Graham Miller of Media Vu gets together with Tim Lee, founder of Milton Keynes networking group Collaborate MK, and David Johnson-Rayner of KOI Sports. And on the agenda – the story of how two completely unrelated networks are working together to successfully support community grassroots sports.
David – shall we kick off with the name – KOI Sports – that’s an interesting one. How did it come about?
Firstly, K-O-I stands for Knowledge Over Ignorance – making sure that understanding precedes judging – a vital element of the work we do with grassroots sport. Secondly, it’s to do with the oriental symbol of a carp rising and falling, forming a perfect circle – just like life itself! So, KOI Sports is here to support grassroots sport through its ups and its downs.
So, why grassroots sport in particular?
We’re a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to making a difference to local communities through sport. Sport gets communities together and keeps them together. Grassroots sports are a vital tool towards helping people to develop self-esteem and all kinds of skills, not just sporting ones.
Clearly, it’s a tough time for these small sports clubs. What would happen to them without the likes of you and others striving to keep them going?
Grassroots sport would struggle. It has to become more affordable and accessible for everybody. Firstly, you need to make sure that grassroots sports are safe – that needs money. Next, you need to make sure it’s well resourced, and that needs money too.
Now Tim – you and many of your Collaborate MK members are Milton Keynes-based. But KOI Sports is in Leicester. How did this collaboration come about?
Well, it’s networking at its best. A mutual connection joined Collaborate MK and introduced David and his network to the group. There was immediate synergy (admittedly, a common interest in sport has a lot to do with it) between David, me and numerous members of Collaborate MK. We’ve now stretched across four or five counties. Like all the best networking stories, everyone’s a winner!
And there’s a financial link between the two groups. Isn’t that right, David?
Yes, that’s right. We’re working together to drive financial investment into grassroots sport. We engage businesses to pay us a membership fee, which we invest into supporting the local community through grassroots sport. It’s a marriage made in heaven. Half of the £60 annual membership goes into the sports club that the member has chosen. We then invite that grassroots sports club into the network to start building business relationships with our members and Collaborate MK members. This then leads to further support, sometimes financial, sometimes non-financial.
We make an investment into both Collaborate MK’s charities and the member’s local charity of choice. This drives sports investment into communities. We also ensure that minority and disability sports, such as boccia, get a fair shout. Right now, disability sports are suffering more than any other. So, a huge amount of energy, focus and funding is going towards them at the moment. We’re getting huge support from many inspiring disability sports stars. For example, Will Bayley, Paralympian table tennis gold medallist, is visiting us this month.
Can you give examples of the kind of support you’re able to give?
We’ll help to pay somebody’s subs for a month, or we’ll buy a pair of boots for someone who can’t afford them. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it can be so powerful in opening sports up to those who want to play but whose families can’t afford it.
And, Tim, how do you see KOI Sports benefiting Collaborate MK members?
Our members think it’s great. Most are into sport, but even if they’re not, they see the value to communities that grassroots sports can bring. They simply want to get stuck in and support David and his network. At the same time, they’re growing their own network and promoting their businesses.
So Tim, was this all part of the master plan? Or is it just another example of networking in action?
Well, the collaboration with the KOI Sport network is a very happy accident – but it’s an accident that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the wonderfully altruistic spirit of the Collaborate MK members – their desire to open up and support each other and struggling communities.