What is your signature innovation, your new idea, in one sentence?
GRS combines the power of soccer with innovative educational activities, empowering a youth-led movement for a 100% stigma-free Africa and no new HIV infections.
Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?
<br>1. <b>Engagement of professional soccer players</b>- Behavior change is essential to disrupt Africa's devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic. Role models, experiential education, and community involvement are all cornerstones to behavior change (Social Learning Theory). Thus, GRS engages professional African soccer players as role models - delivering the curriculum in adolescent-targeted educational interventions. Following each intervention, students demonstrate their new knowledge in graduation ceremonies held during soccer matches. Graduates also receive a copy of "Extra Time," an HIV/AIDS workbook that doubles as a colorful, compelling soccer magazine.<br>
2. <b>Research and evaluation</b>- GRS prides itself on conducting thorough scientific evaluations that extensively study the impact of our programs. Moreover, GRS is the first organization to publish an academic article in the Sport for Development field.<br>
3. <b>Scale through sharing, networking, and consultation</b>- Rather than re-inventing GRS in different places as we expand, we provide training and technical assistance for local organizations and projects to help them adopt the GRS model effectively. We’ve provided these services in 11 countries throughout Africa and are expanding rapidly.
What are the existing barriers, the biggest problem, your innovation is hoping to address/change?
Of the 33 million people infected worldwide with HIV, 22.5 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. In three of GRS's locations (Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa), 600,000 people died of AIDS in 2005, nearly three million children live as AIDS orphans, and roughly one in five adults is infected with the virus. Today, one half of all new HIV infections occur among youth aged 15-24. Young Africans lack the knowledge and skills necessary to make responsible decisions that could save their lives.
Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing?
GRS trains educators (coaches, teachers, aid workers, professional soccer players, etc.) to deliver an innovative, sports-based curriculum that empowers youth with the knowledge, social support, and life skills they need to live HIV-free. Consisting of 16 sessions, including games, dramas, and other dynamic activities, the curriculum encourages open discussion on decision-making, stigma, and risk reduction.<br>
In Zimbabwe, GRS directly delivers the curriculum in public schools. In many other African countries - including South Africa, Zambia, Sudan, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Lesotho - GRS partners with NGOs to start successful programs by providing technical assistance through training, curriculum and project design, and systems for monitoring and evaluation. Some current partners include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in South Africa, Mercy Corps in Liberia/Sudan, and the International Organization of Migration in Botswana.
How do you plan to grow your innovation?
GRS has developed a model and methodology that is effective, replicable, and scalable. The greatest contribution that we make is providing HIV prevention training for existing agencies/organizations, while facilitating the design and management process. We plan to continue to expand our program by linking with like-minded organizations with capacity to help the project reach scale and remain sustainable. We anticipate that this will involve a combination of government agencies (particularly, Ministries of Education), community based organizations, corporate partners, and large NGOs.
<br>GRS has already proven its ability to do this effectively. The next step for GRS as an organization is to build its infrastructure, maximizing our capacity to continue to provide quality services at a larger scale, evaluate our interventions’ effectiveness, and develop innovative ways to use football as a tool for fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.