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  • Soccer Without Borders

Introducing Soccer Without Borders Seattle

Soccer Without Borders (SWB) is pleased to announce the addition of its newest program: SWB Seattle. The Seattle program will open in partnership with the Seattle World School in March 2018, beginning practices and games with newcomer refugee and immigrant youth this Spring.

Seattle World School (SWS) is a public school for newcomer students ages 11-20, serving over 230 students in 2016-2017 and growing still. First designed solely as an orientation center for newcomer refugee and immigrant students to learn to navigate their new city as well as build English language skills, the SWS has since gained accreditation at the high school level to retain and graduate students. The school identified soccer as the after-school program that students request most, but one they have struggled to find resources for and sustain, despite repeated efforts by individual teachers and staff to get it going.

Now in our 11th year, Soccer Without Borders uses soccer as a vehicle for inclusion, supporting newcomer refugee and immigrant youth to reach their full potential. In the last year, our programs in the United States and abroad served youth from more than 59 countries who speak 29 languages. Our program model is year-round and team-based, building bridges across cultures, religions, language barriers, and ethnicities by amplifying what young people have in common, on the field and off. With our complementary skills and aligned goals, the partnership between Soccer Without Borders and the Seattle World School is a natural fit.

With global displacement affecting more than 65 million people worldwide, Soccer Without Borders has received requests to open new program sites on a near daily basis. The demand for programming is clear, yet replicating and scaling social impact takes much more than a need; it requires a thoughtful and measured approach, ensuring that the tools and strategies that work in one context can be transferred to another. It takes careful planning to ensure that the attention on a new program doesn’t lead to a loss of quality elsewhere, or new inefficiencies and strain across the whole organization. To be sure, it also requires the right leadership, the right partnerships, and an invitation to ensure that we are welcomed by the community we aim to serve.

The launch of Soccer Without Borders Seattle was made possible by the alignment of these pieces, and fortuitous timing of a unique investment: the Lipman Family Prize for Social Impact and Innovation from the Wharton School of Business. According to the Lipman Prize Director Umi Howard, “We want the Lipman Family Prize to be a game-changer for our honorees, so we can show the world what’s possible when we equip cutting-edge change-makers to build on and expand promising solutions.” After winning the $250,000 prize in 2016, we knew quickly that we would reserve a portion of the prize to test our ability to replicate the full SWB model in a city. But the path to get there was not so simple.

The Lipman Prize set in motion a series of investments over the last two years to further define and evaluate our program model, strengthen our organizational infrastructure, and outline the location and partnership criteria to ensure a good fit. The possibility of expansion would not be solely about the new location, but rather serve as a catalyst to make Soccer Without Borders’ programs higher quality and more sustainable for all.

As we readied the organization for a new family member, we knew that there is little that can replace the understanding, motivation, and passion felt by a local leader. For SWB Seattle Director Lindsey Whitford, after 7 years with Soccer Without Borders in Boston and Nicaragua, including serving as SWB Boston Director for 5 years, this program launch is a coming home. A Seattle-native with a deep understanding of what makes the SWB model effective across contexts, Lindsey is excited and ready to introduce her hometown to SWB. After completing a certificate program in Social Impact from Wharton in 2017- another benefit of the Lipman Family Prize- Lindsey headed to Seattle.

We’d like to thank everyone who has already welcomed Soccer Without Borders to Seattle, including Davis, Wright, and Tremaine LLC for hosting our Program Leaders Training, KEEN Footwear and Whole Foods for making our launch event possible, and everyone who has offered their insight and support. We look forward to Spring programming and continuing to grow our investment in King County to better meet the needs of newcomer youth and families.

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