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IF Only…

by Debbie Lye, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012

This weekend I am heading to Loughborough to join the Youth Sport Trust’s Inclusive Futures Camp. The camp will focus on the 3 themes of Challenging Perceptions, Increasing Participation and Inclusive Provision. Importantly, with its talented workforce of 120 young leaders managed by 8 city co-ordinators from across the UK, it will demonstrate that a more inclusive world need not be just be a dream.

Spirit of 2012 is a charitable Trust set up by the Big Lottery Fund to carry forward the spirit of achievement and national and community pride that lit up the nation that amazing summer of 2012. 

We do this by funding organisations to offer projects that carry on, reinvent and sustain that spirit right across the UK. I am pleased that Inclusive Futures was one of the first projects Spirit of 2012 agreed to support, because the Youth Sport Trust’s leadership programmes and the pioneering work they have done in the field of disability sport are hugely respected across the world.

Inclusive Futures is a great fit for Spirit’s mission because it meets our top priorities of challenging and changing the predominant perceptions of disabled people, and of increasing participation in both sport and volunteering. Best of all Inclusive Futures brings together disabled people and non-disabled people as a team to lead and manage events and school and community activities.

It provides a model of what a more enlightened society could be like, one where we really are challenging limiting perceptions and recognising that we can’t afford to ignore the talents of everybody. Inclusive Futures is about opening doors and broadening horizons. It is walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

The acronym of Inclusive Futures is IF. I love that idea. Just reflect for a moment - ‘If’ is one of those words we use 100 times a day without even noticing it. Yet stop and think about it: that little ‘if’ word opens up big visions of possibility and potential.

For those of us who are idealists, “IF only we lived in a better world” is a dream we all share. The great thing about Inclusive Futures is that it empowers people to turn dreams of a better tomorrow into today’s tangible reality.

A very vivid example of this for me is my visit to the Sainsbury’s 2014 School Games in Manchester last September. It was so impressive to walk into a sports hall and see young disabled people taking a lead in guiding, helping and advising, rather than being treated as unable even to help themselves, let alone support others. That is true empowerment. 

Back to this weekend. The 120 young IF leaders have a terrific opportunity to learn from the trainers, wonderful IF ambassadors –  including Kate Grey, Stephen Miller and Adam Mould – and from each other. They will share their ideas and dreams and to develop their action plans to Challenge Perceptions, Increase Participation and Inclusive Provision in their cities and communities.

It is terrific to see the pledge that London 2012 would ‘inspire a generation’ being honoured, sustained and creatively developed by the Youth Sport Trust, by the eight IF host organisations and by the dedicated young leaders. I hope that this will be a very happy and productive weekend at the beginning of a long future of inclusive leadership. 

Spirit of 2012 will be watching and monitoring the programme’s development with great interest. An important part of our mission is to develop a bank of knowledge about how events can be a catalyst for social change. If the successors of these pioneering IF co-ordinators and volunteers are still trailblazing inclusive ways for young people to participate in sport and society a generation on from now, that would be a truly amazing 2012 legacy. 

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