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ISCA members test their governance at General Assembly

ISCA’s Good Governance in Grassroots Sport Self-Assessment Tool was given a workout prior to the ISCA General Assembly in Rome in October, where ISCA members assessed their governance at a workshop led by Good Governance in Grassroots Sport project partners Mark Lowther (Cardiff Metropolitan University, Wales) and Simone DiGennaro (University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, Italy). In this article, Lowther and DiGennaro give their perspectives on good governance and present their findings from the workshop.


While there are a number of perfectly reasonable definitions in the literature, we would summarise governance as the “philosophy and practice of steering and shaping organisational life and performance”. It is a holistic and co-ordinated approach arguably more aligned with concepts such as vision and culture, but also clearly influencing more practical day-to-day matters such as strategy, productivity and change.


A governance philosophy is usually characterised by active consideration of three principles, openness, fairness and effectiveness, which underpin and inform leadership actions and interactions. Governance practice then normally centres on - and is typically demonstrated by - a balance (and emphasis as required) of three areas of work. These areas of work are establishing internal controls, maximising internal capabilities and remaining alive to the external environment (and the wider stakeholder community). It should also be noted that the process of defining governance is an important organisational activity in order to facilitate debate, surface a collective understanding of the topic and thereafter agree the conditions for good governance to develop.


During the ISCA General Assembly in Rome on 25 October 2014, ISCA’s members reviewed the findings of their self-assessment using the Good Governance in Grassroots Sport Self-Assessment Tool. The tool (including a straightforward scoring mechanism) can be found here and the Guidelines for Good Governance in Grassroots Sport can be found here


Following a call to action to complete the self-assessment process, we received 190 responses from 72 ISCA membership organisations. An analysis of the data indicated that the mean for the population was 2.6 on a scale from 1-4, with 4 being the best result. In other words the current level of performance is between what we would describe as progressing and developed. This suggests a positive direction of travel and the ISCA’s members should be encouraged by this indicator of systemic health. On the other hand, the analysis also suggests that more could be done with regard process and the finer details of implementation. However “good governance at the grassroots is not abstract, exclusive or complicated – it’s about the daily acts of ordinary people doing the right thing. The right thing is what is best for others and sport itself”. In this endeavour ISCA’s staff are able to provide further support and information including practical documented resources and signposting to subject experts.


As the world in general and the grassroots sports sector in particular becomes more complex and competitive, so the demands - and opportunities - increase. Some of the obvious challenges include securing funding from investors, managing risk in the organisation and building trust with stakeholders. These challenges will not go away, neither will the need to actively manage them and secure discretionary efforts and innovative insights from the (significantly volunteer-based) staff working with grassroots sport. Our personal choice then becomes how best to address these challenges.


The current emphasis on the sector largely self-regulating its affairs and implementing appropriate governance practices enables organisations not only to meet these challenges, but to perform better and contribute to their communities.


The Good Governance in Grassroots Sport Self-Assessment Tool and Guidelines were developed through the ISCA project Good Governance in Grassroots Sport (GGGS). The project was supported by the EU under the “2011 Preparatory Action in the Field of Sport”.