In the midst of gathered sport and social change innovators -- including those spreading hope and AIDS awareness in Rwanda with a soccer ball and others enticing girls in from the margins of Indian society with netball -- Nike and Changemakers launched their Sport for a Better World competition at the Next Step 2007 conference in Namibia.
This collaborative competition centers on an open, interactive space at Changemakers.net where individuals and organizations -- large and small, established and emerging -- that use sport to transform lives and communities can present proposals, network and share ideas. This approach is core to Nike’s “Let Me Play” global community investment strategy, which aims to extend the company’s corporate mission statement “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world” (*if you have a body, you are an athlete).
“The richness of the sport for social change movement is to be found in the grassroots, among community-based social entrepreneurs who are driving innovative models based on local solutions,” said Hannah Jones, Vice President Corporate Responsibility, Nike, Inc.
“Changemakers seeks to support social entrepreneurs and amplify their efforts to transform the world,” said Changemakers Executive Director Charlie Brown. “This collaboration with Nike on the Sport for a Better World competition -- our 13th Changemakers competition -- provides an opportunity to identify changemakers within the growing sector of sport-based social entrepreneurs, as well as bring energy and awareness to this movement as a whole.”
Innovators are rising to this competition’s challenge, as 120 entries from 40 countries have been contributed. These inspired ideas for using sport to create social change include:
• A Venezuelan proposal which seeks to end corruption within municipal sports programs and provide access for all
• A United States-based organization that works with youth in East Africa to channel their running talent toward scholarships for education and careers in sports
• A Egyptian project that ensures girls’ rights to participate in school sports, and keeps them involved in education, via a volleyball league
But posting an entry is not the only way to participate. Ultimately, the competition seeks to connect and enhance the sport for social change community by encouraging them to work together to accelerate the growth of this nascent field. Once an entry is submitted, a public online discussion ensues at Changemakers.net to offer resources, make suggestions and strengthen the proposal. This process has already begun to refine many of the entries.
To encourage participation from the academic community, a global “University Challenge” has also been issued, which offers grants and prize money to the students, faculty and institutions that contribute most meaningfully to the Nike – Changemakers Competition: Sport for a Better World.
Boston’s Northeastern University is already getting involved. “We are thrilled by the unique opportunity to join other universities around the world to comment on the proposals, as well as post sport and social change projects and programs emerging through the academic arena,” notes Eli A. Wolff of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport and Society. “This is an exciting and creative venue to share insights and curiosity with the an emerging international field.”
Entries for the Nike – Changemakers Competition: Sport for a Better World will be accepted through Jaunary 8, 2008, but an early-entry prize – a trip to the 2008 Change Summit – will be awarded to one of the organizations or individuals that submits a proposal by October 24.
Once the entry period ends, a panel of judges will select approximately 12 finalists, which will be chosen for the momentum and influence they can bring to the sport for development movement as a whole, as well as their individual merit. The competition’s judges include Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls NBA basketball player; Nawal el Moutawakel, member of the International Olympic Committee; Joan Laporta, president of F.C. Barcelona; Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike, Inc.; Ann Veneman, executive director for UNICEF, and Mel Young, founder of the Homeless World Cup.
The finalists will then be reintroduced to the online community, which will vote for three winners in February 2008. These winners will each receive $5000 to support their project, and all of the finalists will be invited to the Change Summit next spring, where they can meet, collaborate and network with potential investors and participants in their efforts to employ sport as a means to a better world.