27 April 2018

With 3.4 million young people across Europe struggling to find education, training or employment streetfootballworld continues to focus efforts on finding ways to support those affected. Building upon expertise gained from the Team Up! project (read our article in Issue #5, February 2018 of FOOTBALL4GOOD magazine) funded through the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Sport programme, a project was launched last January with a number of new team members welcomed aboard to further expand the project’s impact.


In February this year, representatives of nine organisations from eight European countries met at streetfootballworld’s Berlin office for the kick-off meeting of ‘Scoring for the Future’: Albion in the Community (UK), RheinFlanke and Champions ohne Grenzen (Germany), Kicken ohne Grenzen (Austria), INEX - Association of voluntary activities (Czech Republic), A.S.D. Balon Mundial Onlus (Italy), Policy Center for Roma and Minorities (Romania) and Fundación Red Deporte y Cooperación (Spain). Funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Sport programme, the project aims to tackle the issue of employability of NEET (not in education, employment or training) young people. By harnessing the power of sport young people will be equipped with transferable skills to support their employability. With its emphasis on “communication, teamwork, reliability, time-keeping and resilience the project will help young people to make positive lifestyle changes that will help them move nearer to work, or find work,” Mark Slide, Assistant Inclusion Manager at Albion in the Community summarised.


A problem for us all


According to Kicken ohne Grenzen’s Karina Lackner, the 3.4 million NEET young people in the EU often struggle with other areas of their lives and due to their predicament tend to lack, “self-confidence, motivation, self-discipline and support in the family.” This leaves them without “the necessary skills to re-enter the education system and a related career perspective,” Karina adds. She points out that this problem has wider implications for us all, since “these young people often have problems with their peers to shape society, which can lead to isolation and resignation and endanger social cohesion.”


These views are echoed by Mark Slide: “Despite economic growth in some areas, levels of youth unemployment in the housing estates where Albion in the Community work remain high, and almost half of young people in these areas fear that there will be fewer job opportunities in the next three years,” Mark states. The conception of ‘Scoring for the Future’ derives from the notion that football is an excellent tool to achieve the aim of helping young people get back on the right track. Mark explains how his organisation attempts to address the issue: “Albion Goals football mentoring provides that support, and is a bridge to other agencies to be supportive, too. Young people need to do something positive with their lives, and use their skills and abilities to earn money. This in turn gives young people self-worth and value.” 


Teaming up again


The ‘Albion Goals’ programme run by the UK-based streetfootballworld network member is just one example of the kind of know-how and experience attendees brought to the kick-off meeting in Berlin, as they embarked upon the new two-year venture by building on the achievements of the 2015-2017 Team Up! project.


“The Team Up project was an excellent opportunity to see other football-based employability programmes in action,” comments Mark Slide, “This has enabled us to evaluate best practice and impact, and look at new ways of delivering the programmes to Albion Goals participants.”


According to him and the other project members, Team Up! was a well-received success, bringing together a number of organisations in the spirit of collaboration. Relationships were strengthened and experiences were shared allowing each organisation to learn from and inspire others. The exchange of knowledge and best practices established alignment across different social contexts and led to the production of the Team Up! Toolkit. “I believe that ‘Scoring for the Future’ will take that process one step further,” Mark added.


The big kick-off


At the ‘Scoring for the Future’ kick-off meeting in Berlin, attendees were able to elaborate on the relevance of the project to their organisations and their expectations for the future. “The project is a way for us to learn from already very experienced and established organisations and initiatives,” Karina Lackner from Kicken ohne Grenzen pointed out. As a new addition to the team she shared her excitement about joining the group, stating that: “The project provides a suitable platform for synergy effects where great knowledge transfer can produce the best possible impact. The kick-off meeting in Berlin was an inspiring encounter for us. Even though many of the partner institutions are already well established, we learned in mutual exchange that we also face the same challenges or pursue very similar ideas.”


Over the course of the 24-month project period, the group will reconvene for three annual meetings and site visits in Bucharest, Brighton and Cologne hosted by the local participating organisations. Together, they will review football-based methodologies and programmes to increase young people’s employability prospects and jointly author a Training-of-the-Trainer toolkit so that these learnings can be implemented in and beyond their own programmes, in Europe as well as in other regions of the world.


Why football?


As highlighted by the European Union Work Plan on Sport (2014-2017), the sport sector has great potential to promote and achieve sustainable social inclusion, education and training. This path has been followed further by the European Commission’s Expert Group on Human Resources Development in Sport, which focused on employability of NEET young people in and through sport. streetfootballworld has been a partner in these high-level discussions in an observer role of the Expert Group, which has published their findings to the Council on February 20th 2017.


We identified sport and in particular football as a highly efficient and attractive tool to engage young people (boys and girls) in non-formal educational activities and keep them engaged. Youth, and especially NEET young people, are better able to cope with challenges if they feel empowered and educated to take control of their lives and proactively drive change in their communities. One of the best ways to promote these positive life skills is through youth leadership in sports. Combined with the needs identified in streetfootballworld’s internal analyses conducted in the European network and the issues highlighted throughout the work plan on sport, such as positions on social inclusion and integration and the output from the Expert Group on Human Resources Development in Sport, ‘Scoring for the Future’ will apply a series of innovative methodologies and approaches throughout the planning phase, implementation, dissemination and the project’s legacy.


You can´t score if you don´t shoot


‘Scoring for the Future’ is necessarily ambitious for it to tackle such pressing concerns: Over the next two years, the involved organisations from across Europe will reach approximately 13,000 young sportspeople (from disadvantaged backgrounds, refugees, host communities, migrants). Through their participation in inclusive sport training programmes, they will develop key life skills in communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, leadership and tolerance.


These young people will, in turn, use the experiences they have gained through these programmes to become multipliers of sport-based youth employability methodologies in their communities and sports clubs. 20 coaches and managers will be involved in the design and development of Training-of-the-Trainer toolkit, and with many more trainers, managers, decision-makers and other multipliers exposed to best-practice examples in the field of skill-development through sport, the learnings from the project will outlive its official duration. Towards the end of the ‘Scoring for the Future’ lifespan, key figures from European grassroots sports, government and private sector organisations will gather at a multiplier event to present the results of the programme on a European stage to international stakeholders.


This article appeared in FOOTBALL4GOOD Magazine Issue 6/April 2018. Read more stories here from the field of football for good here.

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