Soccer for a Better Life

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Soccer for a Better Life

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Shoulder to Shoulder Global(STSG), an international and community-based non-profit organization, will partner with a nexus of soccer coaches and community partners from the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association. This partnership will bolster the social impact of A GANAR by developing a youth soccer program in Santo Domingo among urban, marginalized youth.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Santo Domingo is the transit point for all economic activity in Ecuador; this has spurred rapid economic growth and migration. Unfortunately this has resulted in a lack of basic infrastructure; only 20% of the city has access to potable water and only 6% access both water and sewage. There is a large amount of human and drug trafficking that passes through the city. Health services in slum areas that would be served by A GANAR are practically nonexistent, so slum dwellers must travel many miles to the nearest Ministry of Health Center for care. Childhood diarrheal disease, teen pregnancies, and violent crimes are common in these turbulent neighborhoods. Expanded access to community health programs through STSG such as water disinfection and quality and affordable health care will improve the health and social well being of these families and bring greater community stability. Children attend school for only half a day; this creates significant free time where many children fall prey to gang activity, prostitution, and drug use. To combat the problem, A GANAR will create with STSG mentors for high-risk youth and provide safe outlets for after school soccer and on Saturdays.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The partnership is unique because it is forged between a soccer-based values-oriented vocational and life skills program in the Americas, A GANAR, and a health organization (STSG) with a long-standing relationships in several undeserved communities in Santo Domingo, Ecuador. The partnership will expand A GANAR's resources, community reach and support to use soccer as a central instrument in poverty alleviation and employment, peace and tolerance, social capital and integration through gender equality and education. A GANAR is unique because it employs kinetic learning to increase participant's ability to retain information. A GANAR participants and their families will receive health and wellness incentives, including access to nutritional assistance programs; primary health care; community health programs and preventive medicine such as vaccines and screenings through the Centro Medico Hombro a Hombro clinic (CMHH-Shoulder to Shoulder). The range of free or discounted services depends on the family's level of organizational involvement. Family volunteers can log community/clinic service hours translating into health services and other benefits and by achievement in the A GANAR program. In addition, STSG and A GANAR will bring a wide array of community partners including business leaders and schools to establish a youth soccer program in Santo Domingo for disadvantaged urban slum children ages 5-15. Participating children must be enrolled in school; graduates of A GANAR become mentors. Each graduate will have employment skills for immediate job placement and credentials to work as a soccer mentor, coach and referee. An executive board, elected annually by a steering committee of community partners and donors, will provide leadership for the program. To increase sustainability, we use a social entrepreneurship model, keeping participation fees to a minimum and using fund-raising, marketing and community soccer tournaments to finance the program.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A GANAR has trained over 3,000 youth in Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, and Colombia and is expanding throughout the Americas. The majority of graduates (more than 70%) have obtained formal employment, returned to school or started their own business within a year of graduation. A GANAR builds on 45 years of experience and works with Partners of the Americas. Families and communities benefit from increased incomes and increased local buying power. Businesses benefit from hiring highly motivated youth to succeed in their jobs. A GANAR youth demonstrate to employers and communities that investing in at-risk youth pays dividends for business and that the negative stereotypes often applied to them do not reflect them as individuals nor their value to a community or business. In this context, soccer is an instrument for capacity building, social change and community mobilization. Our sustainable youth soccer organization and partnership with STSG medical clinic increases social capital, health and coping resources available to families living in extreme poverty. It also serves as a vessel for health care access, public health interventions and expands the reach for community health programs (including vaccinations, nutrition programs for at risk children, health/hygiene education and water disinfection trainings etc). The organization itself is a critical vehicle for social change as it enables citizens to plan, organize and mobilize around important political, social, economic and health issues. This partnership provides increased economic opportunities for participants and a safe environment for recreation and activity after school and on the weekends, when youth can be prey to delinquency.
About You
Shoulder to Shoulder Global (Hombro a Hombro)
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



KY Youth Soccer Organization


, KY, Fayette County

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Shoulder to Shoulder Global (Hombro a Hombro)

