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The Active Norfolk staff perspective

It’s Always Nice to Hear We’re Doing Well – but It Won’t Stop Us Adapting to Improve

Posted: Tue, 19 Feb 2019 12:46 by Ben Jones

It’s Always Nice to Hear We’re Doing Well – but It Won’t Stop Us Adapting to Improve

I can honestly say that we've always had a pretty good relationship with Sport England, who are our main funding body. They've always supported the work we do, allowing us the freedom to innovate and they have been adaptive to the challenges in our ever-changing sector.

Last year they announced there would be a new independent performance measurement framework brought in for County Sports Partnerships, of which Active Norfolk is one, to scrutinise how investment is being used and how well it is being managed. Naturally this announcement was greeted across our Network with a cautious optimism.

What emerged was the QUEST evaluation process, which has been designed especially to measure the effectiveness of organisations like us in fulfilling our objectives and changing lives through physical activity. I feel one of the strengths of this process is the independence of the evaluators, which removes any form of bias or prejudice from the evaluation process and gives a completely impartial analysis of how the organisation functions to achieve its objectives.

When I broke the news to the team that we were being 'evaluated' I was a little apprehensive that it would sound as though we were being tested. But I was delighted when the team took to the task with enthusiasm, going diligently through the modules and taking a thorough look at the way in which we work and coming up with tangible improvements we can make. The whole team really got stuck in.

When we undertook our self-reflection collectively, the team were quite brutal in their assessment of our organisation. A few things began to reveal themselves, small deficiencies in our knowledge of the way we each work that I had not necessarily realised were in existence. It also became apparent that the team we have here is far too modest.

But after several months of analysis we were ready for the QUEST evaluators to review our organisation, speak to some of our key stakeholders and form a detailed report outlining the way we work and ways we can improve. The assessment itself was really good, dare I say it, even enjoyable. We had some positive feedback from our assessor at the end of her analysis, but we didn't really know what that meant from an assessment perspective. We had no idea what 'score' we would get or what would be included in our report which followed a couple of weeks later.

So when the report arrived earlier this month I was delighted to learn that we were awarded 'Very Good' overall, scoring 'Excellent' in some categories. Encouragingly, these scores were generally higher than the self-assessment scores we'd given ourselves.

I'm pleased that we have received some recognition for the team that I'm so proud of. I'm pleased that we've 'ticked a box' for Sport England and I'm pleased that we can share this with our local stakeholders to reinforce and grow our credibility as a well-run organisation.

All of these things are very welcome, but by far the biggest benefit of this process so far has been the way in which it's pulled the team together and given us a number of key focus areas to help drive forward our own performance improvement. Not because anyone is telling us to, but because we want to get better and we want to continue to build an organisation that can make a positive difference to the lives of people across Norfolk.

Tags: QUEST, Sport England, assessment, evaluation