“Sometimes it takes a different kind of organization to make a difference,” writes Paul Jurbala athlete, coach and organizational development consultant.  One such entity is Sport Matters Group (SMG), an unincorporated, “un-organization.”

SMG emerged from a series of brown bag luncheons hosted by Victor Lachance (Canadian Centre for Ethics and Sports) for the various sports players and leaders across the country. They believed sport and recreation was an important medium for community engagement and healthy living

They understood the value of working together particularly to influence Canadian sport policy but wanted to maintain the integrity of their respective organizations.  They were wary of creating and paying for a traditional type of national body that might eventually lose touch with its membership and centralize power and authority.  Reflecting its brown bag roots, SMG is not formally constituted, has a staff of two under the creative leadership of Ian Bird, who is Senior Leader, not CEO or Executive Director.  They use rental space donated by a member organization. Member organizations also handle all other infrastructure costs such as finances, administering grants and website support. They do not accept government funding and rise or fall based on their ability to collaborate.

Sport Matters Group is clear, it not only about the policy work they do but HOW they work together.  As their website attests. “SMG is a place where leaders connect with one another, where we address cross-cutting issues together, and where we innovate in finding solutions to complex issues involving sport systems, governments and citizens. Sport Matters is about more than what we do together – it is also about how we work with one another. SMG operates through an open platform that invites voluntary contributions of time, expertise, resources, and ideas – all to be applied collectively to achieve common goals. Some might describe SMG as an open-source sport policy community.”

They may be 'un'-organized but they are definitely not disorganized.  Ian is seldom in his office haunting the halls of federal departments, hanging out in budget lockups and convening meetings of sports leaders.  SMG successes include: a national Sports and Recreation Infrastructure Fund worth half a Billion dollars; tax incentives to promote the fitness of young Canadians and a Working Together initiative which brings nine Federal Departments together to reinforce the diverse impacts and benefits of sports.  Strikingly, these successes are not 'owned' by Sport Matters Group but by all partners.  No room for ego and territoriality at SMG.

Liz Mulholland in the latest issue of the Philanthropist observes, Sport Matters Group “has effectively reshaped Canada’s sport policy landscape, transformed the way the sport sector sees itself, and seeded a wide range of innovation initiatives in the sport sector. "

Sports Matters Group is further evidence of a dawning awareness that the successful advocates of the future will be the innovators and outside the box thinkers.

NOTE: Download The_Sport_Matters_Group_final_July_21_2010 a thoughtful paper on Sport Matters Group's approach to 'un'organizing.  A model well worth considering for other non profits who have lost their advocacy way.

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