Active Communities Network, which uses sport to support young people with serious and complex issues, has won the Laureus Sport for Good Award at a ceremony in Monaco.
The organisation run programmes in London, Hampshire, Belfast, Manchester, Ireland and overseas which all use sport to engage youngsters and guide them towards opportunities in volunteering, education, training and employment.
Julian Wadsworth MBE, Active Communities Network's National Partnerships Manager and head of their Hampshire programmes, told ConnectSport: "We are in difficult times in terms of some of the issues that communities and young people are facing.
"Without resorting to cliché, the power of sport – delivered in the right manner with a collaborative approach – is absolutely immense for developing confidence, resilience, raised aspirations and pathways towards a better future.
"We are extremely proud and honoured to receive this recognition from Laureus. This award highlights not just the power of sport, but also the benefits of partnership working to provide positive outcomes for young people and communities.”
At the Laureus ceremony, ACN's work was lauded by none other than Academy award-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who said: "For me, the work of Active Communities Network is the perfect example of Sport for Good."
ACN's extensive Hampshire programme alone has been supporting 2,500 young people in Havant and Portsmouth since 2016.
It delivers a year-round sports-based programme open to all young people living or socialising within the community and offers open access activities at key times. It also offers specialist mentoring and lifeskills support initiatives to enable participants to make positive lifestyle choices, and targeted projects with a formal referral process to identify and support young people deemed at-risk or vulnerable.
Many young people joining the programme report high-threshold issues such as child sexual exploitation, county lines, substance misuse, trauma, NEETs, criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.
The Hampshire programme was recently cited as an example of 'best practice' in a Ministry of Justice-commissioned Review of Sport in Criminal Justice, conducted by the Alliance of Sport for the Desistance of Crime.
Sean Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, commented: "During my time as a Laureus Academy member, I have seen the work of Active Communities Network many times, and I’m more and more impressed with every visit.
"I’ve met participants, project leaders and politicians who all believe in the work being done, and the powerful role sport can play. I know I speak on behalf of the entire Laureus World Sports Academy when I say that we are hugely inspired by their work. The organisation is an incredible success story.”
ACN was founded in 2007, since when 160,000 young people have been through its programmes in the UK and Ireland, with 30,000 participants progressing into education, training or employment. And 50,000 - almost 1 in 3 - have begun giving back to society by volunteering at ACN or other community programmes, turning those who could have been marginalised or excluded by society into young people who are making a contribution instead.
For more information on Active Communities Network, click here.