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Calum Donnelly is MSP’s Strategic Lead for Children and Young People


MSP is part of a network of 43 Active Partnerships, and the only strategic organisation dedicated to unlocking the power of sport and physical activity across the Liverpool City Region (LCR). By providing leadership and expertise, plus access to a well-developed network of partners and funders, we create the conditions that enable people to be active every day. We have five strategic outcomes: improving wellbeing; developing skills; strengthening communities and networks; enhancing and enriching the economy and people’s lives by leading an active life. We also work closely with Sport England – an essential part of the sport and physical activity delivery system. 

Click here to read more and find out their top tips for funding submissions

What does MSP do?

In leading and managing the sport sector grant funding on behalf of the VRP, we coordinate delivery across a wide range of local partners in LCR. To help meet the VRP’s needs we worked closely with the sector to position this opportunity. For example, our VRP sport sector webinar brought together national and local key stakeholders, Street Games, Healthy Stadia and Merseyside Sports Foundation to prompt a closer understanding of our young people’s needs and the impact that sport can make in their lives. By brokering an insight into the sorts of projects that meet the VRP’s outcomes, we can connect and embed VRP priorities into a range of diverse sports providers to ensure maximum local reach.

We also invested into the programme ourselves to upskill the sector in the space where sport and youth crime meet. With our partners, we have provided additional workforce development through training and mentoring programmes provided by Street Games and Healthy Stadia.  

What makes MSP a good fit?

We reach out and connect across every community in Merseyside, so our vast range of strategic – and operational – stakeholders adds great value. Our collective insight and experience of working with young people and using sport and physical activity to improve lives also positions us well. We can also connect with wider sources of investment, which adds further value; it’s allowed us to create opportunities for long-term, sustainable change through developing the workforce. 

Walk us through your funding process…

We received £500,000 worth of projects, and all were of a high standard so it was very challenging to administer.  We created a panel, which independently reviewed and scored each application against the VRP outcomes, criteria and value for investment. (For example, this included data driven criteria. If, say, the data about serious violence tells us we need to focus on getting projects up and running in particular council wards, we keep our eyes peeled for good projects in those areas.) The panel then spent time together to review and discuss each project on its own merit and created a shortlist. Even the shortlist was too long! It was a very challenging and difficult process to identify the projects to take forward.  

MSP’s top tips for funding submissions

  • Competition is stiff, so be as clear and concise as you can. 
  • Use bullet points to optimise word count, make your content easy to read – they also make pulling out information in the assessment process easier.
  • We want to see added value: the young person at the heart of the delivery, empowered to co-design the project.
  • We want to see activities beyond sport where the young person is being engaged or signposted; that way, sport is the hook to a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Examples of standout projects for MSP might be…

Although we were spoiled for choice, and there were fantastic and unique ideas we couldn’t progress on this occasion, I think the panel would choose Wirral Positive Futures and LSSPs. 

Wirral Positive Futures 

  • Using community development and outreach to engage young people.
  • Wide range of key stakeholders including the youth service, ASB teams and police.
  • Multi-layer delivery from community to an education programme called Pathfinders.
  • Course aims to inspire young people vulnerable to being drawn into crime and anti-social behaviour. 
  • Related ‘Pathfinder Project’ provides children aged 13+ with a week of activities designed to highlight the rewards of making positive choices.
  • Overall ambition: reduction in offending rates and anti-social behaviour in the children’s home areas.
  • Innovative and dynamic course because it delivers diverse, tailored content with a joint delivery team of experienced police officers, trained sports development staff and youth workers.

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