Laureus and its projects, bringing the world together

By Richard Loat, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation
“The most forceful criticism of Sport and Development (and development more broadly) is that it exacerbates unequal power relations. According to this view, programmes originate in the more prosperous Global North and are implemented in the Global South without paying heed to local need.”
This observation was raised by David Tannenwald in an article for the Harvard Kennedy School Review and undoubtedly historically there was some truth in this as western organisations implemented a “we know what’s best” grass roots approach. But today the reality couldn’t be more different.
The tendency for the Global North to support development of the Global South is something that was frequent at the onset of the Sport for Development and Peace movement. However the sharing of wealth, expertise and knowledge has been vital in acting as a catalyst for local change-makers as the sector has evolved.
While programmes like Fight for Peace, which started in Brazil, Magic Bus, which is driving significant change in India, or MYSA, which works in one of the world’s biggest slums in Kenya, all benefit from the passion of ex-patriate change-makers, what is missed is the profound impact they have inspired.
They have left a lasting mark, not only on the young people they have helped, but on organisations around them. The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation has benefited from the creation of so many imaginative projects.
The work of Fight for Peace, for example, has given rise to more boxing and fight-based projects in many other countries around the world. There are projects like this in Mexico, focusing on the critical situation of getting youth out of the cycle of the drugs cartels and this would not have been possible without the innovative first steps of Fight for Peace founder Luke Dowdney.
Football is the world’s game and demonstrates just how an idea can galvanize the North and South together, towards a common goal: fighting homelessness. The Homeless World Cup is an annual tournament attended by national teams, comprised of homeless people, from around the world. Founded by Mel Young, the HWC has inspired football-based sport for development organizations to take on homelessness in 74 different countries.
The international congregation of teams is a vehicle for raising awareness for homelessness while empowering the men and women that participate, to change their lives and escape the cycle of poverty.
Without the Homeless World Cup organisations like Slum Soccer wouldn’t exist in India, Street Soccer Canada would not be doing great work, and the Homeless FA wouldn’t be a leading organisation in the UK. Mel Young’s passion for change has inspired work in countries that previously didn’t have had the ability to champion homeless causes.
What works in Namibia at Second Chance Street Soccer  isn’t necessarily what works for the team at Happy Football Cambodia, or for Hecho Social Club in Argentina. However, homeless football teams are a way to transcend cultural differences by harnessing the universal language of football and turning it into a programme that can unite countries in cause and in sport.
In the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a city called Goma. The country has faced civil conflict that has torn apart the future of an entire generation of youth. Goma is home to a life-changing programme called Promo Jeune Basket. It is here, amidst a scarred and rebuilding city that Dario Merlo, inspired by others in Sport for Development, decided to use basketball to give Congolese youth a future.
PJB has been catalyzed by the Eastern Congo Initiative, an organisation founded by actor Ben Affleck, and dedicated to the revival of the African country. It’s a brilliant example of how the Global North’s role has shifted from being trailblazing initiators, to mentoring and capacity builders of local change-makers.
The Global North may have started the trend of Sport for Development and Peace as a tool used worldwide, but it has grown into so much more than just a few initial programmes. Sport for Development is reaching corners of the globe that simply would not be addressing some social issues if it was not for sports-based programming.
As suggested by David Tannenwald, “simply having a ball and a plane ticket” may have started a number of Sport for Development projects around the world. However, the individuals that bought those tickets and took those balls with them have also acted as pillars of inspirations to local change-makers who have taken that inspiration and turned it into true legacy work.

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