Laureus opens Innovation Fund

In 2018, Laureus Sport for Good partnered with the SOL Foundation to create the Sport for Development sector’s first ‘Innovation Fund’. This week the fund opened again for applications, and will close on Friday 28th June. ConnectSport spoke to Laureus grants manager Neel Sood.

Hi Neel, thanks for speaking to us. Tell us about the fund.

“After a successful first tranche of funding last year, together with the SOL Foundation, Laureus has decided to open a second round of the Innovation Fund, to look for ‘innovative’ projects that could define the future of the sector. We’re looking for ideas that are different from past endeavours and uncover new territories and new ways of thinking about Sport for Development, therefore challenging the traditional ways of doing development.”

Why is innovation so important?

“Whilst the use of sport as a tool for social change is often seen as a relatively new innovation in itself and is only partially understood by the wider development sector, many funders still place emphasis on proven interventions that follow a number of similar models, and these rarely allow for creative and innovative solutions to the most challenging issues that our world faces. It is through innovation that we construct the future of our sector, and it is one of the platforms from which we can influence into the wider social development sector, showing that the power of sport can pave the way in the fight against violence, discrimination and disadvantage, and in the promotion of inclusion, of peace, of gender equality and of mental health and wellbeing.”

Can you provide some examples from last year's fund?

“Last year we funded six projects , including pilot projects using sport to tackle homophobia in St Lucia, using sport to create safe spaces for young people in New Orleans, USA , or using sport to increase confidence and ability to form social bonds amongst disabled street children in Kenya. But we really don’t have any restrictions. If we knew what innovation was, we probably wouldn’t be innovating much! The only thing we know is that we don’t want to fund programme extensions, scale-up or replication through this fund.”

How will you measure success?

“Innovation involves a high amount of risk and uncertainty. Laureus Sport for Good and our partners are willing to accept that many investments in truly innovative ideas are not going to result in significant or immediate steps forward for the Sport for Development sector. Nevertheless, innovation is important if we want to influence and improve the sector. If the Innovation Fund funds a pilot of a project that is able to be scaled up and delivered as a mainstream project in the future, that would be considered a success.

For successful programmes, will there be an opportunity to apply for bigger or more traditional funds?

“This initiative is meant to get crazy ideas off the ground. Ideas that no other donors want to invest in because there is no evidence of any impact. For the successful initiatives, scaling up is certainly a possibility. When delivering the grants, we do offer the innovators training in fundraising for innovation. So in addition to potentially being invited by the funders behind the Sport for Development Innovation Fund, we will also support grantees in finding ways to identify and engage with other potential donors, though ensuring that the grantees themselves own the longer-term sustainability of their ideas. This is all about developing and strengthening the sector through strengthening and enabling its members. It’s not really about The SOL Foundation and Laureus Sport for Good.”

To apply for the Innovation Fund, click here.