We know in our gut instinct that sport delivers something special in terms of social value but how can we translate that into a financial figure to stand up against competing claims on funding or land use?
That was the challenge facing Dublin GAA Club Na Fianna in March 2018 when Transport Infrastructure Ireland announced a proposal to locate a tunnelling site for Dublin’s new Metro Link on the grounds of their main club pitches and clubhouse.
The club was already experiencing serious pressure catering for 3,000 members and 166 competitive teams.
The improvement of infrastructure is something that is of benefit to all and was being welcomed by the club but Na Fianna looked like they and their community would be paying a price that was inordinately high.
It had to offer a counter-argument for the value that sporting and community involvement delivers.
A compelling public case was built which was strong on emotion and garnered much local support despite its size and scale as a single sports club it recognised the lack of robust independent evidence about what that social value actually was.
The club decided, in response to the detailed engineering report, to commission its own independent professional report to quantify the value which its activities had delivered in the preceding calendar year.
With the support of the Dublin GAA County Board, Whitebarn Consulting were engaged to undertake a Social Return On Investment (SROI) Study of the clubs activities over that period.
Na Fianna will present the results of their report into the Social Value of Sport at the 2019 Sport for Business Sport for Social Good Conference as part of the 148th Open Championship on Thursday morning, July 18th.
SROI is an internationally recognised principles-based approach that uses a process known as ‘monetisation’ to equate the value that people place on outcomes generated by an organization or programme to other things that they attach importance to.
The methods employed in the compilation of the report included survey responses, one-to-one interviews, focus groups, a working group and desk research.
Through a process known as value mapping, the report quantified all inputs and outputs and determined that for every €1 equivalent invested, €15 of social value was generated.
The results confirmed that Na Fianna, though it’s range of sporting, cultural and community-based activities generated €50 million of social value in a single year.
The findings of the report were assured by Social Value International.
Extrapolating these results to all 91 GAA Clubs under the remit of the Dublin County Board, conservatively estimates €1 billion in social value is generated each year in the capital alone.
The results provided valuable insight into the motivations of club members and the value they place on health, friendship, community and cultural identity.
It included a series of recommendations all of which have been acted upon by the club Executive Committee.
The process has added an impetus to the clubs dealing with a range of external stakeholders particularly in relation to the importance of continued access to playing facilities directly within their immediate community.
The report challenges existing perceptions of the value delivered to communities by volunteer-based organisations such as Na Fianna, but not just limited to them or even to GAA clubs but the units that make up every sport played within every community.
It poses the question of why sporting organisations are so undervalued by those who see green sites in the city as nothing more than future apartments or houses.
What value should we place on planning sustainable communities where children have space and opportunity to play and develop in a healthy environment?
It started as a response to a crisis, it delivered something that was far greater than the original group behind the idea might have imagined.