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27 Apr 2022 | 14:14

EA1It’s been a busy few months for the Coalition’s growing national network as it prepares to welcome a new Executive Director, Hitesh Patel. In this blog we hear from Collective Action Manager Emma Atkins (pictured left) who has overseen the transition from Hitesh’s predecessor and will leave the Coalition with our grateful thanks on May 20. 

This week sees the Coalition welcome its new Executive Director, Hitesh Patel, who joins from DCMS. With his strong background and experience in shaping policy and public service, Hitesh certainly arrives suitably qualified – which is good news considering the shoes he is filling after predecessor Ollie Dudfield joined the International Olympic Committee in January, to help lead its sustainability programme. 

However rather than the traditional ‘holding pattern’ between executives, thanks to a strong transition plan there has been no let-up in the interim. I’m delighted to report that Coalition members, supported by our team, have shown fantastic commitment and dedication to completing the first full cycle of its collective action framework. Over the last three months 13 sessions have been attended by 288 representatives of member organisations, each including preparation and review sessions plus compilation reports. Last week feedback and findings were collated and presented to the Board of the Coalition, as we move swiftly into the next quarter. 

Collective Action 1

Looking at the data, it’s interesting to see that roughly a third of Coalition members involved in the collection action like to be involved so they can learn; a similar number so they can be consulted, and the remaining third get stuck in and expect to progress action! The key takeaway here for any newcomers is to sign the Charter and find out how your organisation can get involved. You can also register here to join the next Induction Session online and find out more on May 27th

Throughout the year, the Coalition holds a series of events and meetings to encourage and sustain collective action. So whether it’s participating in the Policy, Impact or Communications Working Groups, or contributing submissions to the Policy Reports which underpin the five key outcome areas of the newly-launched Open Goal framework, there is an active contribution that your organisation can be making to the collective action of the Coalition. Throughout 2022, 54% of Coalition members are actively involved in its governance, compared to 33% in 2021. Later this year the Expression of Interest will be relaunched to refresh and update membership of the working groups for 2023. 


Alternatively or additionally, members are encouraged to attend the Town Hall events in person or online. Hybrid events have taken place in Bristol (focused on the sport for development workforce) and Manchester (sport and criminal justice – click here to register for Friday’s event) so far, following the online-only events of 2021 which focused on sport for development’s role in social prescribing and climate action. Stay tuned for more events being planned in more regions throughout 2022. 

After cementing these foundations and ways of working in readiness for the long road ahead, it’s also been great to be able to build on them quickly with colleagues across the movement stepping forward to form the Collective Action Leadership Group. Co-chairs for each group are driving the collective action, including a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) group which will provide expertise to support the sector as a whole and ensure the internal processes and practices of the Coalition’s own governance are aligned.

HP 3

During this period we have listened carefully to the needs of members, and one of the priorities for Hitesh (pictured above) will be help lead a new investment pillar which is very much needed so that members can come together and have a collective voice to funders in the sector. The recent Town Hall in Bristol, and conversations in general around workforce have also informed the need for a stronger focus on the people who deliver and lead our sector with a new working group to be set up soon. Look out for the EOI which is imminent. 

During my time as CEO of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, and as Director of Coaching at UK Coaching, I have always been a strong advocate for collective action and I’ve been honoured to play an active role in maintaining the momentum over the last few months. Individually Coalition members may all have their own brands, objectives and targeted outcomes, but the remarkable response to the launch of the #OpenGoal campaign on April 6th demonstrated there is an unstinting commitment and belief, not to mention growing evidence base, for the power of the collective.  

As Hitesh emphasises in his first interview as Executive Director, there has never been a more important or necessary time for the movement to galvanise itself, with a cost-of-living crisis following hard on the heels of the pandemic. We know the targeted interventions that sport for development provides produce a greater return on investment in those communities facing the most stubborn inequalities, and thus can help to save public money. Sport can, and should play a vital role in tackling those inequalities and helping to level up communities in the greatest need. Now, as Hitesh points out, it’s time for us all to come together and “realise the untapped potential” of sport. 

Sign up to the Coalition Charter.