This Living Lab works with young people from low-income families who live in socially isolated neighbourhoods on the outskirts of cities. Alongside football matches, participants learn to speak up, express opinions, reflect on emotions, give and receive feedback, and solve potential conflicts or tensions.

The Living Lab in the Czech Republic pairs the NGO INEX-SDA with Palacký University Olomouc. The activities are centred around the Football for Development project managed by INEX-SDA. While building the Living Lab, meetings, interviews and focus groups were organised with project participants and stakeholders in the Olomouc region, including the cities of Prostějov, Přerov and Olomouc.

The Living Lab brings together the opinions and interests of the project’s target group, children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, and stakeholders including experts from INEX-SDA, academics, social workers, teachers, local and regional public administration representatives and university students.

Background and context

In the Czech Republic, a lot of young people are still left out of the social dynamic that the rest of society enjoys. Those young people often live on the isolated outskirts of cities and sometimes belong to discriminated minorities. They also lack access to regular forms of positive socialisation and development outside school.

After-school programmes are often not present or affordable. The Czech school system is also often responsible for the further reproduction of isolation and social injustices: it often doesn’t offer disadvantaged young people the chance to meet other people, and it does not provide them with the same quality of education.

To tackle this issue, INEX-SDA’s programme Football for Development (Fotbal pro rozvoj) has developed non-formal tools for education through football, in cooperation with local youth and social centres. It provides social workers with tools on how to develop social skills among the youth who visit their centre. It also organises a fair-play football league that goes beyond the pure football match to create a space for interaction, dialogue and understanding around the game using the so-called football3 methodology.

Through long-term participation in the league, the young people travel to different neighbourhoods. They meet other young people, and talk to each other to make up rules and also make sure they are respected in a post-match reflection.

This encourages the socialisation of the young people. It also engages them in a pedagogical journey where alongside the game they learn to speak up, express opinions, reflect on emotions, give and receive feedback, and solve potential conflicts or tensions. 

The direct stakeholders of the programme are mainly local institutions involved in non-formal education: social centres, youth clubs and other centres for leisure time activity. The indirect stakeholders are the municipalities (e.g., Prague, which provides funding) and football clubs such as FK Teplice, AFK Olomouc and Banik Sokolov, which provide facilities and promote events.        

Programme participants are mostly young people aged 10-18 living on the outskirts of large cities (Prague, Usti nad Labem, Olomouc and Pilsen) who visit local social centres. They usually come from low-income families and live in more socially isolated neighbourhoods. Their parents often face irregular employment.

Sometimes they also have problems with stable housing and are more vulnerable due to single-parenthood or the recomposition of the family. Some also come from the Roma ethnic minority and face further discrimination due to their origins and culture. 

Target group/stakeholders

There are three main groups of Living Lab participants:

  1. Children and youth (10-18 years old): most of them are from at-risk social backgrounds, families without fathers, and asylum homes, and they are often recruited from drop-in centres.
  2. Professionals from NGOs doing social work in the local areas, and representatives of municipalities and the Olomouc region (Roma and ethnic minority coordinators, social work departments and social prevention workers).
  3. University teachers, researchers and students (specialising in sports and leisure studies, sport and development or the sociology of sport).


A series of discussions/interviews were conducted with participating children and youth in October 2021. The discussions were facilitated by an experienced social worker and Football for Development specialist who was known to the children for a long time.

The discussions lasted between 45 minutes and two hours. They investigated the opinions of members of the target groups on local living conditions, preferred free time activities, what could be done to support the activities they prefer, relationships with the community, sports opportunities and what obstacles they have to deal with.

Local and regional stakeholders were involved in a series of online focus groups of 1-2 hours. The focus groups were administered and facilitated by academics from the project team with expertise in qualitative research. Participants shared their experiences of working with socially disadvantaged communities, the relationships between the target groups and the rest of the community, and what leisure time activities are offered to children from excluded communities.

They also discussed what local and structural obstacles exist and how they assess the potential of sport in supporting social inclusion. At the same time, they were presented with the concept of Football for Development, its history, the scope of its use, the methodology and how to implement it.

Outputs so far

  • Mapping of local and regional conditions and the current use of sport in building social cohesion.
  • Building a local and regional network of contacts and identifying new stakeholders interested in the role of sport in social cohesion.
  • Elaborating on social cohesion indicators and positive enhancers in the Czech context: 
    • Openness and accessibility of activities offered to the potentially excluded groups (no social or gender-based obstacles)
    • Creation of “safe spaces” for sports, other leisure activities, discussions and learning new things
    • Support for intercultural learning
    • Development of joint values
    • Connection to the families of participating children


  • Collaboration between an NGO that works in the field and a university that provides input from research methodology and theory: practical experience informs the theoretical and research expertise and vice-versa. 
  • Participation of university students in Football For Development activities, creating new potential volunteers.
  • Spreading the idea of sport for development among new stakeholders with a potential for future collaboration.
  • The potential to replicate the approach in different regions.


  • Limited sustainability of the collaboration between project partners and local stakeholders beyond the funded project: there are many new activities and projects and a relatively low number of staff.
  • Structural obstacles to building links between socially excluded young people and the wider population, including various systems of subsidies and legislation in the case of activities drop-in centres, leisure time centres (attended by the majority) and schools.
Olomouc, Czech Republic