West Ham United Foundation Chief Executive Joseph Lyons reflects on the outstanding achievements of the Club’s Community department...
As we near completion of our current business plan I can confidently say it has been an outstanding six years and there are more exciting times ahead.
In 2013 the Board introduced a new structure across the Community team, it was in quite a contentious position; local need was evident but crucial partnerships and stakeholder engagement weren’t. We had a finite amount of resource and an extraordinary amount to do!
We spent most of my first year consulting with the local community around the Club’s home of Upton Park, developing the values of our organisation and building external relationships. Our small team of under 20 staff was propelled into action, establishing our framework to begin our journey to the current day.
For me, a key part of this phase was instilling trust, not only among staff, but also among those we wished to work with. Trust comes from being part of a culture or organisation with a common set of values and beliefs. To build or maintain trust, clarity, discipline and consistency must be balanced. This trust is created when we build a sense of value, and that value is the transference of trust.
After spending the first three-year cycle resetting, in 2016, along with the move from Upton Park to London Stadium, our Foundation set out an ambitious three-year strategy which aimed to change the landscape of community sport and deliver a powerful Olympic legacy.
Programmes including the 150 Club, Any Old Irons and Holiday Hunger, have seen us remain at the forefront of innovation within the community sport sector, but also break through traditional barriers and make a difference outside the world of sport.
In 2017, we made an investment of £400,000, with support from The Football Foundation and Premier League, installing a new state of the art artificial pitch which 1,200 local residents use every week.
With our rapid development, part way into the strategy we reviewed our approach and looked to take a new stance. One that recognised the importance and power of football, but also looked beyond this to adopt and develop initiatives and campaigns that tackled issues prevalent in society whether or not there was a football outcome.
To do this we invested in our own team and the structures which underpin it. We now provide long-standing employees the opportunity to train and develop their own skill set. New recruits are brought in to supplement and complement the existing team. And all have been empowered through a democratic people-centered approach that ensures those involved in delivery have a voice in the Foundation’s direction.
Over the last six years we have grown enormously. We’ve risen from 20 to almost 220 staff and we are now delivering an ever-increasing number of opportunities which engage up to 50,000 in the communities surrounding the Club’s old and new homes.
Likewise, the launch of the Players’ Project has seen fantastic integration between the players and the community with both the men and women’s teams becoming ambassadors to areas of community work.
Looking ahead to our next cycle and a new five-year business plan, we are in a strong position to progress.
The next positive step in our journey is phase two of our Beckton project, with a £3 million investment it will see us expanding our current building so that it can manage our diversified offering; providing a community hub that invites and welcomes the existing and new participants from the locality.
We are on a mission to provide an innovative approach to understanding and meeting the needs of our community; building partnerships and utilising insight and technology to create an environment where all can thrive, from the heart of east London.
Our new strategy will deepen our work and its impact. We will be; responding to local need, uniting our community and providing an environment for all to thrive. To enable us to develop these ambitious aims, we are building on not only strengthening our existing partnerships and collaborations but connecting with new ones. These relationships are vital in being able to fulfil the progression highlighted in our strategy.
Community is in the Club’s DNA and, as we approach the Foundation’s 30th anniversary in 2020, we’ve shown time and time again how lives can be changed through the power of sport.
We are extremely proud of everything we have achieved so far but there is more to do and we welcome your support as we begin our next chapter.