ASPIRE Conference: A success story of social inclusion meeting sport and science

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

Our Erasmus+ Sport project, ASPIRE gathered policy-makers, scientists, practitioners and a wide range of interested stakeholders from the sport community at its Final Conference. The aim of the event was to present the project's key scientific results and demonstrate how to open sports clubs to refugees and contribute to social inclusion through sport.

ASPIRE project manager, Orsolya Tolnay
ASPIRE project manager, Orsolya Tolnay

“Sport helped me in good and bad times. Sport can make you a survivor", with this very personal and powerful message, ASPIRE Project Manager Orsolya Tolnay welcomed all participants at the perfectly prepared headquarters of the German Olympic Sports Confederation in Frankfurt am Main, on 14 June 2019.

Kat Craig, CEO of Athlead UK
Kat Craig, CEO of Athlead UK

The conference began in full swing and the stage was taken by Katrin Koenen, Director of Scientific Affairs at ICSSPE and Kat Craig, CEO of Athlead UK. Following the ambitions of the ASPIRE Team, to not only present the project's results, but also create an atmosphere of discussion and self-reflection, the symposium on the potential of sport as a context for helping social inclusion of migrants began with a thought-provoking message from Kat Craig:

"We are facing a welcoming crisis, not a refugee or European crisis."

The challenge of making our communities more welcoming, bringing diverse people together was expanded further by Monica Namy, Social Responsibility Manager at UEFA and her great presentation about the #EqualGame campaign. EqualGame aims to spread a positive spirit of inclusion, show how the game enriches by greater diversity and explains the European football family’s role to make the sport open and accessible to all.

After a well-deserved lunch break the participants were divided into two groups and started working in parallel workshops.

The capacity-building workshop asked the participants a difficult question "what is my personal activity in creating a more inclusive environment?" and, in the next part, presented different ways available to the citizens, migrants, refugees to participate in the political life of the EU.

Associated with the world of politics and business, the word "lobbying" was introduced in a different context. Jesse Colzani from The Good Lobby along with Gerard Esteva, President of the Catalan Union of Sport Federations and Gijs Vercoutere, Sports Coordinator at Minor-Ndako presented the concept of Citizen Lobbying. Participants of the workshop were invited on a 10-step journey on how to become a Citizen Lobbyist and make one's personal voice heard. Already the first point "pick your battle" caused personal reflections about our participation in creating the world around us.

The second workshop took “Leadership” in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals - a list of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. Inspired by the words “if you want different results you must act differently” and supported by Daniel Cade,

SchweryCade, Piara Powar, Fare Network and Kurt Watcher, Fairplay Initiative, participants worked on innovative, but real-life solutions on how sport can contribute to reducing poverty, promoting high-quality education and supporting peace, justice and strong institutions. 90 minutes of intense work brought a catalog of proposals that have the potential to make real changes in local communities.

Both workshops provided such a high-quality time and led to detailed discussions – with no time left - that participants were left in a slight “lack of time” feeling.

The last session of the conference was another firework. A high-level panel: a one-of-a-kind moderator, Jutta Buyse from European Lotteries and 4 panelists.

Nick Sore, Senior Refugee Sports Coordinator at the UN Refugee Agency presented the over 25-year relationship between his organisation and the International Olympic Committee and presented the Sport for Protection toolkit. Aisha Al-Said from the FC Barcelona Foundation drew attention to the real power of sport - not as a tool for competition, but as an intercultural, transnational tool for feeling connected, making friends, learning teamwork and building self-confidence.

Huseyin Cifci, president of PRODYNA, raised the topic of activating migrants and refugees not interested in participating in sports, and Mohamad Jarkas, ASPIRE Sport #MondayHERO and one of the key speakers at the ASPIRE training session in Belgium, shared his story of whistling the last matches in the Syrian Premier League, swimming from Turkey to Greece and waiting in a refugee row in Serbia for more than 30 hours.

High-level panel
High-level panel

The conference conclusions began with Daniel Cade from SchweryCade, who shared the call to action #Sport4Refugees, that has been signed by 130 individuals and 83 organisations so far. He also encouraged everyone to sign and share the call if haven't done yet.

The closing remarks were delivered by ENGSO Secretary General Stefan Bergh. His farewell message to the conference participants is an often forgotten, yet very simple call to action:

"Collaborate and continue to share experiences!"

The ASPIRE Team would like to express its appreciation for the extraordinary organisational support for DOSB, and for Jutta Buyse and the European Lotteries for their support throughout the project and the final conference. The ASPIRE Team received very positive feedback from the conference participants and partners that have been engaged throughout the project, therefore the Team is very, very proud of the last 2,5 years! We have created something special, and thanks to a very successful final conference, we believe that the project has a chance to live on and further develop in the structures of the partners.

For more photos of the conference, click here.