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Shaping the Future of Sports Associations with
the Voices of the Youth

DIF (Sports Confederation of Denmark) and DDC – Danish Design Center have joined forces in a new project to shape the sports- and association life of the future. The aim is to keep more teenagers involved in local sports. Our approach is user-centered and design-driven, as the project involves the youth in a series of experimental workshops

This project is a part of our theme
Social transition

Photo: David Clarke

Photo: Ian Dooley

Read about the project in Danish here

The Challenge: Keeping teenagers engaged in local sports

We see many young people leaving Danish sports and association life in their early teens. What could a future sports and association scene look like where young people are excited to join?

In a time where everything about the life of young people is changing, their approach to sport is changing too. With new sports trends and ways of organizing exercise emerging, young people are naturally looking for new sports options and ways of doing sports that fit into their busy schedules. 

The Danish sports- and association scene is, therefore, facing several significant changes. Traditional associations are experiencing challenges in attracting and maintaining participation from young people, who tend to opt for alternative options that come without obligations and offer different flexibility and accessibility.

In general, many sports associations are experiencing a decline in membership in the 13-18 age group. In the transition from childhood to teenagerhood, young people are faced with many choices and possibilities regarding education, relationships, leisure activities, and so on. In this tangle of new opportunities and relationships, it’s challenging for associations to maintain their relevance and appeal. 

“At DIF, we look forward to a project where young people are involved in defining the project’s direction. We want the young people to have the opportunity to identify their challenges and come up with possible solutions. The project has an experimental approach, which will hopefully be reflected in some different and innovative solutions that young people on the sports- and association scene will find attractive,” says Kasper Ehlers, Youth Consultant at DIF – Dansk Idrætsforbund.

Young people’s everyday lives are often constantly changing in terms of time and content, which starkly contrasts the more rigid structures of traditional sports- and association life. This contrast can contribute to young people being unable to cope with the obligations of being a member of an association and, therefore, leaving the association. If associations are to retain and recruit this target group, they need to change and adapt to modern youth life.

We take a design-driven and experiential approach to finding new solutions for DIF and its member organizations.

"Design is a unique way to connect the imagination and creativity of young people with the professional expertise and experience of sports associations. We will bridge the gap between the two worlds through design, empowering innovative ideas and realizing radical change"

Kimmie Tentschert

Senior Creative, DDC – Danish Design Center

From one of our workshops

From one of our workshops

From one of our workshops

Photo: Barthe Kouakou

The Approach: A design-driven process with young people in focus

To create a deep understanding of young people’s lived experiences, perspectives, and needs within sports and association life, we, DDC, in collaboration with DIF, will plan and facilitate a design-driven process that invites curious exploration of possible futures for the sports- and association scene. 

The process will uncover themes and ideas for experimenting with a desirable future for Denmark’s many associations from the perspective of young people. The invaluable voices, creativity, and drive of young people are the focal point of the project.

“Design is a unique way to connect the imagination and creativity of young people with the professional expertise and experience of sports associations. We will bridge the gap between the two worlds through design, empowering innovative ideas and realizing radical change,” says Kimmie Tentschert, Senior Creative, DDC – Danish Design Center.

We believe in young people’s unique perspectives and ideas on what can make the future of sports more attractive and accessible for them and their peers. If we want to develop a sports- and associations life that makes sense for young people and their everyday lives, it is crucial that they are involved throughout the entire process. 

“We need to learn to listen to the needs and desires of young people. Instead of retention, the ambition is to talk about participation and thereby achieve development rather than disengagement. Therefore, young people must be the starting point when we seek answers and rethink how we can adapt the sports- and association structure to the needs of young people,” adds Kimmie Tentschert about our approach.

Part of the work will also be based on a study by Idrættens Analyseinstitut for DIF. The study will include screening DIF’s 6,000 associations with children and young people, which will clarify the characteristics of associations that succeed in retaining and recruiting young members. In addition, the screening will identify young people who, through focus group interviews, will suggest how to best involve them in the associations’ democratic activities.

The design process will have a particular focus on:

  • Uncovering blind spots and discovering new opportunities for sports associations 
  • Engaging young people and demonstrating the value of their contribution
  • Establishing a solid shared understanding of what the future of sports associations could look like
  • Identify relevant strategic priorities in collaboration with young people, associations, federations, and boards
  • Facilitate an engaging, fun, and insightful process for all co-creators.

In addition to involving young people, the process will also actively involve associations, federations, and boards in exploring and co-creating new innovative solutions and ideas that will ultimately form the basis and framework for DIF’s future association laboratories.

Kimmie Tentschert

Senior Creative & Project Manager

Phone +45 2728 2419
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