Episode 40:

Sport Matters—For Everyone, For Life

Date released: February 2013. Updated September 2017

Partners: Sport Matters, Jackie Lauff, Curtis Palmer

Sport Matters is a new and dynamic organisation that is set to make a real dent in the world. Driven by a young yet experienced team they are a non-profit organisation dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives using sport as a tool for development in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and Indigenous Australia. In episode 40 we catch up with Chief Executive Officer Jackie Lauff and new team member Curtis Palmer.

stacks_image_1It’s a great pleasure today to introduce you to Sport Matters. Sport Matters is out there making a difference in people’s lives using sport as a tool for development. They are doing some fascinating and important work. We were fortunate to catch up with co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jackie Lauff and new team member Curtis Palmer recently on a visit to Canberra. You can see the interview below. Jackie, with co-founder Liesl Tesch, started Sport Matters in September 2011. They have passion, expertise and a strong commitment to improving lives using sport. Together with Curtis, they make a powerful and experienced team. They understand inclusion and the impact that sport can have for people with disability—particularly in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. In the interview below you will hear about Sport Matters and what they do. What we didn’t really have time to explore in the interview—and is really worth exploring a bit more—is how Sport Matters delivers it’s core functions through something they call the IMPACT Toolkit. There are lessons here for anyone interested or involved in development projects. But first, have a look at the interview with Jackie and Curtis. Then we’ll dive a little into the IMPACT Toolkit.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”

Nelson Mandela

The IMPACT Toolkit

The IMPACT Toolkit is an acronym that stands for Innovation, Measurement, Partnerships, Advocacy, Capacity building, Technical assistance. Let’s have a brief look at each part of the IMPACT Toolkit. You can think of the IMPACT Toolkit as a framework—a way of approaching work that acts as a blueprint for the Sports Matters team. It’s a smart approach.


It goes without saying really, but work in environments where there are different cultures and contexts, and where there are limited resources, requires significant innovation. What Sport Matters does really well is listen to the needs of the local community and partners, then respond in an innovative way where strategies are geared to local needs. Strategies are not pre-determined, rather, they are generated by the community and by the people who are ultimately responsible for making things happen.


If you don’t have effective measurement strategies you can’t know if what you are doing is meeting it’s objectives. This is true for any type of project or program. Naturally, the challenge here is making sure that what you are trying to achieve is clear and that your measurement tools actually do measure what the objectives are. This is sometimes easier said than done.


A very important aspect of what Sports Matters does is foster and facilitate partnerships between community organisations, aid and development groups and the sport sector. Again, this can sometimes be easier said than done but they are absolutely critical when dealing with such diverse partners. Needless to say there is a fair amount of compromise and negotiation. The Inclusion Club—Episode40 Chart


Sport is a great vehicle to showcase the benefits of inclusion. It’s perfect for demonstrating community development and capacity building. But we can’t take this for granted or assume that others understand this in the same way. So, Sport Matters makes it part of their Toolkit to make sure that they advocate strongly for sport as a development tool. It’s a good lesson for all of us—not to forget that not everyone is on the ‘same page’ and that sometimes we need to take on the advocacy role as a part of what we do.

Capacity building

Capacity building is all about empowering the local community to take control of their own destiny. The strategies that Sport Matters help facilitate and deliver focus on developing knowledge, skills and attitudes of the community. A key to this is building in sustainability. If programs are not sustainable. If they are ‘one-off,’ then they will not build the capacity of the community to continue to use sport as a tool for development in the future. Again, this is a key aspect of how inclusion works—being part of the broader development goals—yet reliant on how sustainable projects are in the long term.

Technical assistance

Finally, Sport Matters offer a range of technical assistance that are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of their work. This includes delivery of professional development programs for staff, sport for development audits and assistance with the design and implementation of strategies that are delivered locally. Jackie, Liesl and Curtis have considerable expertise across many areas here. They have their own skills and experiences to bring to the table. They have credibility and they have passion for what they do. All this is important to have when delivering technical assistance. The IMPACT Toolkit would be an excellent framework to use for a range of projects—not only in the sport for development field. It’s well thought out and covers all the essential hallmarks of an effective project. If you want to find out more about the work of Sport Matters then their website is a good place to start. We are sure they would love to hear from you. The Inclusion Club—Episode40 Sport Matters Website Do pay them a visit. Thanks to Jackie, Liesl and Curtis and keep up the great work. As ever—if you are new here—please consider subscribing if you would like more content like this. And leave a comment—what do you think of the IMPACT Toolkit?


About the author: Peter Downs

About the author: Peter Downs

Founding Director - The Inclusion Club

Peter is Founding Director of The Inclusion Club and Manager of Play by the Rules – a national initiative to promote safe, fair and inclusive sport. Peter has worked for over 25 years in the field of inclusive sport, disability sport and physical activity including 17 years managing the Australian Sports Commission’s Disability Sport Unit.  In 2013 Peter was fortunate enough to receive a Churchill Fellowship to study models of best practice in inclusive sport and physical activity.