When I first started working as Corporate Communication Manager for adidas in Nordics, I immediately saw it as a huge opportunity to grow and excel in my line of work. With 18 years of experience, yet never having worked in the sports industry, I knew I had a big learning curve ahead of me but I embraced the journey fully.

Tweet by Theresa May about the Social Impact Initiative Equal Playing Fields

This summer I opted to volunteer for a week, together with 30 colleagues from our headquarters, in an exciting social impact project taking place alongside the Women’s World Cup in Lyon, France.

Engaging on the pitch

The Equal Playing Field initiative had organized the Festival of Football to take on the armband of challenging gender inequality in sport and to promote sport development for girls and women globally.

adidas was sponsoring, not just by injecting money, but actually helping out in a truly constructive manner, through employee volunteers. As an employee engagement professional, I simply loved it.

Our core belief at adidas is that ‘through sport, we have the power to change lives’. It’s something that resonates with me deeply. Having turned to sport as a rescue – surfing and running in particular – when going through the motions of a tough breakup.

But that’s nothing compared to what sport can do for removing gender inequalities, and creating inclusion and diversity on a global scale.

Interview with girls that are part of the Social Impact Initiative called Equal Playing Fields
Supporting the #anygirlanywhere press conference in Lyon.

Passion and play

For Equal Playing Field to organize such an event as the Festival of Football requires a real passion for both change and for football.

For me, it was the perfect setting to quickly get to know passionate employees from across the globe and to learn more about the reality of working for an NGO, like Equal Playing Field.

It was massive. But it was also so much fun and play. No losers, only winners. And girl power!

Peers and protection

On the pitch it did not matter whether you were young or old, what language you spoke, if you had never played football before or had professional experience. We all played together as peers, for fun and to raise awareness of inequality in sport and football for girls globally.

Girl on the Football Pitch | Social Impact
Bringing the stories of players from the pitch to the world.

We met with so many girls who had no real opportunities to practice sports and who faced harassment in their societies for wanting to play. We listened to their stories and we boosted their confidence on and off the pitch.

One of the many girls I spoke with was Melissa Camacho from the team Las Chicas Unidas in Mexico:

Knowing that we would meet with so many young kids also meant a huge responsibility for us volunteers. Before the project, everyone needed to take a ‘Child Protection Awareness Training’ to know how to act in case we saw or heard of young girls (or boys) being treated poorly either at the event or in their normal environment back home.

In retrospect the training was well needed and gave us the confidence that we, as adults had to have to create a truly ‘protected space’ for these girls and women from all over the world playing football together in Lyon.

Professional learnings

My volunteering time at the Women’s World Cup in France wasn’t all social impact focused. I also put my skills to use in the HQ press office searching out great stories ‘on the field’ and finding possible spokespersons out of the blue.

As a communicator it can sometimes look like a straightforward task to read and listen your way into understanding your new workplace and your employer. But what I’ve learned over the years, and especially this summer when volunteering, is that nothing beats action when it comes to understanding how we make a difference and what kind of company we really are.

Has a volunteering experience helped you develop both personally and professionally? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

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by Vikash Kumar 27.08.2019
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by debra 23.09.2019
LOVELOVE LOVE this article! It is the true reason we can change lives, by personally investing in our people and bringing them to the center of the action!
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