Sports for Development at the IDB

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What is the IDB doing in sports?

Sports for Development at the IDB

Each year tens of thousands of Latin Americans drop out of school to take low-skilled jobs and across the region, one in five people between the ages of 15 and 24 years fall into the category of “NEETs”— those who neither work nor study. Given the proven ability of sports to engage, motivate, train, and retain youth in programs, the IDB is actively using sports to reach these young people and prepare them for a bright, productive future.

The IDB’s Sports for Development program utilizes sports as a vehicle for providing marginalized youth the tools to take optimal advantage of social and economic advancement opportunities. Results to date have demonstrated that sports can have a transformational effect in this context – improving the well-being of both project participants and their communities more broadly.

The program places special emphasis on imparting life skills including teamwork, discipline, self-esteem, and other values that improve employability. The transversal nature of these efforts has also allowed the IDB and its partners to achieve social and economic development benefits including conflict resolution, gender equity, violence prevention, education, health and wellness, and social inclusion.

To date, the IDB’s Sports for Development program has developed 17+ initiatives, benefiting more than 89,000 people across 18 countries.

Contact us:

To partner with the IDB on sports for development, reach out to the Office of Outreach and Partnerships at

Why use sports as a tool for development?

Why Use Sports as a Tool for Development?

Studies have proven that sports are an effective tool to motivate and train young people. In 2003, the United Nations Task Force on Sports for Development and Peace concluded that “sport offers a cost-effective tool to meet many development and peace challenges and help achieve the MDGs [the UN’s Millennium Development Goals].” That’s why since 2004, the IDB has been actively supporting, partnering with, and leading Sports for Development programs that facilitate the transfer of relevant skills from the playing field to the daily lives of children and youth, improving their capacities related to:

  • Communication
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Discipline
  • Health
  • Education
  • Respect
  • Self-Development
  • Teamwork
Do the IDB’s Sports for Development programs have particular areas of focus?

Do the IDB’s Sports for Development programs have particular areas of focus? 

In most cases, the IDB’s Sports for Development programs focus on four key areas:

  • Youth Development: The IDB uses sports to help youth develop transferable skills that improve their employability and enhance their access to job opportunities.
  • Health and Wellness: Sports programs directly improve fitness levels and emotional well-being, while also imparting valuable information to children and youth regarding nutrition, the ramifications of risky behavior, and more.
  • Social Inclusion: In addition to children and young people, sports are an effective tool for empowering marginalized groups including women, individuals with disabilities, and others while helping them integrate more fully into society and the economy.
  • Violence Prevention: The IDB has ample experience using sports as a tool for violence prevention, with programs teaching conflict resolution skills and helping children and youth find healthy outlets for behaviors that might otherwise lead to youth violence.
What are some concrete examples of the IDB’s work in sports?

Preparing Youth for Life
The IDB’s work on Sports for Development began in 2004 with the approval of the A Ganar  program. A pilot was initially launched in Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay and trained more than 3,200 young people between 2005 and 2009. Since its creation, A Ganar has taught participating youth values related to discipline, responsibility, teamwork, communication, and ambition that prepare them for both the workforce and life in general. Due to its success, A Ganar has been expanded and replicated across the region, reaching more than 12,000 youth in roughly a dozen countries. Project partners include AUSAID, Partners of the Americas, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Nike Foundation, the Carlos Slim Foundation. 

Sports as a Tool for Female Empowerment
The high altitude of El Alto, Bolivia never prevented boys from playing soccer, yet few schools in this community offered teams for girls. The Niñas Viviendo con Altura project addressed this discrepancy by providing 600 young girls in El Alto with the opportunity to participate in sports. The resulting sports program effectively strengthened girls’ leadership skills and self-esteem, while empowering them to exercise their rights and prevent violence against women. The program also worked with coaches, teachers, and parents to ensure greater gender equity across the community, reaching 3,000 indirect beneficiaries in the process. Project partners include Brightstar, Fundación Estas Vivo, Save the Children, Trilogy International Partners.

Improving Lives and Measuring Impact
Through an innovative public-private partnership, the IDB worked in Rio de Janeiro’s Complexo do Alemão to strengthen skills and change behavior in at-risk children and youth. The IDB invested more than 30% of project resources into a monitoring and evaluation component that reflected 100% participant, family, and educator satisfaction as well as a 100% perception of positive changes among these same groups. The project’s private sector partners contributed both financial resources and key expertise that proved valuable in generating results related to education, health, and violence prevention for more than 330 children and adolescents between the ages of five and 16. Project partners include the Colgate, Fundaciò FC Barcelona, Municipality of Rio de Janeiro, NBA, VISA, with support from the Government of Japan.


Join us!

Join us!

At the IDB, we recognize that governments, foundations, the private sector, and others have a critical role to play in enhancing Sports for Development efforts. Let’s work together.

To date, the IDB has worked with the following entities on Sports for Development projects:

  • AVSI
  • Brightstar Corp.
  • Carlos Slim Foundation
  • Clinton Foundation
  • Colombianitos
  • FIFA
  • Fundaciò FC Barcelona
  • Fundación Celeste
  • Fundación Atlético de Madrid
  • Fundación Leo Messi
  • Fundación Mundo Sano
  • Fundación Rafa Marquez
  • Fundación Real Madrid
  • Gates Foundation
  • Haitian Olympic Committee
  • International Olympic Committee (IOC)
  • Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr.
  • Japan Government
  • MTV
  • NBA
  • NIKE
  • NIKE Foundation
  • Organizing Committee for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games
  • Partners of the Americas
  • PepsiCo
  • Secretaria Municipal de Esporte e Lazer do Rio de Janeiro (SMEL)
  • South Korean Government
  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Trilogy International
  • University of Michigan – Ross School of Business
  • VISA
  • WPP