Passion for sport, recreation, and volunteering: the Sallie Barker interview

Anthony Haynes writes: As regular readers will know, we enjoy publishing interviews. We’ve been publishing two series: interviews with FJWilson staff and associates and interviews with key figures in the world of our core market: membership organisations and training providers. Here we’re delighted to publish the latest in the latter series, an interview with Sallie Barker, Interim Chief Executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance (S&RA).

Sallie BarkerWhat makes S&RA tick?

The over-riding motivator behind our work is passion for voluntary organisations and their role in society as a whole.

Not all of our members have much budget at their disposal, but somehow they still manage to do great things. Between them, our members’ activities cover an extraordinary range of sport and recreation – from chess to long-distance swimming, including less well-known activities such as stoolball.

Overall, we help members as individuals and, at the same time, help their organisations develop.

 What’s S&RA like to work at?

It’s a fun place to work, because two things bring the staff together. One is a passion for sport and recreation – our staff tend to be involved personally. The other is a passion for volunteering and developing the voluntary sector.

A key aspect of our culture is that we’re small. This means we can develop our staff’s employability both through training and through offering them opportunities in the course of their work.

For example, employees tend to get opportunities to go out and represent the organisation more quickly, and with more responsibility, than would typically be the case with larger organisations.

 What has your own work at S&RA involved?

I do a mixture of internal and external work.

The internal work involves such things as managing membership services and events, human resources and IT, and developing the membership package.

The external work involves meeting members, attending or chairing meetings, and representing the sector – for example, in meetings with MPs or government agencies.

The upshot is that I find no two days are alike. I don’t get bored!

How is employment in the sector changing?

There’s obviously been a squeeze on the number of jobs as a result of cuts in government expenditure. But there’s also been a change in the kind of work and the kind of skills required.

There’s much more need now for soft skills. For example, knowing how to develop relationships with various organisations, developing partnerships between (say) local authorities and voluntary organisations.

The specialist or technical skills – for example, running a practice session in lacrosse – are not the only ones that are important. There’s also a demand for the more general, soft, skills.

This presents a challenge to universities and colleges – there’s a need to ensure that their curricula keep pace with changes in the industry.

And outside work?

My passion for volunteering and putting back into society extends beyond my day job. In my own time I’m involved with some national sport organisations.

I’m also a keen volunteer for the National Trust at their Clandon Park property. I’m very happy to spend Sunday afternoons there, answering visitors’ questions and helping them learn about the house.

And I enjoy travelling, eating great food and drinking good wine!



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