Rethinking Sports Data for Social Good

TAMHI is a Belfast based mental health awareness charity that was set up in 2011 by Joe Donnelly and Stephen McLaughlin in memory of their friend Thomas “Tammy Tucker” McLaughlin who took his own life in 2009. Tackling Awareness of Mental Health Issues (TAMHI) was set up to train sports groups about the power of sport to promote Positive Mental Fitness.

Through their work TAMHI want to encourage clubs to start collecting data and caring about impact, in order to help sports clubs develop skills, place a value on, and, ultimately develop a strong ethos of pastoral care and community support amongst participants.  With ambitious aims and a small core team of one, it became clear that technology could provide a suitable platform to streamline data collection, and impact monitoring for both TAMHI and the sports clubs that it works with. 

For The Techies in Residence Programme TAMHI worked with Kyle Gawley, CEO of Belfast based digital Start Up Get Invited.

 Giving People a Sporting Chance

TAMHI works with sports groups to develop an infrastructure that supports positive mental fitness.

Post the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement there has been a noted break down in inner city communities in Belfast, with anti social behaviour, petty crime and drugs increasingly becoming a problem. TAMHI is interested in helping sports clubs, which they deem as core community services to measure the disconnect of individuals from community and subsequent reconnect with community following participation in sporting activities (and a wider connection with culture and society as the result of the kinship created in sports clubs).

Their format is simple but their work is crucial: A group of friends working together to try and keep young people on the straight and narrow. TAMHI supports clubs to develop the 4ps – policy, people, programmes, partnerships, an approach that is underpinned by the charities aims:

  1. To raise awareness within sport of the importance of positive mental fitness and how this can have an impact on physical health.
  2. Engaging young people and young men in sport to reach out to those with mental health concerns.
  3. To raise awareness of the risks of self–harm and importance of suicide prevention within sport.
  4. Highlight the importance of training with governing bodies, mental health groups and clubs for their coaches and volunteers, to support them in spotting early signs of emotional difficulty and risk in current participants.
  5. Creating an environment where people can ask for help and support when needed.


Whilst focussing on local issues, TAMHI takes inspiration from global data, approaches and techniques. For example by looking at international measures including the Child Youth Resilience Tool, and the New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) Wellbeing Tool alongside statistics from The World Health Organisation (WHO) TAMHI is able to place local challenges within a wider contextual framework. One such example is their focus on mental illness being a global problem – ‘WHO estimates that one in four of us will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives’. The work of TAMHI is both grass roots and evidence based.

The Challenge

TAMHI works with a number of volunteer led organisations and has recurring issues around collecting and reporting relevant data. In the first instance the challenge for TAMHI was convincing sports clubs of the value of collecting data, something which many had not been doing. However now that TAMHI have created a culture of data collection they face a new challenge dealing with all that data. Currently data is collected on paper, and not being sufficiently converted into a digital form. When it is formally entered, it is collected in 3 different software services, which don’t communicate. A properly regulated and coherent system could help TAMHI and other organisations to properly benchmark for future funding reports and help with gaps in service provision.

Whilst there are existing tools that do help with data collection and analysis, for these to work effectively they need to be more user friendly, quick and intuitive. The challenge then is creating a functional and user friendly interface to allow data to be collected, and a sophisticated dashboard from which TAMHI and partners can analyze data.

The Process

Kyle Gawley, CEO of Belfast based Ticketing Start Up – Get Invited, was interested in The Techies in Residence projects as soon as he first heard about it.

From the list of advertised projects it was the TAMHI challenge that clearly stood out to Kyle. Kyle explained that The Techies in Residence Programme attracted him because it provided an opportunity to give back, to help a charity on it’s way, and bring some of the design aesthetics honed in the development of Get Invited to a worthy cause.

