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Learning through volunteering: Addressing redundancy to optimise resources

Copyrights: Diogo Jurema and Alexandra Volkova

Learning through volunteering: Addressing redundancy to optimise resources

Part three of an article series sharing on-the-ground experiences volunteering with a sport for peace organisation in Colombia. This article explores the possibilities of collaboration between different aspects of sport and development.

As we observed, there are many organisations with complementary expertise competing for the same, limited sources of funding. Across all three areas of learning (project-specific, professional and sectorial), we asked ourselves: how is it possible to address redundancy and improve the distribution of existing knowledge and expertise? And how can we better capture and distribute this wealth of resources and expertise to foster a system of collaboration and exchange?

Professional learning: Adjust, customise and activate

It is important for international organisations to have standardised policies to deal with local projects. Even though the efficiency of these policies will vary according to the local context, standards and customisable tools may empower existing projects and existing local assets – i.e. organisations, people, partnerships, facilities, funding and regulations – in order to interact better and generate contextualised value. In Colombia, we observed the potential of building partnerships with current programmes, policies and players to scale-up projects, optimise resources and nurture social innovation.

Sectorial: New models for development programmes in sports

The business models of social programmes in sports seem to be predominantly centred around donations and philanthropy, and therefore they are often unsustainable. Development programme reports are mostly concerned with accountability (e.g., headcount, gender breakdown, demographics) rather than impact (e.g. behavioural transformation, indirect economic developments and sustainability).

Moreover, most international sport federations treat development technically (looking at, for example, the development of the sport or coaching and refereeing programmes). They overlook this area’s social and business dimensions. Why do we concentrate only on the technical development of the sport, dissociating it from societal issues and economic opportunities? Is it possible to identify and connect with complementary competencies and existing local networks to boost entrepreneurship? Could social innovation and contextualised business development be an alternative to address redundancy in the field of sports development?

Optimise to maximise

There are resources and there are opportunities in the field of development in sports. In the spirit of continuous innovation, who should enable this transition from philanthropy to a project-driven and sustainable model for projects in sport, and how? How can standards and best practices support this transformation? And, last but not least, what alliances can ensure a lasting impact in local communities?

Coming next

Sports are increasingly relevant as a tool to contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals. As we look forward to continuing to contribute to sport for development programmes, we will address the questions above in our fourth and last article of this series.

Alexandra Volkova has worked in sports for 15 years and has intense experience in broadcasting as a public sports broadcaster, in multiple Olympic Games, UEFA Club and National team competitions, boxing competitions and other events.

Diogo Jurema was the Head of Development of an Olympic International Federation responsible for the areas of grassroots, knowledge and international cooperation. He also implemented various consulting services for several IFs and developed sport event strategies for cities and regions worldwide.


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Diogo Jurema and Alexandra Volkova


Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 09:54