pixabayBy Taylor G. Brown

“Sport has the power to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela at the inaugural Laureus Sport for Good Awards Ceremony in 2000. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair.”

Mandela’s speech that night became a catalyst for what is now known as the Sport for Development and Peace sector.

Since then, the Sport for Development and Peace industry has grown exponentially, and social entrepreneurs worldwide have used the power of sport as a vehicle for positive social change.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been developed that utilize sports to focus on such efforts as bridging social divides, fostering healthy individuals and communities, educating youth about HIV/AIDS, promoting gender equality, developing leadership skills, and more.

Here is a look at how you can use sports jobs to promote change in society:

Sport’s Contribution to Social Outcomes

In 2015, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace reported that after 15 years of progress toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals — a set of eight goals aimed at addressing extreme poverty — the United Nations established the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 comprehensive objectives to help “get our people and planet closer together, leaving no one behind.”

In fact, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace published an article outlining how the sector is contributing to all 17 objectives

Examples of Sport for Development and Peace organizations that have achieved recognition and contributed significantly towards the Sustainable Development Goals include:

Industry Recognition

Since the turn of the millennium, a number of institutions have helped raise the profile of the Sport for Development and Peace sector by creating awards to recognize top organizations that show a commitment to excellence.

These institutions include:

The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation (Sport for Good Award)

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Sports Award

The Beyond Sport Global Awards

ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS.

They have not only provided positive recognition and exposure for the sports job sector — they have also helped provide a forum for individual organizations to collaborate with one another to share experiences and best practices.

Breaking into the Sport for Development and Peace Industry

As the Sport for Development and Peace sector grows, more employment opportunities are becoming available. Typically, I encourage students to ask themselves two questions to help narrow the focus on how their skills might translate to an employment opportunity:

  1. Do you see yourself having success on the sports jobs program side (program management, coaching, monitoring, evaluation, and learning, etc.) or the business side (operations, finance, strategy, fundraising, and marketing)?
  2. Are you willing and able to work outside of the United States, and are you interested in being a part of an international organization?   

As the sector is still relatively small, students can quickly gain industry experience through volunteer experience or an internship or fellowship opportunity.  Examples include an International Fellowship with PeacePlayers International or various opportunities with Grassroot Soccer.  

An area within the sector gaining increased focus — and where technical skills are becoming extremely valuable — is monitoring and evaluation, so gaining technical expertise could significantly expedite one’s career. The website SportAndDev.org also has a job listings page that can help students navigate opportunities in sports jobs. 

How are you seeing sports jobs being used to promote change in your community?

Taylor G. Brown is an instructor for the master’s in the Sports Industry Management program at the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.