Ben Rigby is Director at Sporting Communities CIC, an organisation set up in 2012 that works with communities to help them run sport, recreation and play activities.
In this guest blog, Ben tells us about the organisation’s journey and the difference they are making in communities across Cheshire and the Midlands.
In 2012 I decided to form my own community-focused business. I had been running sport sessions for over 1,000 young people in Derby City, and after some difficult times felt ready for a new challenge.
I quickly realised that starting my own organisation meant that I could ensure the values organisation valued what I did – namely local young people and the staff and volunteers who made this work a reality. Following discussions and commitments from experienced workers that I valued, Sporting Communities was born.
Why do we need to play?
The lack of local investment and the recent austerity measures has meant that children’s free play and positive youth activity is seen as a very low priority. We think it’s the right of every person to be able to play; the impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and wellbeing of individuals and communities, however evidence from listening to parents illustrated that the needs of children and young people are not always met.
I wanted Sporting Communities to be able to meet the needs of local communities and provide positive opportunities to all. Our motto “Working with communities to learn how to serve them best” came from our belief that each community is unique and therefore we could consult with communities to find out what services were required and where. That way if it was something that we could offer, we would happily do so.
Last January I could never have imagined that we would have achieved all we have done. When I set up Sporting Communities I hoped that we would become a positive symbol for communities and in January 2014 the Community Development Foundation named us their ‘Organisation of the Month’, which was a great honour.
Since then, we have expanded out into new geographical areas, achieving real positive outcomes within communities. The staff members that have become part of the team allowed us to form a Creative Arts team as well as a Supportive and Sustaining team Most important, though, are the achievements made to the people within the communities that we operate.
There has been a drop in anti-social behaviour (ASB) in all of the areas that we are delivering ASB deterrent sports, play or creative arts sessions. There has also been increased wellbeing in the areas that we operate, which has brought people together and improved community cohesion. That work has been widely recognised for its success.
You can’t measure smiles on a spread sheet
When tasked with showing what success looks like, it’s hard to find a spread sheet that can measure smiles and laughter. The Dandelion Project allowed children and families to access a range of new play experiences, coupled with opportunities to explore and take risks. We attracted not only our ‘target group’, but also older teenagers who felt that they wanted to get involved positively in the children’s activities through volunteering. This project provided an opportunity for families who might otherwise feel disconnected from their community to come together.
Inspiring young volunteers
Our volunteer programme has just taken on a fourth apprentice – Jess, who is keen to follow in the footsteps of Lydia, Dave and Dani, who have all gone on to achieve great things so far. Lydia is now a Health Assessment Advisor, Dave is running community football programmes across Newcastle-under-Lyme and Dani is leading on a Roman Heritage Young Roots programme. I have been really impressed with the work ethic and determination of all of our apprentices and it is great to see that they are going on to really beneficial work following their apprenticeship with us.
I’m really proud to be a part of the Sporting Communities team. I’ve no doubt that we will continue to provide positive social change in local communities and produce leaders who can help with that change, but I would like to thank our partners too for all of their on-going support.Guest blog: Sporting Communities,