Our role: To create a space for knowledge exchange within the whole community sports development sector.

Our vision: Through bringing people, ideas, research, projects and expertise together, we will facilitate a culture in the UK where community sports development practice is informed by research and where research is informed by practice.

What we are: An informal network of academics and practitioners which everyone is welcome to be part of, led by a small group of people dedicated to achieving its vision.

Who we are: We are a voluntary network of people representative of the sport development workforce, led by a leadership group dedicated to achieving our vision.

What we do:

  1. Organise events
  • A biennial face to face conference. This is aimed at sharing innovative and insightful research and practice. These are hosted by various organisations and we’re open to hosting requests for 2024 onwards
  • A biennial (alternative year) online convention. This will focus on one specific current topic and experts from different parts of our sector will discuss knowledge and practice. We also ask attendees to ‘make a pledge’ on how they will use this knowledge to positively contribute to their own organisations.
  1. Influence policy
  • Influence a range of policy makers using academic research to inform debate and decision making through providing a critical friend role
  1. Communicate and collaborate
  • Run a regular podcast series, hosting informal and topical conversations between different experts in our sector.
  • Send out quarterly newsletters, which will include promoting upcoming events and summarise recent academic research 

Our impact and outcomes:

  • A strong, collaborative and friendly community sports development sector.
  • A network of critical friends who want to positively shape and contribute towards a healthy sector at all levels. 
  • A network that positively supports those studying in this sector, in addition to those in the early and mid-stage of their career.

UKSDN – how we define sports development

The UKSDN acknowledges and embraces the contested nature and purpose of sport development, believing this to be one of its unique strengths. However due to the make-up of its membership base, the UKSDN will focus purely on the community/grassroots elements of sports development.

The Council of Europe definition of sport provides a reference point for the UKSDN’s involvement with the policy and practice of sport development:

‘Sport’ means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels.

The UKSDN has adopted a broad and inclusive conceptualization of sport development in which it is viewed as:

  • A process, or processes, the precise nature and purpose of which may vary between different organisations
  • Being concerned with the policy and practice of sport, specifically programmes of intervention based on principles and practices of: participation; inclusion; equity; social justice; behaviour change; personal, social and community development; health and well being; talent identification; peace
  • A collaborative endeavour underpinned by partnerships
  • A professional discipline requiring the reflective and critical engagement of policy makers, practitioners and academics, underpinned by theory, evidence and research

Sport development, as defined above, is mostly publicly (including Lottery) funded but also includes the work of voluntary and charitable bodies, commercial organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Sport development is viewed as a sub-discipline of the sport industry/sector, with important links to other sub-disciplines such as sport management and sport science, requiring its own professional identity and career structure.

UKSDN recognise that sport development in the UK is closely aligned to Government policy. Whilst this is an important consideration in our work, we will not be overly restricted to this in recognition of the need and our desire for the Network to act as a critical friend and advocate in sport policy and practice debates.