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Digital Innovation – The Story so Far

How we're trying to help the sport and physical sector to innovate using open data and digital platforms.

In 2016, we stated in our new strategy that we wanted to “encourage others to invest and innovate in markets with the greatest potential by making insight freely available, creating data standards, requiring those we fund to share their data and working with the Open Data Institute to promote the principles of shared data”. 

This statement was built on learnings from previous work and since the strategy came into play, we've been trying to make good on that statement. 

Of course, it’s not always been plain sailing but with less than two years left on our Towards an Active Nation strategy, we thought it was a good time to bring you up to speed with how our work in the field of data and digital innovation is progressing. 

What We're Learning

There's no single solution for all

We’ve known for a while that not being able to find ways to get active in your local area is a significant barrier to someone’s activity levels. As part of our investments in our previous strategy, we attempted to create the nation’s biggest sport and fitness finder – Spogo.

However, we quickly learnt that what seemed like the obvious solution to supporting more people to get active, was anything but.

Not only was this approach not sustainable, due to the high costs of nationally marketing Spogo, but data about what activities were happening where and when was not of a sufficient standard to give people the information and quality experience they expected online – our ambition was too big.

The solution was too generic to meet the needs of everyone – for example the kind of experience a really active person needs when finding their new club is totally different to that needed by a complete beginner unsure of their next steps. 

The project was not a waste though, as it led us to a relationship with the Open Data InstituteOpen in a new window and the OpenActiveOpen in a new window initiative, which encourages organisations from across the sector to openly release their opportunity data in a standardised way.  

Our role in the data ecosystem 

From Spogo we also learned that national organisations, however big, may not be best placed to create consumer-facing solutions to increase activity levels themselves. And that a concerted effort in improving the quality of the underlying data, and ensuring easy access to it, is paramount for innovators to succeed.   

To further learn about what it takes to innovate with data, in 2018 we supported 10 startups who are developing a range of solutions aimed at ensuring people can get active in ways that work for them, by sharing our knowledge, expertise and data with them to continue to refine their solutions.  

In supporting these startups, we learnt that our efforts are best served by being an advocator – an enabler for others to innovate and to support the physical activity sector to be open to innovation. We want the sport and physical activity sector to see this as an opportunity, not a threat, to grow the range of products and solutions that support different consumers to overcome the barriers that they face to getting active. 

We also learnt that we have a role in encouraging a more flexible approach to testing and learning what's needed by consumers. That's why we're running a project that seeks to use open data to support our This Girl Can campaignOpen in a new window in the form of testing what information women need from an activity search function, to work out what still needs to be done for these kinds of tools to be successful. 

Click here ofr the full press release


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