Positive Futures

Positive Futures is a national sports-based social inclusion programme for young people, aged 10-19, offering opportunities to engage in employment, education and training.

Primary page content

CUCR is part of a national academic team researching the Positive Futures programme.

The Home Office has commissioned an in-depth qualitative evaluation of the programme, focusing on six case studies in three English regions. CUCR is researching the London case studies. These are:

  • Kickstart, a football-based project delivered by Crime Concern in Southwark, focusing on the Elephant and Castle area.
  • Cranstoun Town, another football-based project delivered by Cranstoun Drug Services and Chelsea Football Club's Football in the Community.

Our partners

Our partners nationally are the Sport Division, Sheffield Hallam University (SHU), Sheffield (Tim Crabbe and Tony Blackshaw), looking at the Yorkshire case studies, and the Manchester Institute for Popular Culture at Manchester Metropolitan University (Adam Brown and Gavin Mellor), looking at the Northwest case studies. The team's research builds on previous collaborative research, such as the  project (Les Back, Tim Crabbe, John Solomos).

You can find our first national case study report, Getting to Know You, on the Positive Futures' national web site. Here is an extract from the London case study. For CUCR's London contribution to that report, the research team of Imogen Slater and Ben Gidley were joined by Jane Tooke and Gavin Bailey.

Alex Robertson also provided additional research for the third interim report, which is available in PDF format. CUCR have also worked with Kickstart in producing the Youth Volunteering: Kickstart’s Good Practice Model (PDF download) for the Russell Commission. As a result of the case study research, Substance, a research company formed out of the project will be delivering a new national monitoring and evaluation framework for Positive Futures.

Our methodology

The Positive Futures programme draws on models which have been developed in relation to broader crime prevention/reduction programmes (Nichols, 1997; CJM, 1996; Robins, 1990; Purdy & Taylor, 1983). Nevertheless there is currently little hard evidence that such prevention or treatment interventions have a significant impact on patterns of drug use or crime (CLSR, 2002; Nichols, 1997; Robins, 1990; Coalter, 1987).

What evidence is available tends to come from internal assessment or isolated independent evaluation, is often overly quantitative and does not clarify what causes measured reductions in drug use and offending behaviour. Furthermore, whilst there are reasons why sport and leisure activity might influence such behaviour, the objectives and rationales have rarely been made clear, leaving the measurement of outcomes an uncertain exercise.

One of the points of departure of our research is our contention that meaningful evaluation of initiatives such as those being examined here requires a methodological strategy that goes beyond simple quantitative analysis. It is only when the quantitative method (used sparingly and effectively) is utilised to support a qualitative approach that we can achieve an evaluation which communicates the social structures, processes, 'feelings' and context in which participants find themselves, and in turn how they themselves respond to such pressures.

As such, our approach, whilst committed to supplementing rather than replacing the existing monitoring and evaluation data, has been developed with an explicit recognition of the shortcomings of quantitative studies in this area and with an action imperative motivated by the contractors desire to impact upon the nature of 'community sports' policy, practice and evaluation. We believe that evaluation is central to the regeneration process.

Evaluation is not an added extra or a hoop to jump through, but can actively contribute to developing responsive, effective programmes. As such, the fundamental principle which guides our approach is to ensure that the voices of local residents, community groups and involved professionals are at the heart of the evaluation. Without the active participation of stakeholders, evaluation is an empty procedure. This means developing participatory methods, and it means looking at impacts on the wider resident community, not just users of a particular service.

Our emphasis is on qualitative accounts of the local perception of projects. We use low-key, resident-friendly ethnographic methods to get behind the quantitative data to understand the changes in the areas and the lives of people who have been touched by the process. A variety of methods of enquiry are used, located predominantly around the actual lived experiences of project staff and the participants and residents in the selected areas. This includes ethnography to provide detailed 'thick' descriptions of the work and its social worlds, life history interviews, participative action research, and an archival dimension.

Areas of enquiry

These broad areas of enquiry will be framed by three principal foci relating to each of the Objectives identified by Positive Futures:

Engagement strategies

This element of the work focuses on the ways in which sport is mobilised to engage with young people in the areas targeted by the programme as a vehicle for promoting community development and social inclusion. Regular visits are made to monitor the approaches used to engage young people and residents on each of the estates targeted and their effectiveness in meeting the project's objectives and the response and group dynamics of participants.

Throughout the period of research efforts will be made to build up contacts with local residents and participants in order to assess respondents' shifting attitudes towards the provision of sporting activities, the organisers and the programme's relationship with residents' lives. Intermittent life history interviews will be conducted in both formalised individual and focus group sessions and through informal discussions and enquiries at various stages of the project's development.

In addition to the observation of organised sessions, efforts will be made to extend the research beyond the formal activities of the Positive Futures project so that the sport interventions can be situated within the broader context of residents' lives and everyday behaviour. In order to facilitate this process we intend to engage young people into the research through the use of a range of innovative visually based methods, such as using maps, photodiaries, disposable cameras, mock TV talkshows etc. Our research team has experience of working closely with residents to produce film and photographic records of their experiences, both using our professional camera skills and empowering residents through training. For example, CUCR have developed a Toolkit for Action Research which we have previously used to train residents and Sure Start parents as researchers in deprived neighbourhoods.


The research also seeks to more effectively theorise the use of sport in community settings, rather than take it as a given that sport has some sort of character-building or diversionary effect. In other words, we take sport seriously. This element of the research also focuses on the practicalities and difficulties associated with encouraging participants to access mainstream educational and employment opportunities. Again, we will use participatory tools as well as ethnograpic methods and interviews.

Organisational context

This aspect of the work seeks to trace the conceptual development of individual Positive Futures projects and to examine the practical issues of financing, organisation and management. We look at the theoretical and motivational concepts which lie behind the development of projects and the contextual background provided by contemporary community development initiatives and the promotion of sport as an avenue for promoting social inclusion.

Related web pages

Research papers

Other projects


Other links

Further details

Funder: Home Office

Research Team: Ben Gidley and Imogen Slater