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  • Writer's pictureDavid Thibodeau

Sports and Social Business

In this article I wanted to look at some of the programs taking shape in forms of social business around the world that use sport as the conduit for making change in their community, for inspiration for those still wondering how sports can be used in the community.

A social business is a business that has specific social objectives that serve its primary purpose. Their profits are principally used to fund social programs.

Groups like the Yunus Sports Hub, have already identified the power that sport has to have a positive impact on the community and empower people to use sport in new and innovative ways. As a Young Sport Maker at Global Sports Week in Paris, we spent an afternoon session with Yunus Sports Hub, this reminded me a lot of the Community Problem Solving course that I took in my undergraduate degree.

Sport can tackle many of the most pressing challenges, from achieving the sustainable development goals, to being used for inclusion and just making life better for everyone. Over the past few months since starting Sports for Social Impact we have looked at a lot of the ways sport can be used for good by policy makers and by program developers, wether coming from public, private or not-for-profit sectors. They have been more topics for discussion, so in this article I want to look at programs already in place using sport and recreation to make lives better for people everyday. Some of these programs are using sport for health and well-being, some are using it to empower youth and teach them important life skills, some are using sport to highlight pollution. There is no one right or wrong way that sport can be used to have a social impact.

The first organisation is Warrior Yoga. The mission of Warrior Yoga is to fight exclusion that the founders had noticed when teaching lessons. The mainstream yoga community in the West is geared towards white, upper-middle class females. The founders, knowing the benefits that yoga has for healing, thought that it is an injustice to restrict access to a small segment of the population.

In Ottawa Canada, they hold weekly classes for:

  • for survivors of human trafficking, in partnership with A New Day (an Ottawa charity working to rehabilitate young women from human trafficking)

  • Women experiencing homelessness in partnership with Cornerstone Women’s Housing

  • Women and men experiencing homelessness in partnership with Centre 454

  • Newly arrived refugee women in partnership with Carty House

  • Somali newcomers in partnership with Somali Centre for Family Services

In Stockholm, Sweden, they hold weekly classes for:

  • Women that have experienced abuse, addiction and trafficking in partnership with Q-jouren

The second organisation is MY Adventure. This is an outdoor (and some indoor) adventure group based in Scotland. Some of their adventures include canoeing, mountain biking and coasteering. They reinvest all profits into their community projects:

  • My Academy helping young people reach their full potential

  • Youth Work Games: bringing young people from across Scotland together giving them a chance to gain confidence, develop teamwork and try out new challenges.

  • Free guided bike tours of Edinbrugh, making cycling accessible to everyone

  • Chain Reaction: a project that aims to promote the reduction of Carbon through alternative travel. This is achieved by training up local role models in the community to deliver training and education workshops.

Two of my friends and former teammates started UNB International Swim Program that sells samosas to fund free swim lessons to refugees and immigrants in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Fredericton has a large flooding problem every spring with all the snow and ice melting after the winter. Water safety and knowing how to swim is an important life skill that people who live on the east coast need to know.

Another organisation that uses sport as the driver for their social enterprise model is World Bicycle Relief. They use bikes to meet the needs of reliable transportation in the developing world. They provide bikes for students, health workers and entrepreneurs. They believe that the bike can contribute to economic development, farmers and entrepreneurs can increase their carrying capacity, for example. With a bike, health care workers are able to visit more homebound patients and combat COVID-19, malaria, and teach about health and nutrition. They believe that a bike can help break the poverty cycle by providing people with better access to employment, health care and education.

Baba Au Run is a social business in France that partners with local bakeries and runners to deliver unsold baked goods to homeless people around Paris. Basically like a food delivery app, except using sport to help feed people who are in need.

0 Mégot is an organisation that is using swimming to highlight the journey of cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are a huge source of waste and pollution in oceans and in our cities.

Senscot is an organisation that works to ensure that social enterprises in Scotland have the support they need to deliver positive outcomes in their community. They have a case study of 8 social enterprises in Scotland that use sport to make sustainable, positive changes in their community.

Some of the other social businesses that use sport that I learned about at Global Sports week are:

The IOC Young Leaders program (formerly Young Change Makers+ program) engages with youth by providing them with funding to deliver grass root sport projects in their own communities. Some of the projects include:

These are just a few examples of sport social businesses. There are so many more being used around the world everyday. Sports can change the world. Sports are no longer about competition and being the best of the best. It is about change. It is about sustainability. It is about innovating new ways of doing and thinking. Sports has the power to change the world and is a very versatile tool to be used in all ways imaginable and unimaginable.

J'espère qu’il y a d’inspiration pour tous qui lit les articles sur Sports for Social Impact, et peux voir tout le bon que le sport peut faire dans le monde.


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