Not that this bothers the charity’s director of design and impact, Navjeet Sira. That is because what matters first and foremost to her is impact – that, and sharing the expertise which will enable more people and organisations to drive change and help young people.
Last year the foundation provided opportunities for almost 3,000 marginalised and at-risk young people in the UK, Jamaica, India and Ghana. It did this through its own network of programmes and partners, which range from the Refugee Cricket Project in Croydon to the Chris Gayle Academy in London and Kingston, Jamaica.
But these days the organisation, which expanded from Cricket for Change to the Change Foundation in 2014, offers much more than just cricket programmes. Its Dance4Change and Storm fitness and wellbeing projects work with young women at risk of anti-social behaviour in South London, and Rugby4Change helps to rehabilitate young offenders. The Hit the Top programme works with disabled eight- to 25-year-olds in schools to build confidence and social skills.
At the core of the Change Foundation are some simple key principles; every programme helps young people in difficult situations learn to “engage, trust, transform and achieve”. And all of their programmes are run by young people who have previously come through a Change Foundation project. When Sira describes the organisation as “genuinely youth-driven”, it’s not just lip service.
She explains how the charity has evolved. “We were purely a cricket organisation for 29 years, using cricket as a tool for a combination of outreach, sport for development and participation.
“Our CEO originally set up the England Blind Cricket team, so we started a blind cricket programme and soon the whole charity transitioned into this ‘sport for good’ focused organisation, just using cricket and adapted forms of cricket.
“We also designed a short, sharp version of cricket called Street20 cricket and it became this really interesting product, so many people wanted to be trained in it and so many people wanted to use it.
“It influenced our international strategy and we were being responsive to so many organisations who were asking us to train them. So the whole organisation started moving and it became a capacity-building organisation as well as one that delivers cricket for change-orientated programmes in London and UK-wide.”
It is this expertise which has enabled the Change Foundation to help world sports stars such as Lawrence Dallaglio, Chris Gayle and Bryan Habana set up their own sport for development programmes. Some in sport might fear giving away such ‘trade secrets’ but it is this steadfast belief in collaboration and holistic thinking, while upskilling other providers, that the Change Foundation sees as vital to helping the sport for development sector move into the mainstream.
“As well as delivering many of our own programmes, we are also training and upskilling – if you need some help, you can get in touch with us and we will be happy to help,” says Sira.
“Sports celebrities have come to us and asked for help. They like the breadth of our work and our flexibility,” says Sira, “So the consultancy approach which has emerged from our attitude to sport for development has grown.
“Chris Gayle set up an Academy in the UK and Jamaica which we designed for him, and we’re doing the same with Bryan Habana now,” she says.
All of which leads nicely into the subject of the government’s current sport strategy which focuses on five key outcomes which aim to improve sport’s contribution to society, as well as driving sporting participation amongst the general population.
Sira believes the the implementation of the strategy should be about joining the dots and empowering organisations who have been delivering sport for social good for years – in the foundation’s case, since 1981, in the wake of the Brixton riots.
“We were part of a conversation with the previous sports minister around the development of the sports strategy, so when Tracey Crouch came in it was very much all-go, which was brilliant. So we’re very pleased about what it says and are linking in our overall Change Foundation impact measurement to those outcomes,” she says.
“We were at a Sport England consultation and there was a significant group of organisations there who can match up the strategy with what localised sport for development is doing nationwide. We are chuffed because we’re already doing some of this work where traditionally perhaps people haven’t wanted to go – similar to Street League and other organisations.
“The fact that these targeted groups of young people are now being viewed as a priority is music to our ears. And if we can share our information, then great. A big part of this strategy is about new friends coming to ask how we work and us explaining that to them. We’re delighted that’s happening. It doesn’t feel like competition, it feels like collaboration. We know we’ll all have to fight for money, but if Sport England gets it right when implementing the strategy I think you’ll find 70 per cent of applications going in collaboratively, as opposed to individual organisations.”
As you would expect from her job title, Sira also knows there are no shortcuts to proving your value in this new environment. The demise of Kids Company demonstrated that there can be no hiding places any more – charities must be run on a sustainable and sound business footing. This is why monitoring and evaluation aren’t just buzz words, they are fundamental to demonstrating which organisations can be trusted to deliver the social return on investment which the government is demanding.
“The last three years have been incredible for the sector,” says Sira. “In the past, sport for development organisations have spent endless energy defending their work to funders. Now we’re predicting outcomes, engaging funders along the way and forcing ourselves to be better and I find that really refreshing, for us and for our funding partners and stakeholders.
“It means our corporate supporters, like the Berkeley Group and Investec, know exactly what they’re investing in. It feels as though they’re almost part of the Foundation, rather than external partners. And then you have genuinely collaborative relationships with grant-giving organisations like Comic Relief, Children in Need and Wembley National Stadium Trust. They’re all right behind what we’re doing.”
Now Sira, and many like her who have committed their careers to using sport to improve society, are eager to see this new approach make an impact.
“It’s a really exciting time. We want to believe Sport England is taking a new approach and the funding isn’t going to go to the same places all the time – that there’s a genuinely diverse approach.”
If that happens, perhaps the Change Foundation – and all of its stablemates in the sport for development sector – will start to make the headlines.