Social Innovation: Mixing a passion for sport and technology

by Steven Talevski

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This is a familiar story across sport and non-for-profit organisations. Volunteers, insufficient skill sets and the demand for more from the community has increased pressure to those working in the industry.

If you know me well, you will understand my passion for sport, technology and innovation.

Since my teenage years, I have been giving back to the community in more ways than one. Through my local soccer club, and various writing opportunities, sport has been at the core of my passion – while technology and innovation has been fostered through my higher education and now professional experiences.

Using my passion for sport

I joined the Keilor Wolves Soccer Club’s executive when I was 20 and within two years I became one of Football Victoria’s youngest Presidents. On the outside, it looked bright – I had secured multi-million-dollar facility redevelopments with local governments, expanded junior and female programs, began to digitise the club, won a series of championships and became the face of the community.

However, only those close to me understood the challenges faced by working as a volunteer for a community organisation. There was a lack of volunteers, endless nights spent planning, enormous time spent recruiting new players and coaches, trouble integrating local businesses and partners with the club and pre-existing financial debt.

The pressure was overwhelming, not just for who the young professional I had become – but for the leader, I was growing into.

Thankfully for me, those challenges were also opportunities – a new set of volunteers with the right skills were inspired to help build a successful eco-system of partners and local businesses, and the pressures of debt disappeared into thin air.

However, some of those challenges continued to persist even now that I have stepped aside including a lack of volunteers, long nights planning and the need to maintain growth.

This is a familiar story across sport and non-for-profit organisations. Volunteers, insufficient skill sets and the demand for more from the community has increased pressure to those working in the industry.

Lessons from my first hackathon

After I stepped down from the executive of my local soccer club, I decided to enter my first hackathon – the Sports Tech Cup in Melbourne.

There I worked alongside an Insights & Data Consultant, Matthew Dougherty, together with three university students who we had just met. We developed a functioning prototype using a series of data hacks and design thinking. Our solution helped an AFL coach select a midfielder out of the draft combine that best suits his team needs.

In 24 hours, we had gone from a group of strangers to a team developing the winning idea. Using a human-centred approach we began the process with building a How Might We statement to understand the problem hidden behind the challenge.

Once we understood the problem, we built a low-fidelity prototype using sharpies and paper to quickly ideate and refine an end-to-end solution. Dividing and conquering the build during a small time-frame, we used individual expertise to get our paper idea to a functioning prototype which we presented to the wider group and a series of experts.

This process taught me a few things including how a shared passion, by a multi-functional team, using human-centred design, can create innovative ideas. It also inspired me to explore the opportunities to help solve some of the issues I had encountered in the past within community sport.

Social Innovation

What’s next?

Since then I have decided to join the Social Innovators, Capgemini Australia’s new practice. The practice is dedicated to providing strategic and Technology consulting services to Not-For-Profit organisations to support good causes, and to for-profit organisations with a strong social or sustainable purpose.

With the Social Innovators, I will be focusing on how to support organisations (particularly in the sports sector) that have gone through similar issues as I have encountered by using a human centred approach to develop social and sustainable innovation.

If you’d like to have a chat about what I have done or more about the social innovators – feel free to reach out and we’ll grab a coffee.

Until next time, go the mighty Wolves.

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