Sport and development volunteer programme develops ideal graduates

A new report commissioned by UK Sport to analyse the benefits to university students participating in the IDEALS (International Development through Excellence and Leadership in Sport) programme, reveals that overseas volunteer experiences develop students’ cultural intelligence, a skill highly desired by employers in the 21st century.
IDEALS students joins team for community tournament in Lusaka, Zambia.

Given the opportunity to develop skills in cultural contexts dissimilar to their own, students benefit not only from the opportunity to enhance knowledge gained through university study, but also interact and communicate in cross cultural situations, thus developing cultural intelligence. Dr Lynne Powell, Human Resource Management Specialist, believes this gives university students the opportunity to graduate as employees with knowledge and experience of a topic, rather than those who have just studied it.

UK Sport works in partnership with 10 UK Universities, to recruit and support students, young sports professionals and staff to work with 10 different organisations across four countries in Africa, to develop the personal and professional capacity of over 65 individuals each year.

Collecting information from UK University students who spent 6-8 week placements working with grassroots sport and development organisations, national sports councils and universities in Sub-Saharan African communities, the report found students developed skills such as team work, communication, active listening and problem solving.

Using sport to communicate

As many students involved in the IDEALS programme are directly involved in sport, students are able to use games and active demonstrations as a language and create understanding. One participant from the 2011 programme said, “One of the greatest leadership skills I have developed is adaptability. For every session we had a different number of kids turn up and different equipment. I had to adapt each session from what was planned in order to make it beneficial for the kids.”

The IDEALS experience
The Director of Sport at Durham University, Dr Peter Warburton OBE, says “This is however a two way process, because our students probably take away from the project far more than they ever give. At the heart of this sits the children and staff who our students work with in Zambia and who come from a background that is worlds apart from theirs but who bring to life a completely different perspective.”

These views are echoed by organisations involved in the programme too. Last year Hulda Goagoses shared with sportanddev her experience of working with UK students in Namibia, commenting, “IDEALS is a short programme so I can’t state immediate achievements, after all, development is a slow process. However, we do see increased participation when the volunteers come, and also increased capacity through the sharing of ideas from sport to culture which is a blessing to my organization.”

The report by Dr. Lynne Powell, Human Resource Management Specialist and Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, ‘Short-Term Overseas Projects and Cultural Intelligence: Developing Graduates for the 21st Century,’ is available to download 

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