Making the case for sport and recreation services: the utility of Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the actual and potential utility of social return on investment (SROI) analysis as an instrument to strengthen the financial and social "case" for local authority sport and recreation services (SRS) in the context of recent research by the Association of Public Service Excellence. Design/methodology/approach: The research for APSE, undertaken by the author, consisted of a survey and a series of interviews over 18 months with policy officers within leisure services across local authorities in England. Data on "making the case" for SRS is extracted from this research. Findings: It is argued that SROI has utility where it can demonstrate the contribution of sport, physical activity and recreation to health policy, adult social care, education, youth crime reduction, place shaping agendas and community engagement, for example. However, findings of the APSE research imply that although SROI offers use value in making a case for retaining services, this method of assessment may not be widely employed for a number of political and practical reasons. Research limitations/implications: The research is limited to a sample of 55 local authorities in England from which generalisations are made. Practical implications: In the context of the introduction of the Social Value Act in 2013, SROI offers use value in making a case for retaining or adapting discretionary services within emerging models of strategic commissioning. Implementation will however be challenging for SRS. Originality/value: It is argued that without an evidence base, it is unlikely that a case can be made for retaining discretionary services that benefit local communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-164
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Public Sector Management
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

Keywords

  • Business case
  • England
  • Local authority services
  • Recreation
  • Social impact
  • Social return on investment
  • Sport

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