These social enterprises have improved the lives of people all over the world through sport.
Between the excitement of the Euros, Copa America and the upcoming Rio Olympics, this is a big summer for sports. Gifted athletes making sensational plays will captivate fans all around the globe, but beyond giving fans something to cheer about, sport also has a unique ability to bring people together. And that unifying quality hasn’t gone unnoticed by a new generation of social entrepreneurs. Here are a few noteworthy businesses that use the power of sports for social good.
A Ball of Energy
In 2011, Jessica O. Matthews founded Uncharted Play, a company that aims to make energy more available to the nearly 1.2 billion people who live without reliable access to it all over the world. With its signature product, the SOCCKET, the company is using the world’s most popular sport to achieve its goal.
The SOCCKET is an innovative football that harnesses the kinetic energy produced when it’s kicked around. Equipped with a USB port, the ball can be used later to light up a lamp or charge small electronic devices. Just 30 minutes of play can power a lamp for up to three hours. U.S. president Barack Obama praised the technology after playing with the SOCCKET ball during a 2013 trip to Africa.
The idea for the SOCCKET was inspired by a trip Matthews took to Nigeria to visit relatives. There she noticed how often the electricity went out, forcing people to use generators. “The fumes from the diesel generator were horrific,” Matthews told Forbes. “I was appalled that this was how people had to live.” She also saw how much kids loved playing football, creating balls from any materials they could find. It struck her that through an innovative ball, she could improve lives in multiple ways.
Uncharted Play isn’t limiting itself to football, though, having expanded its line of energy-collecting products with a jump rope called the PULSE. With every purchase, the company gives one child access to its play products and its Think Out of Bounds educational curriculum. Through the company’s UPlift 1 Million STEM initiative, Uncharted Play aims to have their products in the hands of at least 1 million kids by 2020. To learn more about Uncharted Play, its products, and how you can contribute to their UPlift Initiative, visit www.u-play.co.
Running for Water
Founded by former college track runners Dave Spandorfer and Mike Burnstein, Janji is an athletic apparel producer that donates a portion of the profit from each sale to help provide clean water for those in need all over the world. The two athletes started Janji, which means “promise” in Malay, after seeing just how necessary access to clean water was after competing in a race. They realized that not everyone in the world had such a luxury.
The company’s goal is to give runners an easy way to help fix that problem. All they have to do is make a purchase from Janji’s site. Janji partners with nonprofits and NGOs in each of the countries it donates to, and when shoppers view products on its site, they can easily tell where their money is going. For example purchase a pair of women’s black print running capris will provide one person in Tanzania with clean water for three years through MSABI. Currently, consumers can support clean-water initiatives in nine different countries. Janji has given the equivalent of 60,000 years of clean water to people around the world.
“We just got back from Kenya,” Spandorfer told The Venture. “In the area surrounding Iten, the running capital of the world, many kids still struggle to get easy access to clean water. That certainly hurts their running and, more importantly, their everyday life. We want to change that. Every piece of our apparel this fall is going toward helping give clean water to people in Kenya. That will empower more families and impact more individuals. We're excited to see what can happen.”
The Value of Bikes
Buffalo Bicycles is making it easier for people across Africa to get where they need to go. The company, a subsidiary of World Bicycle Relief, a non-profit organization with the goal of making bikes more accessible to people all over the world, sells some of the most durable bicycles on the market at affordable prices.
Using heavy-gauge steel, reinforced spokes and a rack that can carry over 200 pounds per load, Buffalo’s bikes offer a practical way to travel around some of Africa’s tougher terrain, providing their owners with a level of mobility they wouldn’t otherwise have.
The entire manufacturing process from design to assembly is done in Africa, with production facilities in Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia. Buffalo Bicycles also trains field mechanics in other areas of the continent, which helps provide hundreds of people with jobs.
And not only does Buffalo Bicycles create jobs in the traditional sense, but it also makes it easier for employees and entrepreneurs to travel to and from work, and transport goods and materials. This is of enormous value in Africa, which has a large youth population in search of work. The bicycles are also transforming lives of students. Among those who received bikes in Zambia, the organization found a 59% boost in academic performance and a 27 percent increase in attendance. All of Buffalo Bicycles’ profits are used to support World Bicycle Relief.
Built to Last
More 45 million people all over the world have already benefited from One World Play Project, which produces an ultra-durable football, known as the One World Futbol that never goes flat and never needs a pump. The ball is designed to withstand some of the world’s harshest climates and terrains in order to ensure that children everywhere have access to the beautiful game. Playing sports, according to One World Play, can help boost a child’s creativity, enhance their social competence and improve their physical and mental health.
One World Play sells its soccer balls for 39 Euro each, and for each one purchased, the company donates a ball to an organization that works with young people from disadvantaged areas.
Founder Tim Jahnigen got the idea for the One World Futbol in 2006 after seeing footage of a refugee camp on the news. He noticed that kids were playing with a makeshift soccer ball created from trash and twine. It inspired him to find a way to make football a far more accessible sport to children all over the world.
With help from a major sponsor, Chevrolet, One World Play’s soccer balls have already found their way around the globe.
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No endorsement or connection is meant between those featured in this article and Chivas.