Rebecca Birkbeck introducing Join In's 'Making Time' research

Join In is changing

Four years ago, it was time to start making history. Now we’re ready for the next adventure.

Join In began life in a golden summer of sport. Following the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we had a simple but incredibly ambitious goal: to create a volunteering legacy for the nation.

This was something that no previous Host City had ever achieved.

Honestly, we had no idea where this would take us. There was no guide. No blueprint. But inspired by the irrepressible energy of the London 2012 Games Makers, we had a good feeling.

And we realised something very important.

Following the London 2012 gold rush, our country was more in love with sport than ever. But it wasn’t just about medals and glory.

Every Olympian and Paralympian we spoke to wanted to tell us about the club where they’d started out, and the special people who had given up their time and expertise to help them achieve their dreams.

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In every community across the UK, you will find this network of local, grassroots sports clubs and groups. Almost every one simply wouldn’t exist without volunteers – and most of them need more people to help out.

That was Join In’s challenge: to match potential volunteers of all ages and experiences with grassroots sports club in their local communities.

We’re still doing that today, and it has been wonderful to hear so many inspiring stories from volunteers and sports clubs, who have come together through Join In – and helped change lives.

These are stories that need to be heard – and, over time, we realised that too few people (especially decision-makers) understood the incredible impact and contribution that sports volunteers make: not just to enabling people to participate at sports clubs, but to creating happier and healthier communities across the UK.

That value was simply immeasurable. Or was it?

In 2014, we commissioned pioneering research to put an economic value on the work of sports volunteers for the first time. By using ground-breaking valuation methods, we were able to measure the true value that volunteers in sport create – through participation, wellbeing, trust and community.

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Along the way, we received some fantastic support both from Government and some fantastic partners – our Founding Partner BT and others including BBC, Lloyds, Intersport and ITV.

With their help, Join In has become the ‘blueprint’ for sports volunteering. Today, this work has directly contributed to Sport England identifying sports volunteers as a central part of its 2016-2021 strategy (‘Towards an Active Nation’). This is the very first time that volunteering in sport has received this level of recognition and funding – an achievement of which we’re immensely proud.

For four incredible years, we have campaigned to promote the contribution of volunteers in sport. And during that time, we have also become the go-to organisation for people to find diverse, committed and talented sports volunteers.

As a result, we’ve been able to give our volunteers and sports clubs unprecedented opportunities to be part of some of the highest profile events in the sporting calendar. These include the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, ITV’s Fever Pitch at the World Cup 2014 and this summer’s I Am Team GB, the nation’s biggest sports day.

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From shivering on muddy sports fields on a winter weekend to our patron Eddie Izzard interviewing Olympic and Paralympic heroes on the BBC Sports Personality red carpet, it has been an exhilarating, challenging, unforgettable ride.

And now it’s time to move on.

From October, the Join In Trust is handing the baton to the Sport and Recreation Alliance, who are leading an expert consortium of sports and volunteering organisations.

Together, they will be steering Join In’s next adventure, and ensuring that the Join In brand goes from strength to strength.

On a personal level, it is sad to leave such a wonderful organisation – with so much support and dedication from everyone involved, from our board of trustees to every member of staff, and of course our volunteers.

But we are, above all, proud of the phenomenal impact that Join In has achieved, and the lives we’ve touched over the last four years. You can see just a few of them in this video:

If you have been part of Join In, whether as a volunteer or a sports club, you should be proud of this too – and I dearly hope that you will continue to be part of Join In as it starts on a new adventure.

With heartfelt thanks and best wishes,

Rebecca Birkbeck,

CEO, Join In

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