In addition to its traditional functions, sport can also be a tool that fosters social and individual transformations. Nevertheless, in Romania, sports are not necessarily perceived as a relevant tool involved in social and personal change. Hence, these kinds of initiatives are rarely analyzed, supported, and promoted. 

Being inspired by our Ashoka Fellows, who use sports to achieve systemic change, we partnered with Decathlon to set up a long term process of building a local community of sports changemakers in Romania. The first step was to map the people considered by their peers as changemakers in the field of sports.    

The Changemakers Map Analysis 

This process followed two streams:

Quantitative analysis 

Identifying the challenges faced by individuals in the investigated sports fields; Factual description of sports changemakers through indicators such as number of years of experience in the field, number of years of activity in the organization/project, the magnitude of impact, and activity subdomain. Understanding the diversity and action-oriented areas of social sports changemakers.

Network analysis

Understanding the relationship between community members. Identifying the most relevant roles within the network, from the connectivity point of view (how connected they are with each other) and notoriety (the frequency of the nominations).

Using the snowball methodology, we run 147 interviews (among which 31 were starting points) and reached 313 people in our map (only those that gave us their consent have their name showcased). 

Main Findings

  • The network contains 313 sports changemakers (including 31 starting points). It shows the great diversity of subdomains and sports in which they operate, as well as their interconnectivity. The domain is male-dominated, predominantly urban, and composed of representatives with a long experience in the field.


  • The sample is composed of two-thirds men and one-third women. Women are more involved in locally-focused projects (45%), while men are more likely to be involved in national impact projects. (56%).


  • More than half of the mature projects (with over 20 years of activity) aim towards national impact. This proportion is significantly higher compared to “younger projects” (with 2-10 years of activity), for which local impact has a higher than average proportion.


  • People have been working for a long time in projects that are also generally long-lived. It seems that many changemakers have been working on such projects since the beginning of their careers. When it comes to the number of years of experience, the participants are fairly equally distributed. One third with 2 to 10 years of experience, a second third with 11-20 years and another third with over 20 years of experience.


  • Education through sports (26%), general public sports (21%), professional sports (18%), and inclusion through sports (19%) are the most mentioned subdomains. More niche projects are accountable for more than half of the sample, with the sports for elderly people accounting for 7%.


  • Financial issues are the most mentioned challenges (83%), for all subdomains. Infrastructure challenges (64%) are more common among areas related to inclusion through sport (70%) and sports for the elderly (73%). This is also true for human resource challenges (54% total, 60% inclusion, 67% elderly).


  • Infrastructure challenges are more often mentioned among those with 11 - 20 years in the field (75% vs. 64% total), while those referring to human resources are more often mentioned by those with more than 20 years in the field ( 63% vs. 54% total). Mentality and cultural challenges are mentioned more often (52% vs. 35% total) by those with less experience in the field.
Relatie sport - subdomeniu

Next step: Capacity Building Program 

The Capacity Building Program is a 6 to 8 months process, designed in collaboration with a core group of key partners, which combines interactive workshops delivered by international experts alongside local practitioners, community events, and the creation of multi-media resources to inspire the ecosystem around impact assessment. Modules guide the participants through theoretical approaches, practical strategy development, tailor-made tools, and indicators. 

The Capacity Building program will focus on two big pillars:

  1. group coaching process: hosting space for connections and collaborations to be built, so that we create a strong community and 
  2. skills development: supporting changemakers with tools, knowledge, and study cases from Ashoka Fellows to continue their work and expand their impact to a systemic level (topics covered: systems change, social finance, communication, volunteer management, etc.)

Stories of Sports Changemakers

Cristiana Oprea

Cristiana Oprea is a rally driver, founder of the platform “ Femei în Motorsport " (FIM), Motorsport PR, and blogger at Cristiana Oprea . " Through my work as a rally driver, I want to inspire people to have the courage to follow their dreams. Being one of the few women rally drivers in...
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Claudiu Miu

Claudiu Miu is the president of Climb Again, an NGO that aims to provide children and young people with special needs a chance to a normal life. Claudiu is a multinational and Balkan climbing champion. In 2009 and 2010 he won the World Cup in Munich and was nominated as the best Romanian climber....
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Ivan Patzaichin

Through his organization, Ivan supports local development in the Danube Delta and other natural regions in Romania. Their mission is to protect the cultural and natural biodiversity of water areas in Romania, to bring back Romanian traditions, to promote the cultural and natural profile of the...
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Examples of Ashoka Fellows using sports for social good