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Refugees United Soccer Academy: Using soccer coaches and players as agents of change in increasing the attendance of girls in school.

iACT aims to empower refugee soccer coaches and youth to address low attendance rates of girls in school in camps eastern Chad and Cameroon.

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What problem does your innovation solve?

According to UNHCR, of the 182,000 school-age Darfuri refugee children living in 12 camps in eastern Chad, 57% are out of school. There is also progressive drop in enrollment from an average of 71% enrollment for primary school, to 20 in middle and 13 in secondary school. Most girls leave school if they marry or are unable to balance their studies with responsibilities at home. In Cameroon, of Central African refugee children, only 56% are enrolled in primary school, and lower beyond that.

Explain your innovation.

Our innovation builds upon our Refugees United Soccer Academy (Academy) program by training our existing male and female coaches in education promotion, outreach, and gender-equality, as well as the players to be the agents of change in their community and increase the attendance of girls from primary through secondary school. Currently, the Academy is operating in 7 of the 12 camps in eastern Chad and one refugee site in southeastern Cameroon, employing a total of 19 coaches and reaching approximately 8,000 boys and girls ages 6 to 13. The Academy addresses the gap in sports and physical activity for refugees by providing boys and girls a safe space to play soccer and learn about health, peacebuilding, and gender-equality. Specifically, the innovative addition to the Academy will include: - Developing and implementing structured tools, curriculum, and training to build the capacity of all 19 Academy male and female soccer coaches to serve as education ambassadors in their community. - Hosting an all coaches training camp in eastern Chad to facilitate the training of all coaches as ambassadors and foster peer-to-peer learning. - Developing and implement an engaging, age-appropriate, and visually-based curriculum for Academy players, ages 6 to 13, to learn about their rights as children, with an emphasis on their right to access education and gender-equality, and to prepare them to be education ambassadors in their community. We’ll focus on girls, but also engage boys

Who benefits?

The beneficiaries will be refugees living in camps where the Academy already operates: Goz Amer, Djabal, Mile, Kounougou, Touloum, Farchana, and Bredjing eastern Chad, and refugee site Gado, southeastern, Cameroon, and benefits will include: - Access to the curriculum for 8,000 youth ages 6-13, of which 50% are girls - Increase school attendance of girls progressing to all school levels as a result of outreach to families, schools, curriculum and mentorship from coaches and peer players - Increase capacity of Academy coaches as education ambassadors through training and curriculum iACT will measure: Attendance of girls at all school levels; attitudes of parents towards education for girls, the # of players who complete ambassador training and curriculum; the # of home and school visits by coaches; attitudes of Academy youth towards education; capacity of coaches as education ambassadors By 2018, we aim to expand the Academy to all 12 camps in Chad and 2 more sites in Cameroon

How is your innovation unique?

The Refugees United Soccer Academy is different because it is a year-round, comprehensive soccer development program that also integrates health, peacebuilding and gender-equality curriculum. Established in 2013, the Academies have a strong foundation and reputation, are completely refugee-led and have already demonstrated the ability to break down gender barriers by getting girls and women to play soccer for the first time. Additionally, our existing refugee soccer coaches sparked the idea. They began self-directed efforts to visit homes and schools and mentor vulnerable youth, and so we’re building on their existing efforts and arming children to also be ambassadors. As the only formally trained soccer coaches in their community, they are natural ambassadors and revered in the community. No similar approaches have been tried in the refugee camps we serve. Through the Academy design, operating six days a week, this idea has the ability to reach thousands of children and families.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

What will be the necessary amount of days for training and delivery to all 19 coaches spread across 8 refugee camps across 2 countries? When is best time during the Academy, if at all during soccer training sessions, and day for coaches to train and prepare youth peer ambassadors? How many youth ambassadors would they train and how many kids would those ambassadors in turn train? What tools, besides the curriculum to the youth need? What does a youth leadership curriculum look like and what should it include? What lessons can be pulled from Lead with Empathy adult leadership curriculum and which ones need to be adjusted?

Tell us more about you.

iACT is a Los Angeles-based international organization. All iACT programs are refugee-led. iACT forms deep relationships with refugees living in camps who are open, innovative, trustworthy, and concerned for the whole community. iACT programs are designed in collaboration with experts in various fields, then adapted, implemented and lead by refugees--ensuring community ownership and cultural relevance. iACT partners with Jesuit Refugee Service in Chad for in-country logistics and expertise.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

In isolated refugee camps across eastern Chad, Darfur refugees remain in limbo as their services and rations are cut and UNHCR hurries to implement a strategy of integration to make up for the reduction in support for Darfur refugees. As a result, no other organizations provide sports programming for refugee youth or focus on using sport as a tool for peacebuilding, education, gender equality, and hope.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Refugee camps Goz Amer, Djabal, Mile, Kounougou, Touloum, Farchana, Bredjing, eastern Chad Refugee site Gado, southeastern Cameroon

