Sport as a mean for social and professional integration
Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Sport as a mean for socio-professional integration is what the non-profit organisation Sport2Be offers. Presentation of this initiative with Nikita Meer (Solvay alumna, class of 2017).
Based on the fact that 420,000 young people were living below the poverty line in Belgium, Sport2Be was founded in 2016, first as a fund. Lacking some long lasting impact, its business model evolved towards a more impactful project. Instead of financing isolated actions favouring access to sport for disadvantaged children, it adapted to duplicate the model of the French association Sport dans la Ville in Belgium.
Sport dans la Ville has existed for more than 20 years and today represents around 7,000 young people across France. It also has a whole campus in Lyon, and has been selected to manage the social heritage of the Olympic Games of Paris 2024. Benefiting from their experience, Sport2Be is currently mainly based in the region of Brussels as well as in Tongeren in Flanders, and plans to expand in Wallonia in the future.
The approach used is quite simple and relies on a two-step action :
Offering free weekly sports sessions with professional sports coaches for girls and boys, or exclusively for girls, to young people aged 6 to 18
Guiding those aged 16 to 25 towards their first professional experience thanks to a programme called Job2Be.
Sport is an ideal tool to bond with these young people and gain their trust. It is also an incredible way to teach soft skills that will be useful to them in the professional world. The association positions itself both as a field actor and as an intermediary towards official instances. It is key for a public that is usually quite difficult to reach, as underlined by the High Council of Employment :
“Intermediation in favor of people with low levels of education tends to multiply collaborations, mainly at the local level (employers, municipal administration, OCMWs, local union branches, associations, youth centers, etc.). However, it is still necessary to bring these people into the integration circuits. For some, such as young NEETs [Not in Education, Employment, or Training] or newcomers, the associative sector has an essential role to play.”
The so-called Job2Be programme aims at being a link between the young people and all actors that will help them with their professional development. It does so thanks to 3 types of activities: discovery, orientation, and mentoring.
Discovery implies visiting companies in order to discover jobs and sectors, as well as opportunities to get in touch with professionals and start to create a network they wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
Orientation covers practical activities with partners to get ready for the job market (CV, cover letter, interview preparation,…) or studies/training, and redirection towards specialised actors depending on their needs.
Finally, mentoring means individual coaching and support along the way for those who want it.
Nikita Meer is in charge of developing this programme. After graduating, she worked for 2 years as a project and account manager in the tech industry in Montreal, Canada. At some point, she realised she wanted to have a bigger and more positive impact on society. That’s how she took an interest in social entrepreneurship.
Back in Belgium, she first worked as a consultant in collective intelligence for the public sector for a few months, but it still lacked some hard facts. And then, she heard of the opportunity at Sport2Be which would allow her to use her business engineering skills while being in touch with the field. The job was also echoing with her personal experience.
Coming from a modest family, it’s the various encounters she made as a teenager that led her to the Solvay Brussels School. And, once at Solvay, it was hard work and the network she created at the School that allowed her to get many of the opportunities she had had so far. Working at Sport2Be was a great way to give back and help the next generation in need.
Since she started in August 2019, the project has grown a lot: from around 400 young people on the sports fields to about 650 today, and from nothing to more than 40 teenagers and young adults taking part in Job2Be. Building partnerships with employers and other organisations is crucial for the programme success. It is all about being able to suggest the right support and help connect the participants with employers. Nice collaborations are already in place with organisations like Becode, BX Brussels, FEFA, as well as the communal services. A great partnership is already in place with Basic-Fit and Leonidas, and others, like Decathlon and Ikea, are in discussion. Also, the first success of Job2Be was with the hiring of a young man at Kazidomi!
Like any entrepreneur, she wears several hats within the organisation. Among the major projects, there’s the communication strategy as well as the implementation of a CRM. The latter will be key to better manage the participants and the fundraising.
It’s unusual to find a Solvay alumni in a small nonprofit organisation, but she is willing to take it to the next level and make it a recognized association at the national level. There is a huge potential to make a difference for the young people taking part in Sport2Be’s activities and the team is ready to take on the challenge.
Feel free to get in contact with Nikita if you'd like to get involved, on your own or with your company!
And because a picture is worth a thousand words : https://youtu.be/C42RDOINvs0
Learn more about Sport2Be :