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  • Writer's pictureCat Hutchinson

How Storytelling Drives Greater Impact In The Grassroots Sport Sector

Investing time into listening and understanding

For many organisations, storytelling is most widely associated with marketing and communications. But what could we achieve if organisations used the stories of the people they aim to serve, as the foundations of their strategy?

We’ve found in recent projects, that the organisations we work with can learn and gain a lot from us speaking to members in their communities. They’ve gained a deeper understanding of the impact that their work has, and are finding this far more valuable than data presentations and standardised feedback. But the great part is that we’ve also been getting value from it too, as we love conducting qualitative style research in this way. Here’s a few reasons why:

1 - We’re able to speak directly to community members and hear their individual stories. From them, we receive honest and detailed feedback, as well as ideas and suggestions for improvements that could impact them directly. These are the people whom our clients are ultimately aiming to serve, so collecting this type of information from them directly is invaluable.

2 - Based on the feedback we collect from community members, we can generate personalised suggestions to discuss with the organisations we work with. We can all trust that by the information we have gained, real improvements and changes will be felt on the ground with the decisions our data informs.

3 - We get to hear real stories from real people, who are making a difference in the grassroots sport and physical activity sectors. We find this a lot more inspiring to present alongside the data and numbers! There are a variety of ways in which we can approach this kind of research, and we’ve found that both one-on-one interviews and group workshops have been exciting and motivational ways to do this.

So what are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research in our sector?

We’ve collated some of the main benefits of both qualitative (human-based) and quantitative (data-based) research, to give a side by side view of why both can be useful but perhaps how both are needed to get the full picture:


  • Speaking directly with those in the community helps us understand their needs and motivations

  • Rather than simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ feedback, we receive the reasoning behind group member’s opinions

  • In the grassroots sport sector, we talk a lot about knowing our target audience, and talking with them directly is undoubtedly one of the best ways to do this

  • Community group members will often share their own ideas for the improvements they’d like to see

  • By taking onboard what group members are saying, organisations can become even more community-led with their decisions

  • This type of research works well when targeting specific groups, allowing underrepresented voices to be heard rather than generalised.


  • As quantitative research is objective, by default it rules out any deliberate bias

  • It’s very easy to display and share with multiple partners and colleagues, meaning information is accessible and easy to digest

  • This type of research takes much less time to collect than qualitative, as it can often be easily collated through online surveys

  • Trends are easier to spot and visualise.

So which is better? Qualitative or quantitative research?

We believe a combination of both approaches serves an important purpose for organisations in the grassroots sport and physical activity sectors. Recently we’ve found ourselves leaning more towards qualitative research for our clients, as we find that speaking directly with those we’re trying to impact, to be much more effective for the organisations we’ve been working with. With the information we’ve collected backing us, we’ve been able to outline recommendations for organisations on how to improve the services they offer, in ways that are tailored to the community members themselves - which is very fulfilling!

Though we acknowledge and understand that feedback around data can be just as valuable in the right contexts, for us, we’ve found that the story has often told us more than the numbers. We believe that conversations are an effective way of showcasing organisational impact, which is a powerful tool for change. Which method of research do you find most beneficial in your work?

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