From the board: Giving an insight

16th May 2018

From the board: Giving an insight

Being on the Volleyball England board is a volunteer role but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a big commitment or responsibility. All members of the board step up because they want to help move the sport forward and have an area of expertise that they bring to their role as director.

Meeting the Insight and Research Director at Volleyball England, Seyram Atubra, the value of her specialist knowledge is easy to see. Seyram has spent 12 years working in research and insight, including in the sports sector. As Head of Insight at British Gymnastics, she has been responsible for generating insight which influences the strategic planning and decision making at the thriving sport.

Although Seyram has been a keen volleyball player, it is not her love of the sport that is driving her to help create a better future for the sport – and that is perfect for her role.

“I am a researcher and my interest is insight,” says Seyram. “I think that the most important thing is that a board member is fit for purpose. Particularly, in my area, when you are doing research it is important to be objective. I’m not tied to any history or pushing my own agenda – I am doing the role as I understand the benefit of insight and for the experience of being on the board of a national governing body (NGB). It feels like a great achievement to be a on a board of a NBG and I like being able to help develop strategic direction.” 

Seyram played volleyball in school and worked her way up into the England junior squad. She got back into the sport at Loughborough University and played in the National Volleyball League too.

“I haven’t played volleyball for about ten years so I don’t consider myself a volleyballer,” says Seyram, who joined the board in July 2017. “I am pleased to be able to give something back to the sport though.”

Seyram’s research and insight expertise is already paying dividends. One of Volleyball England key performance goals – as set by Sport England, the sport’s main funder – is to understand its core market better and work to better serve it members to create a more sustainable future. Seyram has lead on a research project to get feedback from the clubs to get their perception of Volleyball England and how the NGB can better deliver what they need. A survey which every affiliated club secretary will be asked to complete will launch next week.

“The research is targeting the clubs as we need to get back to our core customer,” explains Seyram. “Volleyball England needs to make strategic decisions based on what matters most to our membership. What is key is not doing research for research's sake. The key is understanding the difference between research and insight. Getting and analysing the data is one thing. The insight is the lightbulb moment which helps structure thinking and sound decision-making. The insight will be knowing what Volleyball England’s customers’ want and understanding how in the bigger picture of the context of the business and environment we deliver that positive change.”

Throughout her career, Seyram has become vastly experience in gaining this vital insight in a variety of ways.

“Insight comes from a range of sources including sales data, membership data, customer feedback and research. There are many different research methodologies you can use but it depends on what the problem is you want to solve. At British Gymnastics, I’ve worked on customer satisfaction research with our clubs, social research projects which look at problems such as why do people drop out of the sport, using quantitative methods such as surveys, to various ways of qualitative research such as focus groups, interviews and ethnographic studies – which is when you immerse yourself in people’s own environments to understand how they do things. So you would go to clubs and spend time there observing everything they do and speaking to people to find out more.”  

“One thing I want to make clear with this project is there have been challenges in the past but this is a new board of directors. We want to move the sport forward and make long-lasting positive changes.

“The previous membership surveys were more like audits of participation. With this survey we want to know how the clubs think Volleyball England is working and how we can deliver a better service. Without engagement with the survey – we can’t do better. It is vital that clubs make their voices heard. We want to be insight lead and to give the clubs their voice so they have a big influence on decisions.”

For Seyram, that vision of an insight-lead NGB would give her a real sense of achievement – and the fact it is for the sport she has enjoyed would make it a real bonus.

From the board: Giving an insight