As we continue to spotlight categories open to enter, today we’re reviewing two highly popular categories, testament to the ever-increasing amount of initiatives being activated in this space. They are Best Initiative to Promote Women in Sport & Physical Activity and Best Initiative to Promote Inclusivity in Sport & Physical Activity.

In 2022 the Best Initiative to Promote Women in Sport & Physical Activity category, the following were shortlisted:

Rowing Ireland Women on the Water Programme

Swim Ireland Women in Sport Leadership Programme

Athletics Ireland Forerunners Programme

Banbridge Rugby Football Club Development of women and girls’ rugby

Irish Wheelchair Association 4-year Women in Sport Strategy

Ladies Gaelic Football Association Learn to Lead Programme

The overall winner was Swim Ireland, for their hugely successful Women in Sport Leadership Programme. Swim Ireland successfully ran their Women In Sport Leadership Programme for 38 National Governing Bodies and 14 Local Sports Partnerships involving 186 women ranging in age from 17-68 years of age. The programme equips participants with tools to confidently pursue their goals, through modules including networking and collaboration, crisis management and governance in sport. The confidence gained through both group and individual sessions, gives participants the self-confidence to return to their clubs, places of work and training environments as leaders who empower members of all levels within their respective sport. They had 65 guest speakers from the world of sport. The impact of the programme can be seen at all levels of sport within Ireland; empowering females to take the lead on implementing new participation strategies within their sport, accept opportunities to speak at engagements, sit on national and international sporting committees and boards and go on to apply for leadership roles in NGBs in Ireland and abroad.

For the 2022 Best Initiative to Promote Inclusivity in Sport & Physical Activity category the following entries were shortlisted:

GAA Inclusivity Framework

Sporting Pride Learn to Swim Programme

Football Association of Ireland Football for All Programme

The Sanctuary Runners inclusive running community

Basketball Ireland implementation of Cara Xcessible initiative

Donegal Sports Partnership Donegal Bay Inclusive Sports Hub

The recipient of this award was the Sanctuary Runners. Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of everything Sanctuary Runner do. Many of their regional development officers formally lived in Direct Provision. They don’t see labels – just people. Innovative and acutely aware of the importance of telling their story the founder and CEO, Graham Clifford, has used his experience of almost two decades in journalism and broadcaster to focus on content production and distribution. To tell a story based on solidarity, friendship and respect. To build a blue wave of positivity which encourages participants, enthuses all and attracts partnerships, support and investment. The Sanctuary Runners use running, jogging and walking to bring everyone in the community together – including, and especially, asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. The Sanctuary Runners has 29 groups across Ireland and over 5,000 participants and has plans to expand to cover 15-countries by the end of 2024.

The Sanctuary Runners have since joined forces with Swim Ireland. A first-of-its kind community integration initiative was launched in January 2023 as a joint venture between Swim Ireland and Sanctuary Runners. ‘Sanctuary Swimmers’ will use the experience of open sea swimming to bring together all in the community – including asylum seekers and refugees currently living in Direct Provision.

Building on from the success of Sanctuary Runners, founded in Cork in 2018 to break down social barriers which exist between migrants and locals across Ireland, the Sanctuary Swimmers initiative will now expand to include six locations in 2023.