In-country Networks

- iACT has an existing partnership with Jesuit Refugee Service. JRS assists iACT with in-Chad program logistics and travel. - iACT employs 142 refugees total in eastern Chad, across seven camps, and 5 refugees in one site in Cameroon, as the leaders of our sports and education programs. We will work with our refugee colleagues to ensure our Refugees United Soccer Academy solution is successful in eastern Chad and Cameroon.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for less than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

iACT has been working alongside Darfur refugees in eastern Chad since 2015 and expanded to Cameroon in 2016. iACT is pioneering processes, programs, and education campaigns to improve the humanitarian refugee response globally. Personal relationships and teamwork are at the heart of our change model. We collaborate with experts and organizations across different sectors, and, most importantly, the refugee beneficiaries to design solutions at the forefront of humanitarian efforts.

Innovation Maturity

  • Early Stage Innovation: I am exploring my innovation, refining, researching, and gathering inspiration.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Los Angeles, California United States


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

We are going to work closely with refugee coaches and youth to identify specific barriers and solutions to girls’ education in their community, and create a socially and culturally-relevant coach facilitation guide and youth curriculum based on those barriers and solutions. The guide will better support our coaches when visiting families, schools, and leaders to advocate for girls staying in school, and the curriculum will arm youth with information to advocate for themselves and their peers.

Who will implement this Idea?

53 Refugees United Soccer Academy coaches will be leading the effort in their community with support from iACT programs staff. Initially, two iACT staff will travel to refugee camps to facilitate the design and implementation of the idea, including supporting the coaches and players with curriculum, research, resources, and training. Coaches and players will be implementing and leading the idea in their camp community every week and monitoring progress, barriers, opportunities, and providing feedback to iACT. We will use the feedback to inform iterations and improvements in the program design.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

Our end-users are Refugees United Soccer Academy coaches and youth players between ages 6 and 13. The biggest day-to-day challenge our refugee end-users face is addressing their basic needs such as food, water, firewood, education, and healthcare. The biggest systems challenge is equal access to culturally appropriate livelihood, professional, and educational opportunities within and outside of their camp to advance themselves and restore their dignity as individuals and as a community. Refugees in eastern Chad and southeastern Cameroon face decreasing support from international aid educational aid agencies. In Chad, Darfuri refugees reside in remote areas along the eastern border where livelihood opportunities are scarce and access to existing basic services in host villages limited

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

Sustainable growth is built into our refugee-led model and focus on community partnerships. We focus on building capacity and facilitating the leadership of our refugee male and female coaches to ensure ownership, cultural relevance, and long-term sustainability of programming beyond iACT. All RUSA equipment are in-kind donations from donors and “sister” soccer clubs across the U.S. who have committed to supporting an Academy. We aim to strengthen and diversify our partnerships and connect each Academy to global soccer and education stakeholders, fostering long-term financial support.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

By 2022, we aim to scale in all 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad, 2 refugee sites in southeastern Cameroon, and three additional refugee sites globally, employing and training 69 refugee coaches and reaching 32,000 youth directly through our Soccer Academy, training, and curriculum. How might we facilitate the leadership of refugee coaches and players to ensure sustainability and replicability across refugee sites to achieve our vision for impact in girls education, each year?

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

Planned outputs and outcomes to be documented: # of refugee coaches trained, # of youth trained, completed coach facilitation guide and youth leadership curriculum, completion of all-coaches training camp, # of coach-led training with youth, # of weekly coach community outreach, and # of weekly youth-led outreach. We will work with refugee coaches to identify what information they think would be most useful in measuring the program's impact on educational attainment of girls in their community.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Year 1: Implement idea in 12 refugees camps eastern Chad, two sites in southeastern Cameroon. Year 2: Scale idea to one additional refugee site. Year 3: Scale idea to two additional refugee sites. Key steps for implementation include: Training coaches; co-designing curricula for coaches and youth; collecting feedback to inform iterations; documenting learnings; measuring impact on coaches, youth, educational attainment, and perceptions and attitudes of girls’ education; sharing adaptable model.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $50,000 and $100,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • No paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are a registered entity, but not in the country in which we plan to implement our Idea.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Business Model Support
  • Program/Service Design

Attachments (1)

RUSA Story of Impact.pdf

A story demonstrating the impact and the opportunity the Refugees United Soccer Academy coaches have as being agents of change for youth and education in their community.

This inspired (1)



Join the conversation:

Photo of Vanessa Sore


Great initiative. I think playing sports is a fantastic method of enhancing education, leadership skills, etc, whilst also maintaining physical health and well being.

I am interested to know why soccer (predominantly a male dominated sport) was selected and if their was any research conducted that this would be a more receptive sport then others? Do you envisage this to be a sustainable initiative for children to participate within for many years or only a certain time frame? If so, has any consideration been given to other alternatives?

Vanessa S

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