The pilot programme launched by UK Sport, in partnership with The True Athlete Project in 2022, was created after a consultation found that 86% of athletes on the world-class programme want to use their platform to make a difference to society, whilst they are still competing. Successful Powered by Purpose programme empowers athletes to become social changemakers.
Pre-programmed athlete surveys revealed that 39% of athletes felt a ‘lack of purpose’ as well as 61% feared they would be ‘misunderstood’ when speaking about social issues. 67% of athletes felt they lacked knowledge in this area, with 78% lacking the confidence to approach speaking publicly on topics close to them.
In response to these findings, Powered by Purpose was designed to support athletes to engage in more meaningful, authentic, and sustainable social impact activities. The programme included virtual workshops, peer-to-peer support, one-to-one consultations and athlete action plans, an online portal for accessing all programme materials and a private discussion forum.
The programme culminated with an in-person showcase event at UK Sport where athletes shared their journey through the programme, the specific cause or social issue that they have selected to focus on, and a description of their plan of action going forward.
Since taking part in the programme;
100% of the athletes in the cohort have increased confidence in making a difference on community or social issues, compared to the 78% before participating in the programme.
100% of participants now feel equipped with the skills and resources to address social challenges, with 88% having a decreased fear of being misunderstood.
100% of athletes feel they possess strengths aside from being an athlete, that support their social impact.
Feedback from the cohort demonstrates some athletes have begun to self-identify as ‘activists’ while others prefer to be called ‘changemakers’. 100% of the athletes who took part would recommend Powered by Purpose to a friend or teammate.
Imogen Grant, GB Rowing athlete, said: “We all have amazing communities within our sports, but what I hadn’t realised is how isolated sports can be from each other. Talking to others who are equally passionate about sport and other causes opened my eyes to how much we all care, and how much we can all help each other achieve."
Tully Kearney, GB Para Swimming athlete, said: “Before starting on the programme I thought I had some idea of how to use my platform, but the workshops and incredible guest speakers as well as the other athletes on the course have opened my eyes to how much we can use our platform to make worthwhile change and how powerful our voice can be, as well as giving me the tools I need to do so.”
Darcy Bourne, GB Hockey athlete, said: “Powered by Purpose is an incredible opportunity for athletes to learn how to channel and maximise their passions of creating positive social change inside and outside of sport in a community of inspiring, like-minded people. I loved the programme and am so grateful to be a part of this incredible community that I’m sure will continue to grow and flourish!”
Dame Katherine Grainger, Chair of UK Sport, said: ”We are lucky to have a generation of athletes who are prepared to use the power and platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to inspire positive change for people, communities and the planet.
I am truly proud of every athlete who took part in this pilot programme. I also feel incredibly proud that we, in partnership with The True Athlete Project, have been able to provide these individuals with a structured learning and development opportunity supported by experts from across the world.
Any athlete who uses their platform to advocate for social causes and action issues that are meaningful to them should be recognised for balancing this impressive work with their rigorous training regimes and competition schedules. The Powered by Purpose athletes are a shining example of the ability of Olympic and Paralympic sports to make a positive difference. I hope the work on this programme inspires and empowers other athletes to start their social changemaker journey and that continues for years to come.”
Laurence Halsted, Director of Mentoring at The True Athlete Project and Powered by Purpose Programme Lead, said: ”It is clear the tide has turned, globally, concerning athletes playing an active role in issues that they are passionate about.
At The True Athlete Project, we want to help athletes explore the richness and depth of experience available to them through a career in sport. The Powered by Purpose athletes have had a golden opportunity to learn from world experts, take a deep dive into a whole new professional and personal path, meet and connect with athletes across sports, engage in nuanced, ethical and philosophical conversations, and connect it all to a personal plan of action.
We are hugely grateful for the opportunity to lead this work and are genuinely excited by the response to the programme that we have seen from the athletes and the extent to which the objectives and outcomes have been achieved in this pilot programme. In partnership with The True Athlete Project, UK Sport will continue the Powered by Purpose programme until the end of the Paris Cycle. (March 2025).