BLOG: Reflecting on the Inclusive Ambassadors programme
The second year of the Inclusive Ambassadors programme has come to an end and AoC Sport’s disability development officer Shannon Howarth reflects on the successes of the programme and how it was delivered.
The Inclusive Ambassador programme returned for the second academic year to give disabled and non-disabled students opportunities to volunteer in inclusive sport and physical activity.
It uses ambassadors as a sounding board within their colleges to check and challenge ideas and ensure disabled students are included in all activity.
The programme has seen massive growth with 112 ambassadors recruited from 36 colleges. This shows there is a real demand for this role and an appetite in colleges to ensure all disabled students have an opportunity to take part in sport and physical activity.
The coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on the delivery of the programme but we swiftly shifted our face-to-face ambassador training to a new e-Learning platform so ambassadors could still get the necessary training to undertake the role.
The training included modules on how to communicate effectively and how to make sessions and marketing materials accessible and inclusive. The tasks then offered ambassadors an opportunity check their learning and ensure the principles were being embedded.
Following the training, ambassadors also completed an action plan for their college ambassador teams to demonstrate the work they intended to carry out. Despite all the challenges it was really heartening to see the fantastic commitment shown by students to be inclusive. We saw plans for multi-sports events, sports days, and new sessions such as boccia – a Paralympic sport similar to bowls.
Ambassadors who want to continue as an ambassador next year will be offered a mentor role to support new inclusive ambassadors to excel in their roles. We feel the learnings and experiences of these ambassadors are invaluable to ensuring the programme is a continuing success.
All Inclusive Ambassadors were asked to complete a personal development survey so we could measure the impact of the programme and we were delighted with the results. 96% of ambassadors agreed or strongly agreed that the programme had improved their teamwork skills while 92% agreed or strongly agreed the programme had improved their communication, planning and organisational skills.
One of the highlights, and something which shows the impact of the programme, was the fact that more than half (65%) believed that being an ambassador has led to changes in their life and future plans. For example, one ambassador stated they are now considering a career in SEN teaching, which is fantastic to hear.
We have already begun planning for the next academic year and cannot wait to start recruiting our new ambassadors to make the Inclusive Ambassador programme even bigger and better.
The Inclusive Ambassador programme is part of the AoC Sport Leadership Academy, which helps and enhances volunteering programmes in colleges.