The Barça Foundation’s Programme for Diversity
The Barça Foundation’s Programme for Diversity
The Barça Foundation’s Programme for Diversity works to introduce sport to children and youth with disabilities, as a tool to improve and develop their skills.
The Barça Foundation was founded 25 years ago to support vulnerable children and young people through sport. Now, it is present in more than 50 countries with more than 6 different programmes running worldwide. In each programme, sport is used as a tool to facilitate safe spaces where everyone is recognised and appreciated, no matter their ability. Every session entails an exchange of experiences that allows children and young people with different capacities to play in an inclusive environment where everyone is equal. To guarantee this, there are three basic rules that must be followed in each session:
- There is no referee, which encourages children and young people to resolve disputes themselves
- Teams must be mixed in terms of gender, disability, sporting ability and origin, among other things
- Everyone must be encouraged to participate
These basic rules allow participants to develop skills and gain experiences that will make them feel accepted within sport and in their families, schools, and communities.
Programme for Diversity
Since 2015, Barça Foundation has been running the Programme for Diversity, which aims to introduce sports to children and youths with disabilities as a tool to improve and develop their skills. Over the years, three key elements have been identified that guarantee that the programme welcomes different capacities in different groups.
Listen to participants’ needs
First, it is essential to give a voice to and listen to participants and their families’ needs. Given that their realities are challenging in many different ways, sports programmes must be easy to access and adapted to their personal situations and social needs. While we recognise that every context and community is different, but here are some tips that might be useful in promoting access to and participation in sports programmes:
- Accessibility can be guaranteed by holding activities in safe spaces close to participants’ homes and during the day. Useful information can be provided about the programme’s impact and about community services for families. We also recommend avoiding bureaucratic registration processes
- Participation can be made possible by creating routines, adapting activities and putting together a qualified and committed educational team. Investing time and human resources in communication is essential. Regular contact between educators and families is also important, as is the creation of channels for sharing information and ensuring accessibility
Properly train and support the team
Second, the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport is dependent on the educational team being properly trained and supported. To guarantee access to and participation in sport for everyone, professionals must invest in training that gives them the tools and knowledge they need to adapt any sports activity to different capacities.
It is essential that educators learn how to better identify individual capacities, how to deal with them, and how to approach the range of capacities in any one group. Acquiring and developing these skills is the baseline of the intervention, although the educational team should be also supported with manuals and protocols that help them respond to different challenges within their communities.
The final aim of the educational team and any organisation should be to involve children and young people in the inclusion process, creating safe spaces and activities that facilitate the sharing of tools and strategies with children and families, and foster participation in contexts such as the classroom, school, home and public places.
Finally, to ensure and promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in sport, the Barça Foundation has identified Cooperative Challenges as a third key element. A Cooperative Challenge is understood as any activity that allows all the members of a group to work together to achieve a common goal.
The emphasis is placed on activity aims, such as working on individual and group responsibility, autonomy, conflict resolution, motivation, communication and support among peers. These challenges highlight the value of teamwork and respect in finding solutions. They are usually divided into timed activities comprising three periods and focused on different goals:
- Two teams meet and agree on the rules they want to play by and set the common goal of the activity, linking them to values and identifying associated behaviours. Participants plan for the future and this helps them develop their ability to think, while taking into account the common good
- The two teams play in an effort to meet the Cooperative Challenge, trying to implement the rules they have agreed together. Sport provides children and young people with an environment in which they can develop their capacity to create and are encouraged to be accountable for their actions
- Finally, the two teams meet to discuss how the Cooperative Challenge went. The educational team asks open questions to encourage critical thinking
Children and young people with disabilities have infinity capacities when it comes to playing sport and engaging in physical activities. Different sports have different rules; in football, players chase after a ball; in volleyball, they hit a ball over a net; and in basketball, they score a basket. So, all we need to do to include children with disabilities in sport and to make sure none of them are left behind is to adapt the rules.
Children with disabilities should not have to adapt to established sports rules; sports rules should be adapted to them and their capacities. This is why we have to empower them to assert their rights and their need to play sport, investing time and resources in giving them the requisite knowledge and tools.
In listening to them, the sports sector should be prepared, trained and ready to turn their claims into realities and leverage their potential. And finally, we should make the change real by putting into practice and rethinking the values and rules of all sports and physical activities. By doing so we can welcome everyone and leave no child offside.
Barça Foundation was founded 25 years ago to support vulnerable children and young people through sport and education on values, with the aim of contributing to a more inclusive and egalitarian society.