excellence
  • Tools to develop clear and compelling vision and organisational change goals
  1. Self-assessing your current reality

These documents contain the following self-assessment options and guidance:

  1. The Options and way forward
  • A tool to help your team to develop innovative and clear improvement plans
  • A tool to help you to set up and lead improvement teams
  1. Improvement Workbook for Civil Society Organisations
  • Vision setting exercise
  • Self-assessment tool
  • Improvement planning tool

How does CSIT relate to other improvement tools?

CSIT is the high-level self-driven and peer-supported improvement framework and toolkit for organisations and partnerships with strategic and capacity building responsibilities within the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectors. The CSIT benchmark reflects principles of organisational excellence based on the 2010 version of the EFQM Excellence Model, the current high-level requirements of the culture, sport, green space and tourism sectors and recognised system thinking concepts. The output of CSIT self-assessment is significant organisational or partnership improvement activity which will develop the enhanced capabilities needed to succeed in the current environment.

CSIT does not compete or conflict with generic or sector specific assessment and improvement tools (e.g. Quest, Green Flag Park Award, etc); it provides an overarching framework into which all of these operational tools and sector guidance fit.