Please bear with me whilst I attempt to consolidate the thousands of thoughts (or voices?) in my head into something meaningful. I’m here to present my views on hubbing, but I’m going to use the word ‘partnerships’ a lot.
Many folks associate a sports hub with facilities. Bricks and mortar. They’re partly right. But often the facilities are a by-product of the mahi (work) that’s occurred behind the scenes. Mahi that, in many cases, has taken years.
Do not fall into the trap of assuming that hubbing is a fad, or a buzz word dreamt up by the Good Idea Fairy. Sport NZ has hit the nail on the head:
The need to continually review, refresh and adapt the way we provide sport and recreation is behind the recent growth in the number of Community Sports and Recreation Hubs. More New Zealanders now expect professionally delivered, flexible and accessible sport and recreation. Because of this, sports must look for alternative delivery models to better meet today's markets.
This is data driven. This is built on a foundation of analysis of participation trends over many years, across all demographics. At the heart of this is the voice of the participant and volunteer.
Think about the barriers to participation in physical activity that are experienced by many of us – time, cost, location to name a few. Now think about how we can work together in our communities to remove those barriers. It starts with the right people, with the right skill sets, with the right connections, with the right attitude towards creating and maximising opportunities for everyone to be physically active regardless of age, ability, gender, culture, background or belief. Get those people together and you have the makings of a hub. Sound easy?
Emphasis on the right people. It’s the ability to build partnerships while at the same time having the skills to facilitate and navigate the tough conversations. And there will be tough conversations. There’s a lot of ego associated with sport and recreation across all levels – from elite to grass roots. That’s partly why we’re experiencing participation declines in some areas. We need to move past that and be future focussed.
Community clubs and providers of physical activity opportunities are often in competition, rather than collaboration, with each other. They’re all competing for the same thing – participants, volunteers, funding, court space, field space. Let’s bring a hub into the picture to provide support to address these challenges – so what might that look like?
Having a hub as a strategic partner with a holistic perspective focussed on maximising opportunities for everyone, rather than taking a club-centric view, immediately helps to break down barriers. It presents opportunities to progress open and honest conversations around common challenges and opportunities.
Topics such as scheduling, volunteer support, shared facilities and co-funding immediately begin to enhance club capability and promote future-focussed thinking. If we get this stuff right, the evidence will be increased levels of participation in our communities and facilities being optimised to their full potential. Guess what? This then opens the door for discussions around new facilities. Hooray for new shiny things!
Separate paragraph dedicated to new shiny things. Remember what I said about strategic partnerships and co-funding? Here’s an example on how a hub can help to accelerate facility development through a partnership approach. In many cases, the development of sport and recreation facilities in our communities is directly linked to council budgets and planning. Councils allocate $xx amount annually depending on what the priorities are. Want something done quicker? Okay, let’s hike your rates up by 200%. Happy with that? Nah? Back to square one.
Hubs have the ability to access funding that Councils cannot. Remember what I said about the right people with the right skill sets? One of those skill sets is funding applications – the ability to find money. Trust me when I say that there’s a lot of funding out there, it just takes the right person to find it. By partnering with councils as a co-funder, hubs can accelerate facility development in their communities if there is evidence of need. This approach also assists the Council, with the hub being the primary point of contact, rather than 10 local clubs coming to them separately, cap in hand.
It's important to note that hubs may evolve over time depending on the needs of the community they represent. What begins as a hub focussed on sport and recreation may evolve into something that supports other important aspects of community wellbeing – culture, arts, health, education and other social initiatives. Future focussed.
If this all seems like a great idea but you’re a little bewildered as to where to begin, there’s support available. Sport NZ has a hubbing guide at https://www.thehubguide.org.nz, sharing learnings from previous hub projects across the country. There are also local examples, hubs of all shapes and sizes that are active in our communities right now.
Contact Sport Waikato if you’re keen to learn more.
As a Regional Connectivity Coordinator for the Matamata-Piako, Hauraki and Thames-Coromandel districts, Rob Corkill is passionate about providing strategic leadership to the Waikato region’s network of Territorial Local Authorities as well as local sport and active recreation organisations and providers. Rob works closely with key partners to guide physical activity strategy, provision and investment, including through the development and implementation of local play, active recreation and sport plans.