In the first of a series of regular blogs, NASDC Chair James Mapstone outlines how 'PAGs' form the foundation of the Alliance's work in using the power of sport to tackle crime and rehabilitate offenders.

The National Alliance of Sport for the Desistance of Crime (NASDC) is about bringing together key stakeholders to support best practice, policy and strategy in tackling crime through sport. It's about using our huge network to formulate and kick-start work that ultimately makes a real difference.

Positive Action Groups (PAGs) are the engine room of this activity. By regularly gathering together important and influential figures from across the sector, we are able to 'bang the drum' for sport in the corridors of power, promoting it as a perfect vehicle to combat crime in communities and break the cycle of re-offending.

We have regular PAGs that bring together experts from key government departments, academics and researchers, as well as ex-service users and front-line organisations who provide a vital 'on the ground' perspective of how policy and strategy at the top affects what's actually happening in communities or in custody.

Five separate PAGs each focus on particular areas of need:

  • Gangs, Violence and Extremism
  • Early Intervention and Community Safety
  • Looked-After Children
  • Research, Evidence and Quality
  • Sport in prison

The findings of each of these PAGs are reported back to the Steering Group, chaired by myself and featuring key representatives from government departments, community and sports organisations, charities, funders and researchers. We explore how these findings can inform best practice and be shared across the sector to influence policy and strategy.

To sit around that table gives me a real buzz. With the influential partners we have gathered together in the Alliance, it genuinely feels like there is real movement and progress being generated in pushing sport and physical activity as a vehicle for positive social outcomes.

It's exciting that, even at this early stage of the NASDC's existence, there has already been so much co-ordination, sharing of ideas and action. We are really gathering momentum.

We are especially proud to have Tanayah Sam (see main pic above) as a member of our Steering Group and as Co-Chair of our PAG on Gangs, Violence and Extremism. Tanayah is a reformed gang member who has since built up 15 years' experience as a freelance practitioner in gang culture, extremism and the criminal justice system.

Tanayah was at our latest Steering Group meeting, held this week at the central London office of DAC Beachcroft, a leading international law business which is one of our key supporters.

As has become the norm, we had positive and insightful contributions from everyone in attendance.

From his outreach work, Tanayah shared his knowledge that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) were a key cause in young people falling prey to extremist and violent influences, with parental neglect, social media and malevolent rap videos combining to produce a toxic environment. The role of sporting role models and interventions to build young people's resilience and an alternative lifestyle is being investigated here.

Simon Talbot revealed how the Active Communities Network is supporting a ground-breaking cross-party commission in serious youth violence, including 15 different agencies and six MPs. It will involve a youth survey, asking deep questions about young people's networks and influences, and will conclude with a 'radical and far-reaching' final policy recommendation report.

Jackie Roberts, from Public Health England, shared how an American film, Paper Tigers, is set to have a lasting impact on affected children in the West Midlands. It portrays young people all achieving graduation from high school despite having to overcome a litany of problems, including parents' mental health issues and addictions.

The Steering Group also heard about a host of developing projects, such as a pilot engaging Charlton Athletic FC, Saracens Sports Foundation and Fight For Peace as delivery partners, as well as HMP/YOI Cookham Wood and Medway Secure Training Centre. The project has been given £100,000 funding by Sport England and aims to produce an ideal model for a community sports club that achieves lasting impact on released offenders.

It's hoped this work will help to build sport's credibility as a rehabilitative vehicle in the minds of magistrates and police, so in future they will refer young offenders to these types of highly effective Sport for Development projects.

These are the types of conversations that take place at our PAGs; sharing research and best practice from each attendee's particular sphere of influence and expertise, and ultimately all contributing to spreading the power of sport as a vehicle for positive social outcomes.

In the coming months I will be providing more detailed updates from our Positive Action Groups, to keep you all up to date with exciting new projects, research and, most importantly, the impact this sharing of knowledge is having on communities and society as a whole.