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Inspiring nations

The charity International Inspiration (IN) uses the power of sport to positively impact upon the lives of children and marginalised groups around the world. London 2012 Gold Medallist and IN trustee, Katherine Grainger, and IN’s Robert Morini, discuss the past, present and future of IN

by Tom Walker, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2014 issue 1
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Inspiring nations
Inspiring nations

International Inspiration’s foundations are firmly planted in a promise, one made by Lord Coe to the world in Singapore in 2005 as part of the UK’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The promise was ‘to reach young people all around the world and connect them to the inspirational power of the Games so they are inspired to choose sport’. This led to the International Inspiration Programme, IN’s flagship international sport legacy initiative, the largest ever associated with an Olympic Games. At the heart of the International Inspiration Programme lay an ambitious aim, that of ‘enriching the lives of 12 million children in 20 countries through the power of high quality and inclusive sport, physical education and play’.

The end result has been something extraordinary – more than 15 million children and young people have been reached globally; 230,000 teachers, coaches and young leaders have been trained in quality, inclusive sport; and more than 40 national policies have been adopted, changed or implemented to promote better, safer physical education and activity in schools and communities around the world.

London 2012 was therefore more than just medals. Through the International Inspiration Programme, It inspired entire generations, individuals and communities around the world through sport. It demonstrated like no other Games that sport has the unique power to overcome barriers – be it social, economic or physical. With the programme coming to an end in 2014, and having far surpassed its original ambition, IN enters the second phase of its work on the crest of another promise: to capture the inspirational power of the Games in London by “keeping its flame alight and carrying the torch even further”, engaging and empowering more generations through quality sport and physical activity.

IN aims to be inclusive, involving and is designed to inspire young people and those most excluded from basic rights and opportunities around the world.

Why, and how, did you decide to get involved with IN?
KG: “I was always aware of IN’s projects so, when I was asked to be a part of it and come on board, I was massively flattered. It’s an incredible charity and to be able to be on the board, to help influence, guide, support and advise, is a privilege. Knowing that you could help change the life of one person out there is an honour. I have to say that as a sportsperson who loves sports, it’s wonderful to see the impact that sport has made globally. It’s not projects that are trying to find the next superstar; it’s not about inspiring the next Olympic or Paralympic champion – although that could be a by-product – it’s about people learning about themselves and enhancing their lives through sport. As an athlete, as much as we all chase medals, titles and success, what we love about sport is the reach it has and the difference and impact it makes in people’s lives.”

Can you tell us about IN’s history and its heritage?
RM: “The charity was borne out of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly from the Singapore Promise made by Seb Coe in 2005 that led to the development of the International Inspiration Programme.

The programme had reached more than 12 million children in 20 countries around the world by the time of London 2012. Following the games, there was a recognition of the incredible work that had been achieved and a promise to continue this work was made.

This is where the charity was formed. It brings together an expert board of trustees that come from the world of sport and international development, as well as a team of professionals with more than a decade of knowledge, practice, and expertise of working with sport on an international scale.”

IN has reached more than 15 million people now – what is the next target?
KG: “It has actually reached more than 15 million people now. I think that the key thing is, as much as we should celebrate it, that’s not the end point, it’s the beginning. IN is making things better for young people around the world – that’s how and why it was set up. There are always people to reach out to, and unless we feel that every single young person around the world is in a great place we can’t rest.

Every successful project is a springboard to the next project. It’s like elite sport - you’re constantly looking for improvements, how to do it better and that’s exactly what IN should be doing.”

What is it about sport that’s so engaging and inspirational?
KG: “The simple thing with sport is that anyone can take part, anyone can try it, it doesn’t matter what your background is, what age you are, it doesn’t matter what culture, religion or race. There are no barriers in sport. Most people start because it’s fun, it’s playing, ultimately sport is playing and then it is whatever you want it to be beyond that.

People can genuinely try to be the best that they can be, that’s quite an amazing thing to do. If you just want to do it to be a part of something special, to have friendships, to learn about yourself and other people, then that’s open to everyone as well. Nelson Mandela said it too, as a politician, that sport has the power to change the world. It’s just universal in its simplicity and it’s for everyone.”

IN is still in its adolescence, how can it ensure it continues to inspire people?
KG: “As with any new project it’ll have a natural enthusiasm behind it, it’s the excitement of starting something new and something fresh. A successful organisation needs to keep that energy and positivity, it needs to know where it’s going, what it’s about, why it exists, those really sort of simple – but fundamental - things that are the lifeblood. Everyone should be able to see what we’re doing, say why they’re a part of it and why it’s special.”

Can you describe the moment when you first saw a programme on the ground?
RM: “My first experience of seeing a programme on the ground was in Bangladesh. The biggest cause of death for children up to the age of five in Bangladesh isn’t malaria or malnutrition but drowning, due to the high and differing levels of water in flooding seasons.

The programme aimed at reducing drowning by teaching children how to swim in their local ponds, using very basic equipment but learning a skill which was truly lifesaving. Around the swimming activity, you’ve also got crèches being built to keep those same children safe when the parents are busy with house duties or working in the field. Watching the community leaders and parents joining in and seeing those activities often being led by young women, just summed up what you can do through sport.

A few months later there was a national competition bringing together all the kids, for the first time ever, in a swimming pool. Watching the reaction on the faces of these children, their parents and the local elders was mesmerizing. You also had girls and kids with disabilities taking part, in a supposedly traditional and conservative culture – but the level of engagement, energy and enthusiasm we got from everybody was simply extraordinary.”

How does IN – through its partnerships – deliver on its ambitions?
RM: “The answer is in the question, it’s through its partnerships. Everything is done through local partners because we utilise local knowledge and we find solutions from within our local partners.

What we add is our knowledge and experience in designing and delivering a programme that is centred around sport but that can achieve so much more. We help to understand the bigger picture, to evaluate it and make sure we are reaching the right people. Fundamentally, the key to success is that partnership working, making sure we find the right people to implement that shared objective.”

What would you say IN stands for?
KG: “I think International Inspiration is fundamentally about making a difference to people’s lives and providing opportunities where there weren’t any before. It’s also about engagement, working with and for people here in the UK and globally to link up, establish and keep those partnerships.

What it stands for, on the moral side, is really about making a positive difference.

“I look back at my life and I’m incredibly lucky. I see great support, great family, great friends, live in a great city with all these incredible opportunities given to me. I’ve worked hard for all the success I’ve achieved but I’ve also taken any opportunity coming my way and it’s about seizing it when it comes. The difference is that most people in most countries don’t have those opportunities. It’s not that they don’t take them, it’s that they don’t even get them. We’re involved in a charity that’s able to go out there and give opportunities, and then you really do make a difference to people’s lives and I don’t think we should ever stop trying to make that difference.”

How can people and organisations get involved?
KG: “The easiest thing to do is to check out the internationalinspiration.org website, which they’re probably already doing if they’re listening, reading or watching things like this. Come and find out more information from us.

Knowledge is power, so get in touch via email, social media, the telephone, letters, whatever suits you! There’s always something to be done within every charity. If you feel that’s important then it’s an easy charity to get involved with and play a part in to make a difference to people’s lives all around the world.”

To find out more about the International Inspiration Programme, visit www.Internationalinspiration.org.

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