From 10th-12th March streetfootballworld hosted one of the most influential ‘soccer for good’ conventions of 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The event brought together experts with more than 100 years of collective experience in using football as a tool for change. 30 organizations from 10 countries gathered for an exciting weekend of knowledge exchange and collaboration. Atlanta was the perfect setting for this iconic summit. The city is currently in the midst of a soccer craze with its new Major League Soccer team, the construction of a stadium in the heart of the city and as a home to some of the most innovative community-based projects in the United States.
Four key elements were on the agenda last weekend: the streetfootballworld Network Board meeting, the strategic meeting for the streetfootballworld region of North America and the Caribbean, a Soccer in the Streets’ Community Festival, and ‘Atlanta: Rising United Workshop’ - a collaboration with Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
The weekend kicked off with a Community Soccer Festival hosted by Soccer in the Streets, one of the founding network members of streetfootballworld and one of the oldest champions of football for good in the United States. The Community Festival took place on the Five Points MARTA station field, Station Soccer, which creates a safe place for hundreds of Atlanta youth each week. Station Soccer is the world’s first soccer pitch built within a train station. The central field gives access and opportunities to communities across Atlanta. This weekend it was home to representatives from communities all across the globe that belong to the streetfootballworld network.
The Community Festival was followed by ‘Atlanta: Rising United’, a co-facilitated workshop between streetfootballworld, our local hosts Soccer in the Streets and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The workshop welcomed eight local community-based organisations to participate in an afternoon of exploring citywide collaboration on a variety of levels. The Atlanta case study brainstorming workshop translated into real life outcomes, such as a new potential partnership between corporates, the next Station Soccer, and a new programme site for a local community-based project. Pharlone Toussaint, a programme coordinator at Laureus Sport for Good Foundation notes, “every representative we met was very passionate and thoughtful about their presence here. It was very intentional and welcoming to the Atlanta Sport For Good network and we gained some valuable information and resources to use as we embark on our journey here.”
Simultaneously, the streetfootballworld network board hosted the largest conference of associates in its history which took the form of a transitional board meeting in between the preceding (2015-2016) and the new board (2017-2018) elected at the streetfootballworld General Assembly during festival16 in Lyon. Thanks to the former board members who shared their learnings and challenges and the highly motivated new board members who were ready to get involved and take on new tasks, the meeting was a great success! The new board members have taken over the responsibilities of the streetfootballworld board and, after three days of workshops and discussions, identified relevant topics and processes to be put on the agenda of the new board term. The board also determined their individual roles for the next two years. The most pressing social topics to be addressed were defined as: youth empowerment, gender equality, peace building, social inclusion and employability. Among the relevant processes to be covered were network development, monitoring and evaluation, the streetfootballworld quality seal, as well as sustainability and sustainable businesses. On the third and last day, the new board has already taken up its duty by approving four new members to join the streetfootballworld network!
In addition, streetfootballworld hosted the first ever North America and Caribbean (NOCA) Regional strategic meeting with 11 ‘soccer for good’ organisations spanning the United States, St. Lucia and Haiti. The NOCA representatives participated in two days of exchanges during which the group decided on a vision for the region and collaborative activities for the next 3 years. Jill Robbins, a former board member and the NOCA representative from Soccer in the Streets reflects, “when like-minded individuals get together, you can’t help but learn and find yourself reenergized. You feel like you’re not alone in your struggles and triumphs. More importantly, you find friends and you find family – knowing that these are people who are generous and dedicated. Events like these always help me feel recommitted to the long and arduous path we’ve chosen … changing the world, which isn’t a short-term prospect.” We couldn’t agree more!
A huge thank you to our local hosts, Soccer in the Streets for staging such an unforgettable weekend.