Sports as a success factor for social innovation

Creating a positive impact on the urban environment
Sports as a success factor for social innovation Sports as a success factor for social innovation
Publ. date 19 Sep 2010
During the FIFA World Cup in South Africa we have seen that sports can serve as an important tool to integrate different cultures. But there are more positive side effects of sports. During the World Cup there were many initiatives in the media about soccer in the townships.

Soccer can create structure in the lives of the children in these townships and neighborhoods and could therefore serve as an important element. Soccer could help them to focus on positive activities and by collaborating with others, these children are developing leadership skills and commitment. These are all important factors to keep organizing these soccer events.

Also in the Netherlands, there are many different initiatives to bring people and knowhow to South Africa and contribute financially to these soccer facilities in South Africa. For example, the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) and the NGO SOS Kinderdorpen started the program World Coaches. This program aims to develop a WorldCoach Academy and educate a new generation to become ‘Worldcoaches’ in South Africa.

The most famous initiative on the aspect of soccer and social innovation is probably the Homeless World Cup. This tournament, that started in 2003, is organized every year and holds more than 30.000 homeless people from 70 countries. This year the event takes place in Rio de Janeiro. The participating homeless get the opportunity to represent their own country, which has an enormous impact on their lives. The organization of the event tries to reintegrate homeless people into society by improving their social skills. This strategy helps to improve the negative image of homeless people.

However, participating into the Dutch Homeless Cup has consequences for the homeless athletes. By signing the contract the participant is committed to the social goals of the project. For instance, this means that homeless people should combat their drug problem, should reunite with family members or should actively look for housing. To achieve these goals there exists a strong collaboration between cities and social organizations. At this moment, 22 teams from 14 different cities are participating in the Dutch Homeless Cup. The ultimate goal is to involve all 43 regions, who are responsible for social aid to homeless people, into the project.

So far, the project proved to be very successful:

  • 94% of the participants found new motivation to enjoy life
  • 71% indicated that participating in this event, drastically changed their life
  • 71% of the participants kept on playing soccer

Furthermore, many participants found housing and a job, successfully combated their drug or alcohol addiction and started an education or became a coach.

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