Organization Phone


Organization Address

915 Edgewater Drive Lexington, Kentucky 40502

Organization Country

, XX

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, XX

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Improving leadership skills in an area lacking social capital would promote further growth in community capacity for health and wellbeing. Furthermore, as the organization grows it will be a vehicle for economic growth and entrepreneurship opportunities. The A GANAR community youth soccer program will act as a safety net for children who are enrolled in school (a condition for membership) and recruit through schools interested in expanding recreational resources for students and the community. Each youth participant will benefit from three distinct training modules: “soccer for peace” training; experiential values workshops; and a nutrition/hygiene component. Children spend approximately 6-8 hours per week in A GANAR youth activities and games. Tournaments are held on Saturdays, when parents and the community are invited to visit and become involved. In sum, A GANAR in Santo Domingo becomes a center of constructive community integration, economic stimulation health promotion and education, as well as a safe environment for an urban slum community of 30,000 people.


Short-term goals are to create safe environments where high-risk youth can participate in after school recreation and learn core values of respect, community service, self-discipline, teamwork, conflict resolution (peaceful coexistence), self-development and goal setting in three urban marginalized communities of Santo Domingo Ecuador. This will be measured in part by program retention and increased numbers of children entering and graduating from high school. Long-term goals are to transcend the social landscape of gender inequality, drug abuse, violence, pervasive unemployment and health disparities in the entire city of Santo Domingo by improving community capacity for recreation, economic opportunity, health and social welfare. We foresee the program growing so that A GANAR graduates become soccer coaches and medical clinicians; allowing values and life skills learned in the A GANAR program to be shared with the entire Santo Domingo youth population. Long-term goals include growing the program into an academy and professional soccer club to further increase financial and economic opportunities within a burgeoning urban slum community.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

YEAR ONE- We will address all logistical concerns, conduct research to ensure organization/soccer club sustainability and we will seek continued private and public support for program resources and expansion. A steering committee will be created to oversee the formation of the A GANAR youth soccer executive board and the concurrent age 5-15 soccer club will begin formal operation within the community upon completion of the first round of A GANAR graduates. Community health programs will be implemented concurrently with A GANAR families. The executive board will look for additional corporate sponsorship and support from local businesses and community leaders. The Ecuadorian National Ministry of Sports and national and international professional soccer organizations (Ecuador and Kentucky soccer communities) will be encouraged either to volunteer time or make donations to improve the facilities, increase resources and provide trainings. To unveil the youth program in each of the three communities, we will organize a youth soccer tournament and money raised will used for A GANAR graduates to provide soccer training part-time to children in neighborhood schools.
YEAR TWO- The organization will organize formal adult and youth leagues with A GANAR graduates working as mentors in the youth program and referees for the adult leagues. Once the community sees the advantages and fun of the community interaction, youth instruction and economic stimulus, gaining more support from local businesses and corporate sponsors is expected to increase. Additional funding streams for A GANAR will be identified and we plan to expand the reach of the community soccer and health programs. Volunteers will be recruited to clean up the communities and environments around the fields. The KY Youth Soccer Association, clubs and high schools throughout Kentucky will be petitioned for field resources such as nets and flags. Local businesses will have the opportunity to buy rights to fields for maintenance, improving the quality of the surface and development of stands and small venues for watching games. To support organizational growth a biennial newsletter will be published after YEAR ONE to chart progress and impact of the program.
YEAR THREE- The organization will expand to other neighborhoods in Santo Domingo and funding will be sought for another class of A GANAR graduates.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

If there is little buy-in from the community it would be problematic to start an organization, though the opportunity to have organized soccer in an area that adores soccer makes this highly unlikely. In addition the STSG medical clinic draws on three years of community buy-in and involvement. To ensure organizational sustainability beyond seed funding requires consistent sponsorship from entrepreneurs as well as market-based income-generating projects. Also, finding the right monetary threshold for the community participation in recreational soccer leagues is necessary to make it sustainable; a price too high would likely exclude many interested in participating.
It is critical to form an efficient community board with a strategic vision that ensures appropriate use of organizational funs. In addition it is key to focus the organization on A GANAR core values and to put those principles into practice in every aspect of organizational operation. It is equally important to ensure that complementary community health programs (funded through STSG) have good cultural fit and that barriers do not exist that prevent family participation or retention. Formative research using focus groups will determine which programs, from family planning, child and maternal health, household water disinfection, etc. are both desired and needed. To ensure that health and recreational program implementation do not conflict, monthly meetings will take place to coordinate activities and plan events. Furthermore, to ensure an even balance between board members representing community health interests and agents representing economic interests, equal representation will be required on the executive board. The steering committee will be more diverse in representation, so that minority viewpoints are considered and democratic rules for operation are maintained.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

In what country?

