Page last updated at 22:31 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 23:31 UK

Netball aims to change Indian lives

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Participants in the Goal netball programme
The Goal netball programme currently takes place in Delhi and Mumbai

Sport attracts more than its fair share of bad headlines, as does the world of business, but in India the two are coming together to help change the lives of poverty-afflicted youngsters.

Netball has teamed up with global bank Standard Chartered, to use sport to promote self-confidence, communication skills, health and hygiene, and financial literacy.

It is targeted at girls in Mumbai and Delhi, aged between 14 and 19, and from families earning less than $2 a day.

The "Goal" programme also has an economic empowerment component - with a loan scheme fund to help girls achieve their professional ambitions.

Volunteer workers

"Goal uses netball and life skills education to transform the lives of young and underprivileged girls in India, on and off the court," says Standard Chartered bank.

STANDARD CHARTERED GOAL PROGRAMME
2006: Pilot in Delhi with 70 girls
2008: Expands into Mumbai, 360 girls in total participating
2009: Planned extension to Chennai (Madras), to reach 1,500 girls in total
2010: Scheme to reach 2,500 girls, roll-out to other markets
Participants are aged between 14 and 19
Girls come from families that earn less than $2 a day

The bank initiative is run in partnership with local and international NGOs, and the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA).

"Standard Chartered does a lot, they provide a full-time worker for the project, who works on handling the programme," Urvasi Naidoo, chief executive of IFNA, told the BBC.

"They also use their staff from Indian offices to volunteer on the project as well.

"Standard Chartered wanted to engage their staff to make them aware of corporate social responsibility, and to take a role in this."

Corporate social responsibility, or CSR, is about how businesses align their values and behaviour with the expectations and needs of stakeholders - not just customers and investors, but society as a whole.

After coming to the forefront in the world of sports business a couple of years ago, high-profile programmes have been less visible recently as firms have to justify every pound they spend.

'Development programme'

The Goal programme is an example of a scheme which empowers those taking part, increases the profile of what is classed as a minority sport, and brings benefit to the business backer.

"We were looking for a partner for our development programme, and were brought together with Standard Chartered," says Ms Naidoo.

"They wanted to choose India as the base for our programme, as they have branches all over the world, and India is one of their largest markets.

Netball coaching
The Goal participants receive netball coaching and education

"We were slightly reluctant because netball is not such a big sport there, compared to countries like Zambia or other African nations.

"However, having said that, the project has been great for us in terms of development for netball, and we really want to expand into Asia."

Goal is a collaborative initiative that links the private and NGO sectors, such as Naz Foundation India Trust and The Population Centre.

Standard Chartered provides financial investment, management support, and a network of employee volunteers in India, who write the curriculum, deliver netball and education systems, and mentor the girls.

"What happens is - they come to the netball, that is the catalyst for bringing them together," says Ms Naidoo.

"There is curriculum material they have to go through to get through the Goal programme."

Survival

Once girls get through the programme they are invited to become Goal "champions" - trained to deliver the programme themselves, and allowing the programme to grow.

Standard Chartered is very keen to roll out the programme, and to expand into other countries as well as into other Indian cities, despite the current uncertain global economy.

Now we have realised that our life is not just limited to washing clothes, washing utensils, and cooking
Goal programme participant

"I think sporting corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes can survive the current economic climate, but it depends on the context," says Ms Naidoo.

"It can be as little or as much as you want it to be.

"At the lower level they will survive, even if it means some projects might have to be scaled down a bit so that they survive, and can then be taken back up again when things improve."

'Be honest'

But when times do improve, sport and business will have to look very closely at what their CSR roles actually involve, says someone at the sharp end of delivering programmes that work.

Former NBA star and sports development leader John Amaechi
Sporting ambassador and social entreprenuer John Amaechi

According to former NBA basketball star, TV personality, and psychologist John Amaechi, businesses cannot get involved in sport CSR merely as a marketing ploy, or as a substitute for other social actions.

"If you are trying to sell more training shoes, be honest about it, don't pretend that it is a CSR initiative," says Mr Amaechi, who also runs his own basketball school in Manchester.

"We like to believe that sport is a panacea. We like to think that if we inject it into a neighbourhood - an urban neighbourhood - then the graffiti will disappear and fat children will miraculously become thin."

And he said that while sport could help people "realise their value", it could also "teach exclusion".

'Invigorate skills'

But he believes that the 2012 Olympic Games in London, for which he is an ambassador, can be harnessed to create a benefit for local people in the east of the city.

"Let's use the Olympics to enhance their quality and opportunities, to invigorate their skills, with volunteering before and during it with something that will be useful on their CVs," he says.

"It is about human capital needs, not about capital builds."

And he says that businesses that back sport should not feel they can simply pump money into schemes without thinking whether they will work properly.

"I know that they [sports backers] are not necessarily the people who pick the coaches, but they are the people who fund the initiatives," he says.

"Let's make sure that there is thought put into this so that their money is spent on something well chosen."

Meanwhile, the Goal programme continues in India, as it seeks to give its participants a better chance in life.

"Now we have realised that our life is not just limited to washing clothes, washing utensils, and cooking," says one of the participants in the netball and educational programme.



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