The International Sports Association (ISA) is a non-profit organisation located in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (otherwise known Den Bosch), the Netherlands. It has 20 years’ experience in activating the social power of sports in underserved communities for young people aged 12 and older. The organisation’s main strategy is to offer – together with community coaches and community organisations – active, fun and safe sports activities for everyone to join. ISA believes that by activating the potential of young people, underserved communities will change by connecting where it sparks – on the playing field, where creativity, cooperation, talent, drive, character and self-confidence are unlocked.
In the Netherlands, in particular ‘s-Hertogenbosch, teenage girls have far fewer opportunities to participate and engage in community sports activities; 35% of girls in the country never or hardly ever play sports. The rate is higher for teenage girls in urban settings and for girls from minority backgrounds. And of course, COVID had a huge negative influence on young people’s health and well-being. Sports offer girls opportunities to be healthy, to team up positively with peers and mentors, and to develop essential life and leadership skills in a fun and safe way that they would miss out on if they could not participate.
To tackle this challenge, ISA developed the SheGotGame intervention programme. This focuses on teenage girls from a local community, who are trained as girl leaders and coaches to independently facilitate sports activities for other teenage girls. The programme helps the girl leaders and coaches to develop their coaching and leadership skills, to create local role models for the youth and to increase (sports) participation within the community.
ISA started the SheGotGame intervention programme in a community well known to them, Hambaken. It is in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the same city as ISA’s headquarters, and is known for its many social challenges. About 38% of the population have a migration background, 45% have a low level of education or no education, and the obesity level among the population is high at 59%. Also, in 2017 the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to enact a special law to regulate the number of low-income persons in Hambaken, which is only implemented in communities with a particularly high number of social issues.
The direct stakeholders of the programme are in Hambaken, namely the local schools, residents, girl leaders, coaches and the youth organisation PowerUp073. The youth organisation provided the girl leaders and coaches who participated in the programme, and the schools offered the project promote activities and help find participants. Another important stakeholder is the S-PORT. This is an initiative of the municipality of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, which provided sports halls and sports venues for the programme in order to facilitate the activities.
There are three main groups of Living Lab participants:
- Teenage girl leaders and coaches (16-21 years old): local teenage girls from Hambaken, who were trained to facilitate sports activities for other girls in their community.
- Participating girls (12-21 years old): most of them are from at-risk social backgrounds or have a migration background.
- Professionals: ISA staff members, PowerUp072 staff members and S-PORT.
To initiate Living Lab activities, ISA worked with different methods in order to build trust with different stakeholders and to initiate the desired process of co-creation. The main methods used are focus groups, field visits, mentoring sessions, interviews and consultations with the girls.
Before the start of the programme, a series of focus groups were held with different programme stakeholders to identify the needs, expectations and local understanding of social cohesion. The focus groups helped to align all stakeholders and ensured that everyone understood their position in the programme.
ISA have held consultation moments and mentoring sessions with the girl leaders and the coaches. These sessions were about reflecting, sharing experiences and creating a sense of belonging. The sessions provided a unique insight into how the girl leaders and coaches operated, what challenges they encountered during their training and how the sports activities were received by the teenage girls. The consultations and mentoring sessions greatly strengthened the collaboration between ISA and the girl leaders and coaches.
ISA also conducted field visits to the activities facilitated by the girl leaders and coaches, aiming to observe the experiences and implementation of the sessions. In this way, ISA got an understanding of how the activities were received by the teenage girls.
In addition, ISA also conducted semi-structured interviews with the girl leaders, and the coaches where we asked about their experiences of the SheGotGame programme, the challenges they faced and the impact it created.
- Creating community sports activities for teenage girls and providing safe places for them to play
- Teaching various life skills to the girl leaders and coaches through the programme
- Empowering girl’s voices and actively involve them in the Living Lab activities
- Evaluating the programme to find potential for improvement and best practices
- Lack of time to organise the community sports activities by the girl leaders and the coaches
- Lack of time from the youth organisation to support the girl leaders and the coaches
- Uncertainty on the sustainability of the community sports activities when the funding for the Living lab activities ends