Thursday, 27 December 2012

Sporting Memories 2012 - Establishing a social enterprise

The Sporting Memories Network is a social enterprise registered in England, Wales & Scotland, established to promote and develop the use of sporting memories to improve the well-being of older people through conversation and reminiscence.

As 2012 draws to a close, it's only natural to look back at the highs & lows of the last 12 months, these are some of my own reflections on our 1st calendar year of operation.

January starts brightly, March ends with a thud.

Having toasted the successful registration of the Sporting Memories Network Community Interest Company over a dram or two at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh in November 2011, our first year has been absolutely jam packed with all the emotions that come with trying to build a social enterprise and network from nothing.

The year started optimistically. As we embarked on the mammoth task of writing a training manual and establishing and gathering all the resources needed for the network to thrive, we were also being assessed for our suitability for a major national grant that would see us test out sporting reminiscence across 3 regions and several different community settings in England in what would be a flag ship project. Having made it to the final 80 of over 1500 bids that had been submitted to the grant fund, we waited to hear the results of the 4 hour long assessment and interview that was carried out by an external consultancy specialising in measuring the capability, skill set and our capacity to deliver large scale projects.

A copy of the assessment report that would be included in the dossier given to the final funding panel arrived in our inbox. 14 green lights out of 14. The only recommendation from the assessment being we build in some time with our expert advisors during the project to ensure we don’t miss any further opportunities! The most pleasing score in the whole document was being awarded a massive 95% on the project being able to be sustained beyond the lifetime of the initial project. It felt like a real endorsement and reassurance that our vision could be achieved, that the combination of our experience and skills, along with our business model and eye for detail could deliver a meaningful enterprise that was worthwhile and the provided a positive service to communities. Whilst we ploughed on creating the resources required to achieve our vision of embedding the use of sports reminiscence across the UK, we always had an ear out for the phone, waiting to hear of the final decision.

We know the positive impact sports reminiscence has for participants who have dementia, the chance to demonstrate this across communities was an exciting prospect. Talk about waiting for the bell.

Finally the call came through, the judges were impressed with our bid, with the reports on our skills and capacity and……had decided to fund other projects, not the network’s.

Our hearts sank with a very loud thud. What a hammer blow. No matter how much we had steeled ourselves for disappointment, nothing really prepared us for this set back. Sure we had done well as a new social enterprise to get that far against many long established national organisations and the feedback and assessment confirmed our model and plan was a solid and achievable approach, but whichever way we looked at it, this was a major setback on our journey to achieving our vision and goals.


Without any significant start up capital available, achieving our goals for the first year was going to be a tougher challenge than we had already prepared for.

To be continued....

Tony Jameson-Allen