Defining Equity at Soccer Without Borders
Introducing Equity as a core value of Soccer Without Borders means reflecting upon where we have been, where we are today, and our goals for the future. We have adopted a four-pronged approach to furthering equity as a core value:
Investment: Examine the allocation of resources —time, financial, material, and personnel — across locations, positions, and programs, with accountability through segmentation and benchmarking of data.
Access & Opportunities: Expanding pathways to accessing programming, positions of employment, resources, and decision-making, and increase transparency and intentionality around distribution of opportunities for learning, for mobility, for public speaking, and for unique projects and roles.
Representation: Elevate our intention to reflect the communities we serve through diverse voices and cultures, including in boards, in staffing and coaching, in media and content, and in positions of leadership.
Power & Voice: Consider new ways to distribute agency and influence in decision-making by elevating the voices of those most affected and valuing contributions at every level, across locations.
In soccer, the average player spends less than 5% of the game with the ball. The outcome of the match relies much less on what you do when you have the ball and everyone is watching, and much more on what you do without it, when you think no one is watching.
How We Got Here
Soccer Without Borders was founded in 2006 with a vision for a more inclusive and equitable world, where all youth have the opportunity to reach their inherent potential. We worked to create community-embedded programs that value all voices and contributions, especially participants and families.
As a growing organization, we recognize ways in which our own operations are not living up to our values, and where intentions fall short of action and policy. In June 2020, we released the first of two statements expressing solidarity with the movement for Black lives, and asserting our commitment to address inequity and injustice within our spheres of influence.
We must put our Diversity & Inclusion policies and practices under a microscope, sharpen our lenses of racial equity, and critically scrutinize whether and how we are living up to our values. Where we fall short...we must re-double our efforts. We will challenge others to do the same.
Participatory Budgeting: Our annual budgeting process was redesigned to include additional training and transparency. Twenty-five staff members were directly involved in the creation stage, making recommendations for resources that most affect their direct work.
Compensation Philosophy: To increase transparency and alignment among decision-makers and to institutionalize equitable practices, SWB articulated its compensation philosophy, guidelines, and objectives for the first time.
USA - International Compensation Equity: After years of benchmarking to local economies, SWB examined internal pay equity between similar positions at USA and international locations and re-calibrated compensation accordingly.
We aim to be equitable within ourselves when valuing different types of contribution to the mission, whether on the ground or behind the scenes, rather than looking solely at the open market to determine a position’s value. We do this to ensure a team culture that reflects the equitable world we envision, not the inequitable world that exists today.
Access & Opportunities
Opportunities for Employment: Last year, SWB employed 43 program alumni and over 130 youth participants in full and part-time roles.
Pathways to Leadership: In response to feedback on advancement pathways at SWB, the Program Manager role was created in 2021. This new position allows experienced program leaders to take the next step in their direct service career. Five program coordinators with over 30 years of SWB experience collectively were promoted to this new position.
This past year, getting to grow in this [program manager] role has been eye opening and just allowed me to feel more well rounded in terms of professional growth. - Kat Sipes, Program Manager
Reflecting the Communities We Serve: We believe it is important for participants to be able to see themselves in their coaches and program leaders. We prioritize authentic community relationships and aim for our staff and volunteers to reflect the diversity of our participants. Our staff and volunteers originate from 39 different countries and speak 13 languages.
If She Can See It, She Can Be It: 53% of SWB staff and volunteers identify as female, serving as role models for our participants, nearly half of whom identify as girls, most of whom are playing on their first-ever sports team.
Participant Interviews: We have expanded participants' roles in interviewing processes, solidifying their input in who will lead SWB programming and giving candidates insight into the priorities of the young people we serve. Inclusion in hiring processes also provides positive exposure to real-world interview scenarios for participants, allowing them to build question-asking and answering skills in a more formal setting.
I was interviewed by a panel of young folks and was completely taken aback by their maturity and passion in them that burned for the game, their community, and SWB. Hearing their vision and goals hit me in a very powerful way. - Nick Brooks, Maryland Director
Power & Voice
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee: Soccer Without Borders' commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is the foundation of our vision to build a more inclusive and equitable world. We want everyone in the SWB community to feel a sense of belonging at SWB. We believe that DEI should be treated as a lens that is applied to every part of the organization, rather than a separate initiative. To do this, we have a DEI committee with representative membership that provides accountability and support across the organization to model and foster a culture of DEI at SWB.
Advisory Boards: Our local Advisory Boards aim to reflect the voices of diverse community stakeholders. This requires ongoing evolution of members, including those with direct experience in SWB programs. We have proudly welcomed new members to these local boards, including alumnus Abhishek Subba, SWB parent Touriya Kabass, and former SWB staff members Allison Horwitz and Zach Kilimann.
Racial Justice Conversation Series: 38 staff members completed a five-part workshop series for a total of 15 training and discussion hours each, or 570 collective hours. Click below to learn more about the series from facilitator Christian Ruiz, Program Coordinator, Oakland.
We think that having coaches who are trying to understand other peoples’ experiences allows us to have a broader approach to creating spaces to heal and grow. - Christian Ruiz
Global goal five: gender equality
Since 2006, Soccer Without Borders has taken action to get girls in the game and to train women coaches across 28 countries. Building on the momentum of the 2019 Women's World Cup, SWB is designing and leading new programming to advance gender equality on the pitch, on the sidelines and in organizations across East Africa, Europe, and the United States, with plans for Latin America in 2022, in partnership with Common Goal, Women Win, and many others who share a vision of a more gender equitable world through soccer.
Play Proud: Working towards inclusion for LGBTQ athletes
PlayProud is a call for authenticity from everyone involved in youth sports, specifically players, parents and coaches. To create a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ youth, we must be proactive, stand up and push ourselves to improve ourselves and everyone around us. - Lucas Holmes, Staffing & Staff Development Sr Manager
COACHING BOYS INTO MEN: VIOLENCE PREVENTION TRAINING in partnership with futures without violence
The most important thing that I take from these circles is that I’m more aware that my words have an impact on the other people, but also, my silence. It challenges me to stand up for somebody who is being verbally abused. - Male participant, 17-years old
Starting Early: NICAragua U12 Mixed league teaches gender equity
It is important that from a young age kids realize that girls have the same skills, abilities, and capacity when it comes to soccer. - Head Coach Francisca Alvarez
SWB UGANDA WINS SPORT FOR GENDER EQUALITY COLLECTIVE IMPACT AWARD
It's very important to have role models, to have coaches these girls can look up to. It doesn't only take cones, bibs, and a ball to get girls on the pitch. They need to be able to see someone that they look up to. - Catherine "Mina" Kabanyana, Program Coordinator