Networking “1-2-3” brings award-winning UK grassroots sport initiative to Kosovo’s doorstep


By Rachel Payne

In May last year, UK-based ISCA member StreetGames met the Independent Organisation for Sport Education in Kosovo (OESK) at a conference in Sweden. Now it is preparing to transfer its award-winning Doorstep Sport initiative to OESK through ISCA’s MOVE Transfer international project. The project will see the Doorstep Sport concept of delivering physical activity at the “right time, the right price and in the right style” to hard-to-reach communities being taken up by municipalities across Kosovo in 2015.

It was also a case of being in the “right place” at the “right time” with the right opportunities to network and share experiences that helped bring StreetGames and Kosovo together under the MOVE Transfer project. Rather than a lesson of “Networking 101”, these organisations’ experience could be described as “Networking 1-2-3” as the Swedish hosts (1) and the UK (2) and Kosovar (3) conference participants linked together to embark on the transfer process.

Physical inactivity a growing threat to Kosovo’s hard-to-reach communities

Aside from the difficulties the people of Kosovo have faced over the last few decades, physical inactivity has also become a prevalent problem for them with fewer opportunities and a declining interest, particularly among younger generations, to participate in sport and physical activity.

“According to a Kosovo Olympic Committee survey, only 2% of the population in our country practice sport,” OESK’s Chairperson, Elvira Dushku, explains.

“And that is a pity, given the fact that we are a country with a high proportion of youth. The idea is that through this project more children will be able to effectively participate in sport and physical activity, regardless of their gender, religion and ethnicity.”

StreetGames specialises in reaching out to youth in the UK through its informal approach to offering physical activity initiatives. One of its programmes, US Girls, is one particular initiative that it has used effectively to engage girls in physical activity – a target group that Dushku points out as being among the least motivated to be active in Kosovo.

StreetGames’ Director of Sport and Workforce, Hannah Crane, says her organisation is looking forward to sharing its experience with an organisation that is also striving to help its struggling communities through physical activity and social inclusion:

“At StreetGames we are really proud of our innovative Doorstep Sports work which supports communities and young people around the UK. Thanks to ISCA, we can now support colleagues in Kosovo to improve their work too. We chose to work with OESK because they have already done so much to develop themselves, demonstrating outstanding personal commitment to what they do. We can’t wait to visit Kosovo and see what can be achieved during the MOVE Transfer Project,” she says.

Sweden more than just a link in the networking chain

Sweden’s role in the story of turning Kosovo’s trend of physical inactivity around was not simply to host a conference that brought StreetGames’ and OESK MOVE Transfer collaboration into effect. The host of the conference, the Swedish Organisation for Sport Education in Sweden (SISU), helped establish OESK in 2011 through its work in delivering seminars to grassroots sports stakeholders from Kosovo’s sport federations and municipalities in the 2000s. SISU will continue to work closely with OESK throughout the transfer of the Doorstep Sport model to Kosovo.

“Our main role in MOVE Transfer is to help OESK start up its project with StreetGames and ISCA, and we will also follow the project as much we can,” Kenneth Tidebrink, from SISU in Västergötland province, says.

At OESK, Dushku believes MOVE Transfer is the opportunity municipalities in Kosovo need to build a stronger culture of health-enhancing physical activity among its youth. The project’s timeframe is just the first step in a longer-term vision:

“Within 18 months we intend that several larger municipalities will start to implement the Doorstep Sports clubs, and if things go as we plan, then we believe that will see a huge rise in children’s interest in sport and physical activity in this period and in the future,” she says.

Photo above: Children from the Doorstep Sport Clubs programme at the MOVE Transfer international kick-off meeting in Birmingham, UK