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Want to make a difference through sport? Start paying your interns!

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Want to make a difference through sport? Start paying your interns!

The ongoing difficulty of finding a job as a new graduate, leaves you with this sense of urgency and desperation to take any opportunity possible. Suddenly, that unpaid internship you were offered is looking astonishingly attractive.

As a recent graduate, the natural course of action is to begin the infamous job hunt. With each family gathering, the dreaded question of “what will you do next” becomes all too familiar.  In their attempt to show interest in your future, friends and family end up piling on further pressure to find the perfect job. This increasing anxiety, in addition to the ongoing difficulty of finding a job as a new graduate, leaves you with this sense of urgency and desperation to take any opportunity possible. Suddenly, that unpaid internship you were offered is looking astonishingly attractive.

Within the sport for development and peace sector, the unpaid internship is an apparent rite of passage. The overwhelming shortage of funding, resources and increasing needs places SDP organisations in a dilemma, leaving a wealth of unpaid and underpaid internships within the sector.  While this phenomenon is not unique to the SDP sector, sport for development takes full advantage of recent graduates need to procure professional experience in order to further their job prospects. Unfortunately, this turns the sport for development and peace sector into a field where most often only wealthy students and graduates can afford to work.  This practice leaves children of privilege with yet another leg up on their less fortunate peers; if it’s not about who you know, it’s about what you can afford.

Exploitative in nature, unpaid internships are continually replacing entry-level positions leaving graduates with even fewer options for gaining professional experience within the sport for development field.  Even with significant experience and academic proficiency, graduates looking to work within SDP are left with their hands tied, thus reinforcing this accepted tradition of unpaid internships. 

While unpaid interns and volunteers are central to the success of many prominent and respected SDP organisations, these positions reinforce privilege and socioeconomic divides; creating a glass ceiling of sorts.  As organisations face increasingly limited funding and graduates seize every possible opportunity, is there even a way to combat this method of cheap labour? 

Within the SDP sector, there is a need to reconsider this method of unpaid work, as it appears increasingly hypocritical. As organisations work to protect the rights and dignity of the marginalised communities they serve, their offices are increasingly advertising unpaid internships. Diminishing this practice of unpaid work would promote the hiring of better qualified individuals, and aid in breaking down this culture of privilege within the SDP sector.

If you want to make a difference through sport, start paying your interns!

[This article was written by Catherine Houston, currently working with PeacePlayers International and The True Athlete Project]

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Monday, December 5, 2016 - 11:00