The charity using football as a vehicle for change

The charity using football as a vehicle for change
In partnership with 99designs by Vistaprint — By Design is an editorial series, created in collaboration with 99designs by Vistaprint, that celebrates small businesses across the UK and spotlights the power of a strong visual identity. In this instalment, we catch up with Football Beyond Borders, a group using the beautiful game to reach young people in ways that others can’t.

As a kid, Jasper Kain lived and breathed football. An avid Arsenal fan growing up in Kent, he was scouted to play for Chelsea at the age of 10. From there, he spent his time between home and London, with the aspiration of making it as a professional once he came of age. 

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. When he was 16, the same time he was sitting his GCSEs, he was released from the club that he’d dedicated so much of his time to. “So much of my identity was bound up in football,” he remembers. “But when I found that I hadn’t made it, all this motivation dissipated and I associated football with failure. I ended up going completely away from the game.” 

After a period spent travelling, Jasper secured a place at SOAS University of London to study Social Anthropology and Politics. When his friends there discovered that he’d once been on Chelsea’s books, they managed to rope him back into playing. It was at this point that Jasper realised that many of his new teammates had gone through a similar experience. “We all had this experience whereby football had been usually formative – just never framed in that way,” he says. “For me, back then, it was a case of, ‘You either make it or you don’t.’ But I started to understand that football had been hugely significant in my development: my motivation, being able to build friendships with a range of characters, learning how to cope with pressure… all of these key life skills.” 

These conversations kick-started the creation of a new team: Football Beyond Borders (FBB). As a collective, Jasper and co travelled the world, spending time in places such as Syria, Bosnia and Palestine, all while shining a light on football’s ability as a force for good on and off the pitch. But in 2011, during one of these trips away, the team received news of significant unrest back home. The London Riots, as they came to be known, began on 6 August and lasted for five days, with thousands taking to the streets in response to the death of Mark Duggan – a man who was shot to death by police in the Tottenham area. 

For Jasper, it was clear that many of the young people rioting were doing so because they felt angry and disenfranchised. It was also obvious that, given the sport’s ubiquity, many of them would have been football fans, too. So upon his return to the capital, he set up a community football session out the back of a youth centre in Kennington Park. The rules were simple: no weapons, no swearing, and no arriving more than 10 minutes late. For the first session, six kids turned up. By the end of the summer, there were almost 60. 

As the scheme progressed, one of his teammates from FBB went on to become a teacher, and found himself working in a Croydon school deemed to be in the bottom five per cent of schools in the country, teaching both history and PE. He told Jasper of a group of boys in the football team who excelled at the sport, but were completely disengaged in class. “It reminded me of what I had when I was a kid,” Jasper says. “Most of the boys I grew up playing football with were really talented, outgoing and popular – but they were really disengaged at school. In order to create a model whereby they wanted to be educated, you had to find a way of integrating football into it. That was what my mum always did – I had to do my homework before I went to football.” 

So with that in mind, they began running a programme in the school in 2014 under the FBB umbrella, working with around 12 kids. A year later Jasper quit his job and threw himself into it full-time. Co-founder, Jack Reynolds, did the same. “It was crazy, we had no money,” Jasper says. “But there was something in it.” 

He was right. Today, FBB runs 65 programmes a week in schools, employs over 60 staff, and has bases in both London and Manchester. The organisation has grown from a socially-conscious football team to a fully-fledged education and social inclusion charity that uses young people’s passion for football to ensure that they not only finish school, but develop the necessary life skills along the way to make a successful transition into adulthood. 

The FBB model sees them work with young people for a period of four years: starting when they are around 12, 13 years old. They meet with students every week, spending half the time in the classroom and half the time on the pitch, where they help them to develop social awareness, the ability to self-regulate and build relationships. By integrating football and its potential as a formative vehicle into the curriculum, FBB are able to engage with their students in a way that the traditional education system doesn’t allow. They are also able to leverage rewards-based learning: those who meet their targets are able to attend Premier League matches and meet players, for instance. 

“Our model is what we call an asset-based model,” says Jasper. We believe everyone has a talent, everyone has a passion, and the education system doesn’t tap into that. So in a group of 16 students that we work with, there will be six in our groups who are what we call ‘at-risk’ – so they are in the top 10 per cent of behaviour points, they are your typical naughty young people. We then have eight young people with potential to get their GCSEs, but they could go one of two ways – often they’re a little bit disengaged. Then we have two in the group who love football and are in the top ten per cent behaviour points. They’re really important for the group.” 

“On top of that, our staff become truly embedded in a young person’s life. They get to know the young people, they get to know the parents, they start to truly understand the ecosystem of a young person. Because a 12-year-old cannot change in isolation.” 

