Four secrets to scaling up your grassroots sport initiative
Best practice example from the Hungarian School Sport Federation, MOVE Transfer partner.
The Hungarian School Sport Federation scaled up its nation-wide School Sports Day through ISCA’s MOVE Transfer process in 2014 and ended up attracting around 80,000 more participants to the event than it did in 2013. On top of that, the Federation was recently awarded an EU project grant under the new Erasmus+ Sport programme. So what are the secrets to successfully scaling up your initiative and what does it involve? And can it be sustainable? ISCA found out at a meeting between the MOVE Transfer partners in Rome.
Secret 1: Find out who you are not reaching through your initiative
Last year, the Hungarian School Sports Day was one of the biggest events held during MOVE Week, with 141,000 people getting involved in physical activities in schools across the country. This feat was duly celebrated by the Hungarian School Sport Federation (HSSF), but the organisation did not sit back and expect history to repeat itself the following year.
In fact, it noticed that it was lacking a key target group which could help scale up its event to make it even bigger, as HSSF’s Head of Office, Ákos Füzi, explained at the partners’ meeting:
“Schools educating disabled and special needs students didn’t feel that the day was for everyone. They thought it was just for able-bodied students, so they were reluctant to participate.”
Secret 2: Grab the opportunity to reach a new target group and approach partners to help you do it
MOVE Transfer came as a timely vehicle to help HSSF extend the School Sports Day to Hungarian schools it had previously found hard-to-reach. To make the most of the opportunity, the organisation had to act fast.
On being accepted as a MOVE Transfer national organisation (to transfer its initiative to another setting within the same country), it quickly got in contact with the National Federation of the Disabled Student Recreation and Sports (NFDSRS) to seek its help in delivering the event to schools with disabled students.
It didn’t stop there. Regional schools were also a big gap in the School Sports Day’s reach, so HSSF approached the National Agricultural Advisory and Educational and Rural Development Institute to be partners as well. All three organisations agreed to come on board.
“We had the same preferences in getting more youngsters involved in physical activity, no matter whether they have disabilities or are living in small towns,” Füzi said.
Secret 3: Deliver your initiative through relevant partners and establish direct contact with the receiver
Choosing the right partners was a priority for HSSF, as its staff knew they had to build trust between themselves as a transfer organisation and the receiving organisations – in this case, the schools in remote areas or with disabled students. The HSSF had the advantage of being an established organisation with a good reputation among schools, but it needed extra support when it came to approaching the harder to reach schools.
Contacting the schools via email was not going to get them as far as they wanted, so establishing personal contacts in person or through NFDSRS and the rural and county associations was a way to promote the School Sports Day as something relevant to the hard-to-reach schools, just as it was in the other schools.
In some cases, it was also important to emphasise the scale of the event, as Füzi points out.
“Part of our sales pitch, by phone or face-to-face, was to ask the schools not only to join a Hungarian movement, but a European movement.”
Secret 4: Promote your event, motivate your target group and reward them for engaging
Part of promoting the event as a European movement was to connect it with MOVE Week, which meant planning the day for the first week of October (the 3rd).
This date fell close to the start of the new school year, so to attract local attention about the School Sports Day, particularly among the new target schools, HSSF launched the 2014 edition of the event among physical education teachers and at the school year opening ceremony of the NFDSRS.
HSSF organised the event alongside NFDSRS’s own initiative, Ability Sport Park, an interactive park for able-bodied children to learn about living with a disability. NFDSRS and the other partners also promoted School Sports Day through their own communications and PR channels, and HSSF used the official MOVE Week online banners to advertise the event on physical activity-related Hungarian websites.
Rewards, including vouchers for sporting equipment, were on offer for the schools with the most participation, which motivated potential participants to join in.
The result and potential for future growth
From June to the first week of October, HSSF put a new strategy into motion, secured the right partners, organised workshops and training sessions to help partners and schools deliver its initiative, and used all available communications channels that its organisation, its partners and MOVE Week offered.
The result was well and truly on target: 50% more children with disabilities participated in School Sports Day and 50% more schools from hard-to-reach communities joined in. Overall, almost 770 schools were part of the event, meaning that the initiative reached 220,000 people (including 200,000 school children, their teachers and parents).
Hungarian School Sport Day is part of HSSF’s ongoing efforts to promote physical activity in Hungarian schools and now beyond, with HSSF’s new EU project examining principles and areas for development in health-oriented physical education. Its other initiatives include a National Student Fitness Test (NETFIT) and a newly developed school sport volunteering programme to encourage students, particularly those in hard-to-reach social groups, to engage in volunteering.
“We are convinced that with the help of these initiatives we will give enough inspiration to the school children to keep participating in physical activity, and that next year’s School Sports Day will reach at least as many participants as this year – hopefully even more,” Füzi says.
“With the help of NETFIT we will have communication with the parents as well, recommending their children to take up health-enhancing physical activity in accordance with the results of the tests.”
With strong partnerships and an organisation dedicated to physical activity promotion among school children, the scale-up of the Hungarian School Sports Day is a MOVE Transfer success story that not only reached its target, but will grow as an integrated and sustainable event. And its four secrets of a successful scale-up are now yours to help grow your own initiative.
Stay tuned for the next call for MOVE Transfer participant organisations at the MOVE Transfer website.
Please contact Ákos Füzi for more information about the Hungarian School Sports Day at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Rachel Payne