It was partnership that worked well, with Kyle helping TAMHI to realise what was technically possible within the time and budget available. From the initial briefing period Kyle was clear that he would need to work remotely if awarded The Techies in Residence brief. This flexibility was key; Kyle explained “because I run my own business I couldn’t work solidly on this project, and as such it was important that TAMHI new that I would work remotely, and meet up as an when needed”.  As TAMHI are based in an open plan shared Social Enterprise space, having Kyle work remotely also suited them.  When the project formally kicked off weekly meetings helped to ensure a positive collaborative relationship was developed and maintained throughout.

Kyle admits that TAMHI’s goals were ambitious, but that by sitting down together and coming up with weekly goals, that outlined a 10 week period of development an agreed plan was developed. The 10 weekly goals were met, and as such the prototype that was delivered met the brief that had been defined by both parties at the beginning of the process. This very tight design brief, and resulting positive relationship show the importance of scoping such a collaborative project early on, and gaining sign off from all involved. Such was the relationship developed that Kyle is now a member of the TAMHI Board – a role he is very much enjoying.  Indeed it seems that Kyle, and Get Invited are keen to develop stronger corporate social responsibility impacts as both an individual and a company. This is perhaps an unexpected, but undoubtedly positive lasting legacy from The Techies in Residence project.

‘Kyle was brilliant, he helped us to take baby steps, explaining each stage of the development process along the way, and was always keen to work together with the end project insight’. (Joe Donelly)

The development process was a really key learning that came out of this experience for TAMHI. Joe was able to share the extensive available research on emotional intelligence with Kyle, and together they were able to translate this into a specific project brief, this collaborative approach, with parties learning along the way is an interesting model – as both parties were learning from each other, it helped to create a collaborative rather than client, agency relationship.

Admin – or a lack of it, was something that Kyle Gawley flags up as being a strength of the overall Techies in Residence experience (although he does raise some issues around a lack of communication around funding, and when techies were to be paid, something that he recommends be tightened for future projects).

All in Kyle glows when talking about this experience, and the resulting project describing its as ‘challenging’ and ‘enjoyable’. ‘As a CEO I don’t get to make stuff as much as I used to, it was nice to get to make something, to get hands on, and it was nice to use my skills for charity. It was also really great to get to work with someone as motivated and driven as Joe’.


Originally TAMHI had spoke about creating a digital application that would allow all users to record their own data, with a real emphasis on empowering kids. However as the project developed it became clear that child protection would act as a barrier to adoption for many clubs (clubs would be required to gain consent from the legal guardian of each participant if they wanted children to create accounts), and as such it was decided that the club coach would instead be in charge of gathering data at each sports session. A key project outcome for TAMHI is a working web based application that facilitates the collation of data, data storage, and analysis.

The prototype model allows clubs, once registered, to check the children into the various activities to track their engagement with the community. During the registration process, a baseline survey is provided using the Child and Youth Resilience Measure Survey (CYRM). Children can then be re-surveyed at a later date, following an activity to calculate the impact that participation is having on their resilience.

 As ease of use was core to the challenge outlined by TAMHI the next step is user testing with the prototype with a view to refining the application, seeking further funding and developing a mobile app.

Lessons Learnt

  • Having a technical partner who is a confident mentor is extremely important as mentoring the VCSE partner is a key process in terms of managing expectations and accepting project pivot. TAMHI originally wanted an app for children to use, but with successful mentoring they recognised that, that approach presented barriers to engagement and instead club focused accounts would provide a more user friendly experience and thus result in more data being collected.
  • Whilst The Techies in Residence Programme was short term in nature, this project demonstrates that long term relationships can be built through short term engagement between techies and VCSE. Whilst not all techies will want to join a board, it’s useful for VCSE to think about techies as long term advocates for their work.
  • To develop a collaborative relationship, rather than that of client and agency, it’s important that both parties enter into this relationship with an open mind, keen to both learn and contribute.
  • The role of the techie in this case was that of both mentor and developer, with a traditional client the role of a techie is to deliver a brief, however it is clear that one of the key outcomes of this project is increased digital literacy for the VCSE partner. This skills development is a result of the generous and altruistic approach of the selected techie.


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