Together: Building a United Community is a Northern Ireland Executive strategy which aims to help both Government and the wider community work towards improving relations and building a united society. The key priorities for this strategy are related to children & young people, providing safe shared communities and all people being given the opportunity to express their culture.
As part of an ongoing commitment to this strategy, in 2015 the then Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure and Sport NI announced an Improving Good Relations programme. The programme saw investment of £281,768 from the Department, managed by Sport NI, into creating opportunities for local sports clubs to undertake good relations training, which was delivered by the Belfast Community Sports Development Network (BCSDN). The workshops used a variety of games and activities to demonstrate to volunteers how they can convey good relations messages during coaching sessions. Every club that had at least two volunteers attending the training received a multi-sports kit bag of equipment including balls, cones, whistles, an orienteering pack, a parachute pack and a rugby coaching junior pack. The packs enabled clubs to take the ideas and activities from the training and begin to deliver these with their own clubs and local communities.
The Improving Good Relations through Sport programme saw significant success and impacted a variety of sports clubs throughout Northern Ireland. 468 volunteers were provided with good relations training at 18 workshops across Northern Ireland, with 224 TBUC kit bags distributed to clubs.
Overall, 38 different types of sport club were provided with training and equipment through this programme, from sports as wide-ranging as American Football, Roller Sports, Boccia and Triathlon. The allocation of kit bags was initially dictated by the size of population in each of the council areas across Northern Ireland.
The response from attendees was overwhelmingly positive – of those who were surveyed following the programme, 98% of attendees said they had found the workshops informative and 98% also said their club felt better equipped to foster good relations following the programme. 97% of those who responded felt that sport had a positive role to play in fostering good relations and all said they felt equality of opportunity and good relations would improve participation levels (37% suggesting there would be a good increase and 21% suggesting a significant increase).
Sport NI and the Department for Communities continue to support the implementation of good relations programmes and hope to continue to see sport making a difference across communities in Northern Ireland.