Sport England: Capturing the impact of grassroots sports development

Sport England, the public sector organisation responsible for grassroots sport in England, asked us to help them to capture and evaluate the results of their new strategy.

This strategy, “Towards an Active Nation,” seeks to increase the number of people who engage in sport, making sure that everyone can experience the benefits of physical activity regardless of age, background or ability.

Duration: 12 months

5 minute read

How does a funder know that their grants are being used effectively?

Sport England is the organisation responsible for grassroots sport in England. They asked Nexer to help them capture and evaluate the results of their strategy, “Towards an Active Nation”. The strategy seeks to increase the number of people who engage in sport. It also looks to ensure that everyone experiences the benefits of physical activity regardless of age, background or ability.

To uphold their strategy, Sport England funds local groups to host grassroots sporting activities. Sport England needs accurate and timely data to check the impact of these activities and make sure their strategy is working. To help collect this data, Sport England introduced an Evaluation Framework. National and local sports groups now use this tool to track and assess their impact.

Designing and building an accessible microsite

Sport England asked Nexer to research, design and develop an accessible microsite to help local groups evaluate their activities against the Framework. Staff and volunteers from local groups would be able to use this framework to monitor their impact effectively. The microsite had to provide:

  • A simple, accessible, and seamless user experience
  • Functionality on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone
  • The ability to update content easily as new guidance or tools come online

Nexer has delivered a site that we can be proud of. It does exactly what we wanted it to do and feedback has been excellent from our target users. They find it intuitive, easy to use, accessible and users are able to find what they need, when they need it.

Darcy Hare, Head of Research and Evaluation, Sport England

What we did

With a strong focus on user and stakeholder research, the Nexer team began with a process of discovery, asking questions such as:

  • What does success for this project look like?
  • Who is the audience for this content, and what are their goals?

Our user research team conducted phone and face-to-face interviews with a wide range of people. Some users were Sport England staff, and others were from partner organisations. We used this research to co-design a prototype with users and stakeholders before building the final version of the microsite in Umbraco.

We conducted interviews with organisations funded by Sport England to understand how they were evaluating impact and measuring it, and what the struggles were. Then, we brought these insights to the design of the new microsite

Photo of Chris Bush

Chris Bush, Head of Experience Design at Nexer

A screenshot of the Sport England Evaluation Framework's design, implementation and learning stages.
The decision tree which helps funders decide what level of impact measurement they need.

Designing and prototyping together

During our co-design workshop with users and key stakeholders, we referred to the results of our earlier research interviews. Together, we built an intuitive, consistent Information Architecture (IA) and agreed the final layouts and designs. The prototype gave everyone a clear understanding of what the site would eventually look like and how it would work.

Based on this prototype, we built the microsite and used the grid in Umbraco v7 to deliver a high degree of flexibility for the Sport England team. This meant that they could restyle pages to suit the materials they wish to present, both now and in the future.

Through our research, we found that some organisations were more mature in their approach to evidence gathering than others: learning was fed back into the project delivery at every stage. These projects were more successful. We were able to pass insights like this onto Sport England, who wanted to share best practice across all of the projects they fund.

Photo of Chris Bush

Chris Bush, Head of Experience Design at Nexer

Ensuring ease of use

We conducted usability testing, with real site users, on both the prototype and on the developed site to find out whether our solution was easy to use and accessible. We used task-based, observational testing techniques in Nexer’s usability lab. This testing uncovered a raft of insights that we fed back into the iterative design and development process, and we delivered a highly usable and accessible product.

Accessible evidence of impact

Following the microsite launch, there was a significant reduction in the number of enquiries from internal and external sources to the Sport England Insight Team, alleviating their workload. Sport England’s national and local groups can now easily measure the outcomes of their own projects, and Sport England themselves can evaluate these projects to ensure their investments are being used effectively.

The Nexer team communicated well with us throughout the project. They provided the right people at the right time, with all the skills we needed.

Darcy Hare, Head of Research and Evaluation, Sport England

What's next?

The impact and outcomes that are collected through the microsite will inform future decisions that Sport England make on future investment. Sport England continue to update the framework with new content and tools.

We’ve since worked with Sport England to enhance the search functionality on the main website, to integrate BT Live Chat with the funding application process, and to undertake full accessibility testing across the whole site. We’ve also worked with the campaign team to transform the website for the high-profile campaign, This Girl Can.

Headshot of Shaun Gomm

Get in touch

Please email if you would like to discuss our work, or call our Macclesfield office on +44 (0)1625 427718