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So You Want Your Sports Event to Solve a Problem? Social Business Can Help

Not a seat is open in the stands as you walk in. The stadium is packed with a sea of chanting fans. The energy is so palpable you feel as though the heavy concrete of the arena perimeter is shaking beneath your feet as the crowd jumps in unison. Your picture may look something like this.

Amidst the joyous crowd, you pause and soak in what you have delivered. You nailed it. As a curator of this event, what could beat the feeling of triumph?

Perhaps knowing that all of it — from the lights to the field, to concessions, security, and the very stands upon which all spectators are sitting — were helping to solve social problems.

Sports events are unique staples of modern society. “whether you are from a rich country or a poor country, sport excites you”, (Professor Yunus). Even watching from home, events evoke incredible emotion. While it may not be a norm in the design and delivery of sporting events, putting a social mission at their heart can go a long way in solving the greatest challenges facing a community.

This is where social business enters the arena and humbly works towards changing the game. It enables an outcome that favors more people, especially those who need support most. If that sounds too good to be true, let us assure you that it is, indeed possible- we help event organizers to make sure of it.

Your event can do more than generate entertainment and bolster business: it can generate solutions for problems facing vulnerable people and our environment. Below are five steps to help direct you in leveraging social business with your event. Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run while you consider these.

As Professor Yunus asserts, “we need to imagine things to make them happen. If you don’t imagine, it will never happen.” Part of our mission is to help you action the ideas you imagine:

Step 1. Align on your plan to solve the problem and make it public

Let’s address this step first, which is certainly the trickiest. It involves 3 parts:

1. Identify a problem you believe you can solve through your event and create an initial plan for a solution;

2. Convene the stakeholders whose support will be necessary to implement your solution. Because event organization involves public, private, and civil society actors, we recommend aligning your plan with key stakeholders you identify from each sector.

3. Once you and the key stakeholders align on a plan, create a formal, public acknowledgment of your pact to deliver the solution. This will help ensure greater accountability in adhering to the plan down the line, even if the agendas of your stakeholders change.

Step 2. Design with the future in mind

n a true social business fashion, when it comes to venue design “do the reverse” (Professor Yunus). Instead of thinking, “how can I construct this venue to hold my event?”, as is the norm, think, “how can I construct a venue to hold a solution for the people, and that will, for just a few weeks, hold an event?” In ten years, your event won’t be there, but the community around your venue will be. That community is the real host, the event is the guest.

Step 3. Adjust your internal structure to support your solution

While convention would have you develop a vision, system of governance, business processes, HR processes, and supply chains simply to support the event, consider how your solution can fit into the mission of each of these departments: how might they

Step 4. Make social & environmental innovation deeply rooted in your solution

If you set a mission to solve a social or environmental challenge, your work would be strengthened by collaborating with organizations leading in the social business & environmental innovation sectors. Some points to help here:

  • Research & reach out to these organizations, informing them of your plan, what you want to accomplish, and by which date.

The logic behind these pointers: you don’t have to leave the entire solution in the hands of a few employees in your sustainability department when you can engage several expert organizations who already specialize in the solution you’re trying to deliver.

Step 5: Stick to your plan, and make it sustainable

As eluded above, you can set & agree upon a plan, yet encounter setbacks and new agendas that put it at risk. More still, just because you set and deliver on a mission that solves one problem, it does not prevent you from triggering or exacerbating another. Work into your plan an accountability system, one that checks your event’s sustainability — socially, environmentally, and financially — while delivering on your legacy promise.

Daily, our team leverages social business to design, develop & deliver solutions through events. It begins with people like you imagining that their event — the budget, the context, the experience, and the revenues — can be used for something far greater than itself.

If the steps above triggered your imagination or raised the question “can my event make a difference?” the answer is yes, it, and you, can. Now, let’s imagine it and make it happen.