Magnambougou’s basketball field
In 2019 together with other (local) organisations, ISA invested in a new 3×3 basketball field to create a safe space for the youth and children in the community of Magnambougou in Bamako, Mali.
Currently, more than 70 percent of the total population in Mali is younger than 39 years old. Within their communities, young people face many difficulties: the lack of drinking water, electricity, adequate youth sport spaces and criminality.
A lack of (civic) space is often an issue in large, fast-urban areas. Having this space, however, is no less important for the local community. With the help of ISA, over the last five years, the community members, coaches and youth in Magnambougou have committed themselves to creating safe spaces for the youth and children. After observing and receiving the backing of the community, ISA decided to invest in a 3×3 basketball field for the community. The most important aspect for this field, is that it should not become an ISA field, but should be developed, built and maintained by the community itself. For ISA, the main objectives of this project was not only to create an adequate sports space for inclusive participation of youth in sports, but to go a step beyond and create a space for passion, spark and pursuit. To make the voices of young people heard on issues that concerns them. Different activities for positive youth development are organised in and around the community field, which have helped increase (girls’) participation and given the youth a place to speak up and share their thoughts.
ISA chose to invest in the sports field of Warima, a former ISA coach. He did not own the field, but due to being well connected in the community, he was able to make sure that the field benefited community. The existing sports field was damaged and unusable, partially due to heavy rains. The decision to invest in a new sports field for the community of Magnambougou, was based on Warima’s outstanding efforts to empower the youth in his community.
ISA has developed the field together with the community, using the expertise of artist Shon Price to develop some designs based on local ideas. The youth from the community brought in ideas for the field and picked out the final design of the field themselves. One of the key aspects for ISA, was that the field be developed and created by the community in order to create local ownership. By letting the youth paint the field, there was a large advantage in terms of cost reduction. But most importantly, it provided them with the opportunity to be involved in the process and be proud of the impact they created. The field now is used by athletes, youth, coaches and community members from across the country. By involving these different target groups throughout the process of developing this field, an increased sense of ownership was created among the youth.
The grand opening of the new field was organised through a bottom-up approach in which the community and youth involved local rappers, MCs, politicians and many other stakeholders. This event showed that the new field became a stage for new types of activities and investments. The dedication of the youth, and investment from ISA’s part, has also led to even more investments in the community for this new public, safe space.
A local businessman, Mamadou Soumaoro, decided, he wanted youth and children to be able to play at all times and decided to donate lighting for the field. Additionally, many different stakeholders have requested to be able to use the field for local, regional and national events – empowering the (members of the) community of Magnambougou.
Every evening, seven days a week, around 35 young people from the community get trained by Warima and his colleagues, among which there are also more and more girls participating. This is evidence for the effect the field has on girls’ participation in sports and other activities within the community. When there is no training going on, children and youth can always be found playing sports by themselves. This community 3×3 basketball field attracts the youth and helps them escape from drug abuse and other unpleasant behavior that is going on around them in the community.
Looking back on this journey of providing an exceptional space for youth to be involved in sports, we have noticed that civic space needs active and motivated citizens, to make it work. The community taking ownership and responsibility is very important while creating a civic space. Get people involved at the very beginning until the end by working with them and listening to their needs and ideas.
The most difficult part of this journey was that it is not always easy to find local organisations who can help to financially support an initiative. By getting in touch with potential local people and organisations in an early stage, it will give them more time and space to look at the contribution they can make. Finally, by investing in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) after the programme is implemented, it is possible to create insight and possible improvements to create an even bigger impact on local communities.
In the end, an investment like this in hardware will further support the development of the region and can enable local youth to think of new ways in which they can continue to contribute to their community.
One of the biggest partners for this was the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which provided most of the funding.
Four lessons from Magnambougou:
1. In order to make a civic space work, active and motivated citizens are necessary. The community needs to take ownership and responsibility – getting people involved from the beginning of the process can support this. In our case, the most important aspect was that the created field should not become an ISA field, but should be developed, built and maintained by the community itself. This is not necessarily always the case, but the support from the community does help in ensuring the civic space is used for the right purposes.
2. For the 3×3 field, one of the struggles was the lack of local organisations willing to financially support the initiative. By getting in touch with potential local people and organisations in an early stage, it will give them more time and space to look at the contribution they can make – although this is not a given.
3. The field is not only used by members of the community, but also by athletes, youth, coaches and community members from across the country. This ensures that the field does not only have a local presence but is acknowledged and respected by people beyond the community and creates a sense of pride for the community.
4. By investing in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) after the activities are implemented, it is possible to create insight and possible improvements to create an even bigger impact on local communities. This aspect was less considered during the creation of the 3×3 field.
Written by ISA