Jasper refers to FBB as “The FBB Family”. Many members of staff have been with the organisation since the early days, taking on a number of different roles within it. Kelvyn Quagraine, a 26-year-old Chelsea fan from south London, is a prime example. He first heard of the organisation almost 10 years ago during a university open day, when he stumbled upon Jasper giving a speech. Afterwards, Kelvyn approached him and asked how he could get involved. Before long, he was volunteering at the session in Kennington. 

This kick-started an interest in local politics and activism for Kelvyn. When he eventually began university and made it onto the football team, he found that the sporting culture there wasn’t enough for him. So, in response, he set up a FBB society as a vessel to work with and coach young people in the local community. “I realised, this sport, it’s so much bigger than just playing with your friends it can do so much more,” he says. 

Upon graduating, he worked a variety of different jobs that allowed him to leverage football in this kind of way – most notably for Centrepoint, the UK homeless charity, where he coached sides at both the Street Child and Homeless World Cup competitions. Eventually, he found his way back to FBB, performing a variety of roles before arriving at Partnerships Manager, the position he holds today. 

Now, Kelvyn wants to continue to grow with the organisation. “We have spent a lot of time developing our practice and we are really codifying what it means to meaningfully engage young people across the country. We have a model that works. It’s now about ensuring that as many young people as possible get to experience what an FBB programme feels like.” 

It’s not just those like Kelvyn who stick around, though. A core part of the FBB model is that graduates – those who complete the programme – are able to apply to come and work for the organisation part-time after they’ve finished secondary school. “A big part of what we’re doing is developing and creating pathways for young people into industry,” says Jasper.

Oskar Kustrzycki (16) Marley DaSilva and Shahad Amane (both 17) are three graduates who now work for FBB. They all attended Elmgreen School in south London, where they undertook the programme, and now balance their new roles alongside sixth form. 

The two boys both started the course in their second year of secondary school. “One of my deputy heads at school pulled me out of class and gave me a slip, and told me to be in this room at this time after school,” remembers Marley. “I thought I was in trouble, I won’t lie. But I turned up and it was basically FBB introducing themselves to us, saying they want us to come here. They explained who they are, what they do. I hadn’t really heard of anything like it before, I wasn’t really too sure about it. But then I turned up the next week and I’ve been there ever since.”   

Shahad, meanwhile, joined a couple of years afterwards, due to the fact that the FBB Girls programme wasn’t established until a little later. But their experiences were uniform in the sense that all three were split between the classroom and the football pitch, working on projects that were key to self-development. “We had one project called ‘Women in Power’,” says Shahad. “We did one on racism, too.” 

For Oskar in particular, the experience was extremely significant. “It helped me mature, he says. “First day I started, I was on about 100 plus behaviour points – which is quite a lot. You mature as a person. They opened my eyes, man.” 

It’s these kinds of stories that make FBB what it is. But Jasper isn’t prepared to sit back. For the next phase of the organisation’s journey, he’s planning to launch Youth Beyond Borders, a “youth creative agency” that will operate under the FBB umbrella, doing so in a way that is representative of the community that it serves.

Jasper and co were thrilled to partner with 99designs by Vistaprint to create a new logo for the venture. “The world young people are growing up in is one of brands, whether you like it or not,” Jasper says. “They associate brands with a sense of aspiration and possibility. At that moment, I realised that FBB was a youth brand for young people.” 

As an entity, Youth Beyond Borders will provide production, research and recruitment for brands and public bodies. It will allow graduates even more opportunities to remain with the FBB family, which is integral for Jasper.

Given its nature, an effective visual identity will be key, and design support from 99designs by Vistaprint is helping to ensure this. After all, given that we live in a visual age, it’s important that the YBB look and feel not only embodies what they do, but communicates it effectively. “For us, what’s really exciting, we are creating a sister company that will be owned by the charity and a key part of our next venture,” says Jasper.  

The financial grant provided by 99designs by Vistaprint will be used to help them develop their youth hub in Brixton, which is currently, in Jasper’s words, “a bit of a building site”. Once that’s completed, though, he and FBB will continue doing what they’ve come to do best: making a positive impact on the lives of young people through the game that they know and love.  

“Life is about relationships,” Jasper says. “Relationships are a key protecting factor. In the year we’ve just had, with growing isolation, there’s such an issue with mental health now. But those trips we used to go on as a team, it was about your teammates, it was about being part of a collective. I think that’s always something we’ve prided ourselves on. It’s essential to our philosophy: relationships.”  

By Design is an editorial series created with 99designs by Vistaprint, in which all participating businesses receive a design makeover, as well as a financial grant to help them embark on their next chapter. Read more stories from the series here.

Take a look at the other 99 small business design makeovers on 99 Days Of Design.

Info on new logo here.

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