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Developing an inclusive culture

A blurry shot of a handball game, with the goal post in focus in the foreground

As a fairly new club, set up in 2016 as a Community Interest Company (CIC), Chelsea Handball Club created a vision and mission statement committing to:

  • raise awareness and promote the sport of handball
  • support the mental and physical well-being of participants
  • sharing best practice and good governance within the handball community
  • be a wholly inclusive club accessible to everyone in their local community, regardless of background. 

This vision was underpinned by the desire to be a family club providing both competitive opportunities and a safe, positive environment where people could just be active.

The club have experienced lots of benefits to rethinking their approach and identifying shared values to support their vision. These include:

  • Increased participation and retention.
  • Helping them achieve their goal of becoming a family-oriented club and bring families together to support the club’s sustainability.
  • Attracting the younger generation, who are often motivated to join organisations with a sense of purpose and clear values with community impact.
  • Helping them to communicate effectively what the club is all about, including to partners and potential funders.
  • Sending a clear message to new joiners about what they can expect from their experience with the club.
  • Creating a structure and environment that makes sure people are comfortable to be themselves.
  • Making sure people in a variety of roles within the club (e.g. committee members and coaches) are always on the same page about what the club wants to achieve.
  • Enhancing the skills, understanding and competencies of their committee members.

The challenges with their previous culture

The club realised that whilst their vision and mission formed part of its governing documents, they were sometimes not fully reflected in practice or supported by the club’s day-to-day culture.

The club were aware that the policies and procedures they introduced were only part of the solution and recognised that an organisation’s behaviours, values and culture were just as important to achieving its mission.

The club also became aware that it was progressively operating more and more on an individual team basis which, although this originally appeared to simplify administration and support the club’s competitive objectives in the short-term, it was soon realised that it was limiting and not necessarily delivering what the club stood for the mid- and long-term. 

In addition, the club realised that there was a consistent significant turnover in members and a difficulty in attracting junior members, despite their ambition to be a family club.

As a result, the club recognised the need to create positive change through its values and culture as it worked to become an inclusive, family-oriented organisation.

Communication - the key to creating an updated culture

The club recognised that the only way to really change their values and culture was to consider the views, opinions and experiences of everyone, not just the club’s committee, which would also help to create buy-in to the journey.

Regular surveys were distributed to find out what Chelsea Handball Club members and volunteers thought the values and culture should be in order to realise its vision and mission.

They used the Club Matters Club Views tool to capture people’s thoughts, how they perceived the club and what they expected from the club.

Approximately half of the responses aligned with the club management team’s views, whilst the other half prompted wider picture thinking and ensured that different perspectives were considered.

The club realised it was important not to treat this as a ‘tick box exercise’.

They ensured that, once their direction of travel had been determined from surveys and other consultation exercises, the required actions were taken and promoted so that everyone within and outside the club could see that they were working towards positive change.

From their consultation across the club, it became clear that there were a lot of different definitions of family and how the club could accommodate a family offer.

The club made a point of working with people who disagreed with the direction of travel to understand their viewpoint and bring them along on the journey. 

How can others develop an inclusive culture?

Keep the desire to create an environment where people feels comfortable to be themselves and express their thoughts regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity income status or other demographic influences central to efforts.
Listen to everyone’s views, plus encouraging a two-way communication is essential.
Many people that join a club, either as a participant or volunteer, want to be involved and contribute but also feel like their views are valued.
Making informed decisions based on the views and opinions of its people helps to support the club’s sustainability and makes sure people feel listened to.
Bring everyone at the club together under shared values that people can get behind, not just rules by which they are governed.
Decision making processes, particularly with regards to the direction of the club, are open and transparent. This will make a club empower people to be involved and encourage everyone to work towards achieving common goals.
Drive the right behaviours from the top down; setting expectations for those in leadership roles, to create role models and inclusive leadership teams.
Embed systems and practices that keep inclusion at the heart of everything you do.

Find out more about the club