, XX

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

A GANAR and Shoulder To Shoulder Global

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Building lasting partnerships between the public, private and non-profit sectors is critical to maintain and grow our social change model. The majority of funding for the youth soccer organization will come from corporate and local businesses operating in Santo Domingo. The majority of soccer and field equipment for the youth soccer program will come from a pass back program and fundraisers initiated by the KY Youth Soccer Association in the US. This will support the youth program in its first year and second year of operation and until greater support is required for expanding community outreach. STSG also works with other programs in the community, including FASCA, a catholic relief organization providing social service assistance to communities throughout Ecuador. STSG has good relationships with the Ministry of Health and other crucial government partners and is well known for the quality and impact of its community-based work. Uniting all of these international, domestic and local partners would allow for an expanded pool of resources, expertise for training and program development as well as funding streams for the implementation of sustainable recreation and health programs.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1. Creating a salient executive board and steering committee with established operating procedures and scope of work will ensure program sustainability. Clearly stipulating the role of each position and partner in the process will ensure concordance and responsibility sharing.

2. Leadership development and empowerment of A GANAR graduates is also a critical strategy for success. Students must be refined from participants to youth mentors and gradually developed long-term into community leaders, activists and stakeholders.

3. Ensuring these graduates find work is another critical part of leadership development objectives. As part of this we will continue to provide educational and professional development opportunities for A GANAR graduates. This will help refine their job skills, vocational qualities and increase effectiveness as future administrators of the organization itself. Furthermore, guidance and training resources from the ministry of sports, including referee certification, coaching courses and administrative support for academy and club development is important for growth and to help the organization move from a legitimate social enterprise to a professional organization with strong financial backing in Santo Domingo. Initially the organization will thrive on volunteer leadership as the primary means for growth and operation, however, as the organization grows it will eventually need to become a self-standing non-profit organization.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Soccer has played a central role in my development as a humanitarian, activist and social entrepreneur. The sport has also provided a crucial source of income for me as a part-time soccer coach and referee. I witnessed the unifying qualities of the game in America when I began asking for gently worn soccer equipment and clothing in my own community before traveling to impoverished communities in northern Ecuador. All of the soccer equipment was given away to the communities we worked in and soccer was a shared interest and passion, dissolving many cultural and linguistic barriers to our medical relief work. After participating on two medical brigades with Shoulder to Shoulder, I worked in a school near our central clinic (CMHH) in Santo Domingo, to find out if I could use the game of soccer and other team oriented sports to engage children with public health messages. I realized how powerful soccer could be as an instrument for community engagement and social change because of the instantaneous enthusiasm the kids brought to my health and physical education classes. When they saw the balls, cones and training vests I was sharing with the school, they listened intently to everything I had to share with them when enticed with the reward of playing with these materials. Despite living conditions and the daily challenges of poverty, moments spent playing organized games, was a noticeable escape from these difficult circumstances. Witnessing the unifying passion for the game, I realized the true potential of soccer for promoting peace, essential values and social change. When I learned that soccer was being used for poverty alleviation, empowerment of youth, community development and social change I had to learn more about existing programs and highly successful models currently being implemented, because socioeconomic factors are the most potent predictors of health and life expectancy. My desire is to implement soccer in conjunction with health and wellness programs and then adapt a model that can be used in underserved and disadvantaged communities of rural Kentucky, which is currently embattling poverty, low education, limited resources, the childhood obesity crisis and chronic disease. Increasing recreation and community engagement through soccer and sports appears to be one of the most powerful instruments for community engagement, mobilization and development. My desire is identify, test and refine evidence-based strategies and models for social change using soccer and sports as a central instrument.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Pele and friends developed the A GANAR idea many years ago but the idea to combine recreational and health programs in a disadvantaged was the idea of Dr. Tom Young, the Director and founder of Shoulder to Shoulder, Sarah Dobra the STSG coordinator and lead community-based researcher in Ecuador and Michael Jacob Sither, a public health and medical student who is determined to use soccer to change the world one community at a time.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

Shoulder to Shoulder (Hombro a Hombro)