You’re Not Watching the Best Game Sports is Playing – Forbes

Every day, I work with corporate leaders who understand the power of business platforms to make a difference. Regardless of the specific professional missions of their companies, these executives recognize that there’s a natural social mission they can tap into that will transform their place in the world, greatly impacting their communities, employees and bottom lines. The companies that fully embrace this higher purpose open themselves up to an exciting journey that enriches their culture and keeps them rapidly evolving as organizations.

But of course it’s not just Corporate America that benefits from reexamining its role in society. I love seeing how the sea of change in corporate philanthropy is affecting so many different non-corporate fields; for example, the industry whose home base is the field. Sports.

Engaging in community involvement programs is nothing new for celebrity athletes, teams, leagues and sports leaders. What feels fresh is the increased professionalization of sports philanthropy, as leaders in this field recognize more ambitious ways to serve their communities while forging new partnerships and shaping their brands on a global stage.

This heightened focus on sports as a vehicle for social change is why sports philanthropy is now its own field of study at George Washington University Business School, which offers a program tailored to the unique needs of those who work for professional sports teams, leagues, athlete foundations, and sport-related companies, with an emphasis on corporate social responsibility and nonprofits using sports for social good.

It’s why there’s an uptick of sports philanthropy summits to bring together the biggest names and best minds in sports to help activate social change. The annual Doha GOALS Forum, as one example, invites public and private sector sports organizations, NGOs, athletes, and business leaders to engage around how sports can be used to wider effect on the policy agenda. Its four key themes this year are building a movement for change through sports, sports as a mechanism for social inclusion, sports’ power to create bridges across divides in our societies and sports as a catalyst for transformation and change.

Another great example of the sports community rallying together to make their philanthropic programs more impactful is the Sports and Entertainment Philanthropy Summit, run by my good friend, founder & President of the Giving Back Fund, Marc Pollick. Speakers from industry leading organizations present on a variety of topics including how crowdfunding can change the way you fundraise and how to get celebrity participation in your cause to raise public awareness.

What does this social change sports movement look like in action?

Speed Skater Olympian Joey Cheek co-founded Team Darfur, an international association of athletes that was devoted to raising awareness of humanitarian crises related to the War in Darfur. In the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, Team Darfur called attention to China’s controversial economic involvement in Darfur and exerted pressure on the Chinese government by associating the Beijing Olympics with China’s relationship with Darfur. As a result, China revoked the entrance visa of Joey Cheek hours before he was scheduled to leave for Beijing, costing Cheek the opportunity to attend the Games but shining an international spotlight on the issue he put everything on the line for.


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