In 2016 the opportunity arose for UP to merge with International Inspiration, the London 2012 Olympic/Paralympic legacy organisation and a leader in the field of Sport for Development and Peace. International Inspiration had been championing the use of sport in development, to empower disenfranchised groups, and in public education and behaviour-change programmes, since 2007.
Sport in programmes
Since merging with International Inspiration, UP has been exploring ways of integrating sport into its existing programmes, not as a ‘gimmick’ but as an integral part of programmes’ theory of change. UP also recognises that sport is no magic solution to development problems, but that it can contribute towards solutions within and alongside UP’s existing strategies. Working closely with country programmes, UP has identified where and how sport is relevant to each country strategy, ensuring that it adds real value to programmes. UP is in the first stages of this sport integration, but early fruits have been:
a netball-based girls’ empowerment programme in Malawi
play-based water and sanitation education in schools in Guinea
sport in women’s business centres in Bangladesh, for community engagement and team-building
sport for social integration of returnee migrants in the Gambia, and in public education on safe migration.
The combination of UP’s long track-record in development work (over 40 years in some countries) with its new sport for development and peace capacity acquired through International Inspiration, gives UP a unique opportunity to design country-specific approaches which are informed by extensive development expertise and well-grounded in the local development context. Through this, in some countries where sport as a tool is less well-developed such as Malawi and The Gambia, UP is emerging as a thought-leader in the space, influencing peer organisations and government policy.
Sport in partnerships and public engagement
UP also sees the potential of sport beyond programmes. The global sports industry (sports clubs, individuals and sportswear companies) is enormous and is a potential source of funding for development work. UP, along with many other sport for development and peace organisations, is able to tap into this. Also, UP is headquartered in Wales, a nation with a proud sporting history and culture, which gives potential to harness this national passion and connect it to international development work. Under its pioneering Future Generations Act, publicly-funded bodies including sports bodies are required to, among other things, work towards a ‘globally responsible Wales’. UP is keen to help Welsh sports bodies think what this means and to deliver against this through an initiative called ‘Sport Nation.’ Sport gives an opportunity to engage with the Welsh public in international development, for example through awareness-raising, fund-raising and volunteering.
There is no doubt the energy, power and impact of sport, when applied in an international development, can change the world for the better and help people live independent lives.