International Olympic Committee celebrates most successful YCM+ cycle yet
A social enterprise scheme launched in 2016, the Young Change Makers+ (YCM+) initiative encourages young people to make a life-changing impact in their local communities by promoting social inclusion, gender equality and education through sport.
Applications for the third cycle of the YCM+ programme opened in spring 2018, with a record 42 projects selected by the IOC. Supported by a grant of up to CHF 5,000 from the IOC over the past 12 months, YCM+s have been delivering ambitious and transformative projects in countries as diverse as Lebanon, New Zealand, Senegal, Croatia, Turkey and Brazil.
Among the initiatives were Babacar Dieng’s efforts to increase social inclusion for children in social care in Senegal, while Mirjana Ivkovic focused on the integration of refugees in her native Serbia through sport. In Panama, Carolina Joly launched “Move To Improve”, aimed at empowering survivors of domestic abuse through boxing classes, while Olga Ponomar-Becker’s project was an anti-doping message for young Russian athletes ahead of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018. In Singapore, Rania Rahardja introduced wheelchair fencing.
Dieng’s project began in November 2018. In collaboration with five National Federations – basketball, fencing, swimming, table tennis and karate – he successfully delivered free sports sessions to more than 140 disadvantaged Senegalese children. “My ambition is to sow in these children the joy of life through sport, and to instil in them the values necessary to succeed in life,” he said. “I hope we can teach them that the flame that burns in them is strong enough to help them reach the highest levels.”
Importance of integration
Entitled “Hi5HappyCaravan”, Ivkovic’s initiative was designed to help break down potential barriers between Serbs and refugees in the country. Based around five refugee centres and run by volunteers, the project brought together young Serbians and refugees for football and cricket matches.
Joly’s “Move To Improve” scheme was aimed at helping some of the estimated 15,000 women who annually suffer abuse and domestic violence in Panama. The women were able to try boxing, fencing and taekwondo with the help of volunteers from the three respective National Federations.
Ponomar-Becker was a YCM at YOG Najing 2014 and, four years later, launched her educational “YOG For Clean Sport” scheme in Moscow. “I think that now it is very important to protect our young generation by providing them with a holistic education around the topic of anti-doping and Olympism,” she said. “Information means empowerment. The idea was to create a zone where the kids could learn about the serious topics in the form of games and using new technologies.” Over 300 young Russian athletes got involved with the anti-doping presentation.
A competitor in the épée event at the inaugural YOG Singapore 2010, Rahardja’s YCM+ project was inspired by the hope of producing athletes to compete at the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. “I wanted to spread my passion for fencing to as many people as possible,” she said. “I was inspired by witnessing wheelchair and able-bodied athletes train together at my fencing club in London. I realised athletes with disabilities in Singapore needed more opportunity to fence.”
Mentoring the next generation
To enhance the leadership pathway through the programme, the IOC organised a mentorship workshop in May this year to help ensure the success of the next cycle of YCMs. Staged in Olympia (Greece), the event saw four YCMs who have successfully delivered their own social projects thanks to seed-funding from the IOC – Chile’s Josefina Salas, Brazil’s Pedro Cavazzoni, Ukraine’s Vera Perenderii and Guatemala’s Gabriela Matus Bonilla – learn about social business and community-building. The event was run by the IOC and the Yunus Sports Hub, the company set up by Nobel Prize-winning social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus, and designed to enable the quartet to mentor a new generation of YCMs.
The IOC announced in May 2019 that the number of YCMs within its commissions had increased to 16, up from seven in 2018. The move honoured a commitment by IOC President Thomas Bach at the Youth Summit in Tokyo last December. “It is crucial to give a voice to young people if we want to stay relevant,” said President Bach. “Their level of commitment in their respective communities across the world is an inspiration for all of us.”
The application process for the new YCM+ cycle opened in May, with the successful applicants to be announced in July.
For the second year running, the IOC is delighted to welcome the support of TOP Partner Panasonic, whose generosity has made it possible to expand the YCM+ programme.