The Impact of A Ganar: Q&A with Sport for Development Director Paul Teeple

A Ganar (Vencer in Brazil) is a youth workforce development program wrapped up in a soccer ball. By utilizing soccer and other team sports to help youth in Latin America, ages 16-24, find jobs, learn entrepreneurial skills, or re-enter the formal education system, A Ganar combats the serious problem of youth unemployment.

Here, Paul Teeple, Partners' Sport for Development Director, answers a few important questions about A Ganar and its innovative approach. Read on!

What are some of the top milestones in the life of A Ganar? 

A Ganar has served over 14,000 youth since it began in 2005. It has expanded from a three country pilot to establishing programs in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries. The A Ganar curriculum was created and then adapted for use in 5 different languages. Of the youth who begin the program, approximately 69% of them complete all phases of the 7-9 trainings and over 75% of those graduates find jobs, go back to school or start a business within one year. A Ganar has been recognized as a best practice by USAID and the ILO, has won awards and has been presented in international conferences in London, Lima, Seoul, Beijing, Belo Horizonte, Mexico City, New York and Washington.

Over the past 10 years, the sport-for-development field has matured and is now taken much more seriously by development organizations, corporations and other donors.  Through the work of A Ganar, Partners has contributed to this, helping sport-based programs of all sizes learn lessons from A Ganar and find funding for their own initiatives.

How has A Ganar played an important role in the development of Partners as an organization?

Since the early days of Partners of the Americas, sport has been an important development tool for the organization. However, those programs were too sporadic to become a sustained organizational initiative. Through A Ganar, Partners has established credibility world-wide as major player in the sport-for-development field. Furthermore, Partners has been able to sustain A Ganar for almost 10 years and has used the know-how and contacts generated through A Ganar to support other programs and fund new sport-based exchange programs.

A Ganar is the first program at Partners to develop its own logo incorporating the Partners' name and logo within it. By doing this, Partners allowed A Ganar to grow but also linked that growth and program success back to the parent organization. As the A Ganar brand grew, the Partners’ brand grew simultaneously.

Finally, A Ganar has led the way to the diversification of funding sources and alliances to support Partners' programs. Since its founding, has helped attract new donors such as the Nike Foundation, the Clinton Guistra Enterprise Partnership, the Carlos Slim Foundation, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, FIFA, the Government of Barbados, Kosmos Energy, and others, but it has also worked with traditional donors such as USAID and the Inter-American Development Bank.

How has A Ganar helped to advance the mission of Partners as an organization? 

Partners' tagline to “connect, serve, change lives” is present in what A Ganar does every day. The program uses soccer to connect with youth both by attracting youth to the program, but more importantly by helping youth connect with each other and connect with adults they can trust. These adults help guide youth to address the challenges in their lives and help them dream of a better future.

We serve by attending to the needs of youth through vocational training, and equipping youth to serve the needs of their own communities. An important part of being a well-rounded person and employee is knowing that you can and should serve others. Likewise, adult mentors serve youth by volunteering to help guide them through the process. A Ganar integrates service throughout the program experience.

What do you hope the next 50 years will bring for A Ganar and Partners?

We hope that Partners will be able to grow and fund successful programs such as A Ganar without the need for large outside donor funding related to grants. A Ganar is popular and it works. But A Ganar needs to be able to offer its know-how to others, to grow and to expand wherever communities are interested without being dependent upon a major donor deciding whether or not that community fits their strategic plans.

Any final thoughts?:

There are far too many young people who do not have access to training and educational opportunities.  They are often school dropouts, frustrated with traditional systems and made to feel that they have nothing to offer and nothing to gain by being involved, engaged, connected. A Ganar uses sport to connect with those people and in turn help connect them to their families, their communities and with employers. Those same young people are transforming their communities: one person, one family, one block at a time. The “magic” of sport is used to “connect and educate” but the real magic comes from the outstanding program staff who labor daily in many of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, and the youth themselves who find something to believe in and work to make their lives, homes and communities better. 

Learn more about A Ganar here.