Scaling up the impact of See My Voice

Mel Piper, See My Voice lead officer, at British Blind Sport reflects on their journey to scaling up and shares their experience on the Volunteering Scaling Programme.

British Blind Sport (BBS) is extremely proud of See My Voice, a project designed to empower young blind and partially sighted people through volunteering and leadership opportunities.

Sport England’s Volunteering Scaling Programme has given us a fantastic opportunity to scale up the programme, giving a voice to more young disabled people across England and having a positive impact on the wider sporting community. I hope what we’ve learned may help organisations interested in scaling up their impact.

Scaling up isn't just replication

BBS has a vast amount of experience supporting blind and partially sighted people of all ages and abilities in sport.

We thought we had a clear idea of what we wanted from scaling and assumed we would partner with other national disability sport organisations to replicate our existing model with other impairment groups.

We were pushed to think more broadly about who the project could appeal to, as well as think creatively about the project and its future.

As a result, more organisations from across the sector expressed interest in partnering with us than we’d anticipated, including national governing bodies and Active Partnerships.

But it isn’t just about doing more of the same or being too wedded to how things have been done in the past. Instead, it is thinking creatively about the project and what its future can hold.

However, while Spring Impact challenged us to think more widely of who the project could appeal to, we then reminded ourselves of our resources and capabilities.

By being mindful of our capacity and resource alongside the potential of See My Voice, we could design a pilot that could help us have a greater impact but was also achievable.

Scaling needs resource

Scaling up is an intensive process, and we’ve learned how important it is to invest in the right people and skills to be successful.

We quickly realised that, for the project to scale successfully, it needed its own team. This allowed us to give the correct amount of time and resource to both the delivery of the project, but also to the overall shape of the pilot and its sustainability for the future.

Importance of core values

Core values are essential to any project, as they help to shape outcomes and ensure success.

We developed a set of core values for the programme that were non-negotiable, such as the project name and hosting residentials for young people that were critical to the development of young leaders.

It was critical to be able to refer to these when potential partners questioned us, in order to keep our project on track while never losing sight of our underlying values.

These core values continue to be fundamental to keep in mind as we test our scaling model in the real world.

Adaptation is inevitable

Plans never turn out the way you think they will.

It’s important to be honest about what is and what isn’t working, to capture that and adapt.

This has been true in the Systemise and Pilot stages of the programme so far, and parts of our project such as delivery partner recruitment took longer than we anticipated, and changes had to be made.

Never underestimate the importance of reflection

The Volunteering Scaling Programme has given us the opportunity to be proactive rather than reactive and be more creative in problem solving.

Spring Impact’s facilitated reflection and ‘Stop and Think’ sessions have allowed us to step back, learn from the successes and the challenges so far, and how we can learn from these.

Exchanging ideas within an organisation can only get you so far. Opening up the process and gaining fresh ideas, has led to greater opportunities for growth.

What next?

The Volunteering Scaling Programme has enabled us to think critically about See My Voice.

As a small charity, it has been a steep learning curve, but with Spring Impact’s guidance and support we’ve been able to see the project in a new light and realise its true potential.

We currently have two delivery partners and are looking at how we can work with national governing bodies to create more inclusive volunteering opportunities.

We hope to continue learning as we face the inevitable challenges and celebrate the successes that this process brings and use the tools and key learnings to continue with this model in the future.

How do you scale up impact?

Kristen Natale, Head of Volunteering at Sport England and Alice Metcalf, Senior Consultant at Spring Impact reflect on the lessons learned from the Volunteering Scaling Programme. Read their reflections to find out more.
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