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Learning through volunteering: Framing collaboration to build on organisational assets

Author: Diogo Jurema and Alexandra Volkova

Learning through volunteering: Framing collaboration to build on organisational assets

Part one of an article series sharing on-the-ground experiences volunteering with a sport for peace organisation in Colombia. This article focuses on organisational strengths.

As we completed 15 years working in sports, Alexandra and I decided to embark on a volunteer consultancy with Grupo Internacional de Paz (GIP), a local NGO in Medellin, Colombia, specialised in building peace through sports. The goal was to apply our experience and knowledge in a new context reconnecting with those implementing social projects on the field. We wanted to raise questions to challenge the paradigms in the realm of sports for development.

GIP was founded in 2009 with the mission of promoting a vision of development that contributes to the pursuit for peace through sports. GIP developed its own unique method (7-P Methodology) to strengthen collective capabilities in the communities affected by armed conflict and violence.

  • GIP is present in 24 departments of Colombia, in addition to running seven projects in Mexico and one in Brazil
  • The organisation has over 50 partners and more than 11,000 project participants; it has had an impact on more than 35,000 in the communities where it works
  • Baseball, football and boxing are the main sports used in GIP programmes

GIP’s 7-P Methodology is currently implemented by approximately 70 coaches. In our own words, the 7-P Methodology is the fusion of sports and education using analogy-based activities that are tailored to the local context focusing on customised social dimensions (e.g. critical-thinking, empathy, collective well-being and assertive communication) in order to organise sport-based activities for youngsters whilst involving the communities in the intervention process and repurposing public spaces.

A volunteer consultancy to build on existing organisational assets

The initial collaboration scope with GIP was to review their ‘train the trainer’ programme, develop a set of recommendations and select one of those recommendations to begin implementation. Upon arrival on-site, the scope was slightly adjusted: first, to assist GIP with applying for the IOC Active Society Grant; and second, to organise a project management workshop based on the existing organisational assets we had observed, e.g. a tested methodology, a strong network of collaborators and a vast knowledge in the field of sports for building peace.

The grant application allowed us to get a greater overview of GIP’s organisational standards. In addition to trying to create concrete benefits for the train the trainer programme through the potential grant allocation, this exercise allowed us to carry out an in-depth analysis of GIP’s current situation and projects, as well as their way of working and managing operations. Moreover, the application led to a subsequent interview phase and enabled us to exchange productively with the interviewees, i.e. staff, trainers and volunteers. The interviews aimed to assess these stakeholders’ perspectives and enhance our understanding of GIP’s interventions and its unique 7-P Methodology.

Simultaneous to interviewing staff and external collaborators, we visited projects to witness how the 7-P Methodology was applied. The site visits highlighted challenges in the implementation of the methodology as well as in effectively reporting on participant and community transformation.

These three exercises – the grant application, interviews and site visits – allowed us to get a good overview of operational practices and main challenges in implementing the methodology and managing the impact of activities. And as we always intended to leave a positive legacy as a result of this collaboration, something that GIP could own and use to continuously develop, we proposed that we run a project management workshop in order to consolidate GIP’s own organisational standards for managing projects. Additionally, we also wrote a 7-P Methodology management framework composed of indicators for behavioural and informal feedback for each project component in order to further assess and formalise the methodology’s impact.

Coming next

This article series will share our learnings as a result of this experience with those interested in further examining issues related to the business model of social programmes in sports, and how to define and measure their impact in local communities.

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


Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 12:23