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A unique opportunity


A unique opportunity

What is 'development'? The International Volleyball Federation explains the challenge of redefining the organisation's development department.

This article reflects on a three-year period when the FIVB development team faced the challenge of redefining the department in terms of scope, goals, programmes and general integration to the organisation whilst managing current operations. The team – initially composed of three and quickly expanded to five people – had the unique opportunity to transform the development function of an international Olympic sport federation.

Trial and error and continuous improvement

In addition to internal departmental processes such as team meetings and trainings, the team practiced a ‘pilot project’ mindset – trial and error with a continuous improvement framework, which yielded the experience to progressively enhance the services provided. And that was exactly part of the question: which service(s) should the development function provide and to whom?

To address that question, we felt it was important to understand the meaning of ‘Development’ as well as how, as an organisational function, it was incorporated into other businesses. Not only is development an unclear function in the sports industry, but in many people’s minds it entails a negative practice of non-accountability to investments made or a channel for non-professional projects. Therefore, due to its ambiguity it was important to deconstruct the concept, in general and in the context of sports; interpret terms associated with the process of development – e.g. growth, expansion, sustainability, promotion, politics, corruption, cost-centre, charity; and reach a common understanding for this area, with a more defined scope, clear core goals and KPIs enforcing standards and priorities aligned with the organisational vision.

The team met with every FIVB department to raise two questions: What is development for you and how does it relate to you? Subsequently, we reached out to external counterparts to understand, in their context, how they were scoped, structured and integrated into their corresponding businesses.

The development department was then called ‘technical development’ in the FIVB and courses were its key deliverable. As we learned during our consultations, 'courses' represented just part of what a development function should oversee. In addition to an identity and solid new projects, we would need strong internal persuasion to transform our colleagues' minds and general misconceptions of the development function.

Three interconnected streams

The general mindset defines development either as ‘sport development’ or ‘development through sport’. Nevertheless, in the context of sports we identified a third stream – business – which includes the sport for all dimension of sports, the connection of the sport to the grassroots level, the large and ungoverned world of amateurs.

Development therefore is an integrated process of technical, social and business streams, transversal to all other functions – communications, marketing, commercial, competitions – and aimed at growing the relevance of the sport and consolidating standards that will sustain the sport’s positioning. This area should not be dismantled into pieces, it should not be only technical or only social; the more integrated those three streams are, the more benefits may be generated. These streams feed each other and build a process that supports a consistent growth of the sport: technically, socially and as a relevant business. Local lasting impact can be achieved by the combination of those streams, through contextualised capacity building, empowerment and opportunities.

This virtuous circle raises the standards of strategic stakeholders, takes responsibility for societal issues, and pursues new markets and consumers by embracing all opportunities to enjoy the sport. Whereas technical development focuses on the sporting entourage and on the national federations’ general management standards, social development addresses human livelihood and positive impact. Business development is a connector which ensures a sustainable local framework – supporting a local volleyball supply-chain and promoting the growth of amateur and licensed players through engagement with the sport.

This is the first article in a six-part series. Part two will describe how the redefinition of the federation's development work translated affected its approach towards programmes.


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Diogo Jurema and Donata Taddia


Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:16