2017-18 Forward Thinking Series Wrap

The Forward Thinking Series has been delivered for four years by Vicsport with the support of VicHealth.

The series aims to change the way sports administrators think and operate – for the better. You don’t need to be told that sport faces resourcing challenges, nor that innovation is something of interest to everyone playing the game of attracting the masses to sport. Through these events we aim to strengthen your ability to achieve great outcomes in what can be a competitive and challenging industry.
If you’ve ever attended a Forward Thinking Series event you will be familiar with some of the following experiences:
• Networking with a diverse mix of sports administrators and sport lovers.
• Listening to trendy consultants waxing lyrical on design thinking and lean start-up theory.
• Many a butcher’s paper populated by new ideas.
• Out of your comfort zone experiences.

Designing the series

In May 2017, Vicsport & VicHealth started planning the new Forward Thinking Series. We knew that something needed to change for the events to provide better value to the industry. We decided that we should focus on the practical aspects of innovation, rather than theory.
The justification is clear – we all want sporting participation to grow, which implies a need to innovate.
Events to date have covered plenty of innovation theory including lean start-up, design thinking and creating customer-centric ideas. But how does the theory translate into day to day practice, particularly for organisations with limited resources.
Ultimately, when thinking about the series goal to allow people to come together and explore new ways to engage the community in sport and recreation, we decided to put everyone in a room for two days to start putting theory into practice. We looked at common events like hackathons, ideas jams and think tanks and said, ‘why not group people in teams of 6-8, nominate a captain, give them a design question and give them 2 days to develop and pitch a great idea?’ Thus, the Sport Jam was born.

Engaging industry leaders

Central to the approach for the 2017-18 series was higher engagement with senior industry leaders, including CEOs and government partners. A working group was formed to help shape the series, made up of Vicsport, VicHealth, Sport & Recreation Victoria, Australian Sport Commission and Spark Strategy.
The ‘Ignition’ workshop in November 2017 engaged this group plus 20 CEOs of State Sport Associations and Regional Sports Assemblies to identify the key issues the series could help address. As a group we identified some of the following industry-wide opportunities:
• Addressing the lack of transitional programs to support teenagers to stay active.
• A gap in links between sport organisations and the health industry.
• Identifying the best ways to use technology as an enabler, motivator and data collector.
• How does sport best use recreation and creative play opportunities to increase participation.

Team captains
A new approach for the Forward Thinking Series Sport Jam was the inclusion of ‘team captains’. The role of the captains was to lead one of the groups at the Sport Jam by providing extra support as required. The quality of industry representatives who nominated to become team captains was impressive and included staff from SSAs, LGAs, elite sporting teams and private organisations. Team captains received a half day training session two weeks before the Sport Jam. Each team captain went on to make an enormous contribution to the event. Their dedication and leadership across the two days was instrumental in the generation and presentation of some great new ideas.

Sport Jam

Held at the Sandridge Events Centre (home of the Port Melbourne Football Club), the two-day industry wide co-design event gave people an opportunity to be innovative with their ideas and concepts all in the name of drumming up new ways to increase participation in sport. We provided four design questions for teams to tackle:
• How might we better transition children from school settings into community sport to enable and promote active lifestyles for life?
• What does sport need to offer to be the first choice in preventive healthcare?
• What multi-sport offerings can the sport industry create in partnership to increase and sustain participation in social/modified community sport?
• How might sport use creative play or gamification to build physical literacy in children and young people?
With each group of 6-8 people set up with their design question and team captain, each group started working through a range of tools and templates to help them explore new ideas. Across the two days the teams follow a process of:
• Defining an opportunity and exploring new ideas.
• Selecting 1-2 ideas to test and refine.
• Creating a prototype to present back to the room.
We were thrilled with the quality of ideas generated across the two days. The resulting ideas can be formed into groups based on the target audience that each group identified:
• Children. Three groups focused on children aged 0-5 and their parents.
• Teenagers. Five groups explored pathways and partnerships to encourage greater physical activity by teenagers.
• Older Adults. One group looked at adults aged 65-70.
Here are some examples of the ideas generated at the Sport Jam:

Smooth Movers

The team Smooth Movers developed an idea to create a three-prong approach to improving the Physical Literacy of Children through their greatest influencers – their mums and dads. It would be an online platform that houses ideas and activities to help mums and bubs become active. The program would include an app to allow parents to track development skills and would be delivered in partnership with Allied Health organisations and Maternal Child Health Nurses.

#Teen Active
‘Teen Active Hubs’ is about developing and activating spaces at shopping centre precincts with at least 2-3 sport and recreation activities. The hub would be delivered in partnership with shopping centre operators, youth centres/providers, local government, interested sporting bodies and business/retail partners.
The outcomes would include more youth engagement at places where they currently go and participation in structured and unstructured active play, enhancing physical and social wellbeing and reducing anti-social behaviour. The space would also provide opportunities for community and corporate partners to engage youth in more meaningful ways.


‘Stealthcare’ provides a boutique experience for older adults based on their individual needs. While many sport organisations are creating modified, universally accessible programs for children, the same approach could be applied to older adults as a strategy to increase physical activity levels and health. For program delivery, an Allied Health organisation could work with an NSO to create modified opportunities which meets the needs of the audience. A framework would be developed to support build the capability of coaches to deliver tailored support to the participants. Channels would include Allied Health Professionals, smartphone and commercial partners (such as Coles if the sport was Athletics).

Future Opportunities
Participant feedback indicated that the Sport Jam was an effective event in building capability to use creative techniques to explore and implement new ideas. This is a great outcome as it arguably means the sports industry is in a stronger position to adopt innovation into core business.
Based on the feedback and ongoing discussions, here are some key opportunities identified you’re your sport organisation to consider when planning and monitoring future programs:
• Continue to use innovation techniques like human-centred design to ensure your current and future products/services places the end-user at the centre of all design choices.
• Building on the above, think about how embedding human-centred design processes within your organisation can support improvements to your existing products/services.
• Utilise tools and techniques shared at the Forward Thinking Series during in-house workshops and meetings.
• Place a high focus on time spent networking with and learning about the needs of your target audience.
• Think broadly about potential partnerships, including organisations outside the sports industry which have a connection to a specific audience (such as a local community health organisation or a local business).
• Explore opportunities to work with other sport organisations, especially if this allows for resources to be shared and a greater audience reached.
• Consider a locally-led delivery approach which develops local partnerships, consultation with local residents and organisations, recognises local people as local experts and builds on the strength of existing local assets.
You can watch a video testimony from Helen Tyrikos, Program Development Coordinator (women and girls) at Football Federation of Victoria about her experience at Sport Jam. Helen speaks about the difference in ideas that were brought to the table from the group.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Tom Dixon, Vicsport Participation Strategy Manager, on (03) 9698 8106 or

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