In our regular series, our Community Manager Daisy interviews new arrivals at Sussex Innovation about their business, why they joined, and their plans for growth. Just before Christmas she chatted with Ian Braid from DOCIAsport.

What is DOCIAsport?

I formed it out of a gap I feel is in the sporting sector around duty of care in sport. DOCIA stands for Duty of Care in Action and it also, I learnt, comes from the Greek meaning good reputation… I aim to do three things with the business, one is to help national governing bodies deliver more effective and sustainable duty of care in sport in line with the DCMS report on duty of care…[The report], authored by Baroness Tanni Gray Thompson, was published in April this year, it covers things like safeguarding, transition, induction, equality and mental health. The second aspect, because of my own personal circumstances and experience over the last few years, is to improve mental health in sport. Although people say sport is good for your own mental wellbeing, mental health in sport is shot. I did a lot of work historically on raising the profile of mental health in performance athletes which was good, but I also know how poor it is amongst senior administrators, performance directors and coaches. Finally, I want to do work identifying and supporting future leaders, I see them coming from both the athlete cohort and also academia. One of the future leaders I’m already working with, particularly on the area of mental health is Michael Jameson the Olympic silver medallist from London 2012.

What has been the hardest thing about setting up the business so far?

I left my previous organisation, the British Athletes Commission where I was Chief Executive, due to ill health in July of this year. I spent August getting well and starting to think about what I was going to do and then I spent September talking to people about it, to refine the idea. I was talking about it and talking about it and I eventually saw somebody who said: “Look, just get on with it!”…Getting over that phase was challenging. [Also] I’m very good, relatively speaking, front of house, where I am [not so good] is back of house, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to find somewhere where I could work and base my business, hence the Sussex Innovation Centre. Lastly, the thing that is ongoing and challenging: I’m a very good (again relatively) ideas man…I talk to millions of people and gather all these ideas as if they’re adding to a bunch of balloons and what I don’t do is let go of some of the redundant balloons and tie down the ones that are going to earn me some money – but I’m learning fast!

I would ask what the most important thing you’ve learned about setting up a business is but I guess you’re still in the learning process?

I left the BAC in which I’d raised the profile of athlete welfare substantially in performance sport in this country. I’d realised that I still had some work to do; so DOCIAsport is the vehicle and I’m learning as I go along. I think that one of the most important things is to have good people around me informally or formally just to check and challenge and keep me on the straight and narrow.

Is that another reason that you came to the Centre?

There’s a couple of things really…I am doing some work with a digital start-up business that’s based in Hull, it works out of a place called C4DI (Centre for Digital Innovation). Having worked in a very toxic culture for four and a half years, to walk into a place that is can do and friendly was absolutely brilliant. One of the reasons why I burnt myself out was because I was doing a lot of work on my own, the BAC was a virtual organisation so I was doing a lot of work from home and so I was physically lonely as well as becoming mentally lonely. Therefore, I thought I needed to see if I could find a place that was similar to C4DI, and SINC, to date, seems to tick the boxes. It gets me out of the house too! Driving from Wivelsfield to here is 20 minutes, it’s over the Downs, it’s a good little break! Finally [I joined] because of the access to the University. With an idea of wanting to help and develop future leaders, albeit in sport, there will be people I hope to come across who can help me, and I can help them.

What does the future hold?

To be honest with you I don’t know. In 12 months time I will have a better idea of a direction of travel. I would look to probably have three or four people working with me on an associate sort of project led basis between now and then. I look forward to it genuinely with a lot of confidence.

Roll on 2018!