A few weeks back, ISA opened a 3×3 basketball field in Magnambougou, a district of Bamako. Whilst reflecting on this event, I would like to share the thoughts and experiences that have led to the installation of this field. I have never been a fan of placing hardware in communities, as I feel the hardware is a means to activate rather than a purpose in itself. Besides, over the years I have observed way too many sports facilities that have been kindly donated, but due to a lack of local ownership within the community, deteriorated quickly. Therefore ISA has a focus on impacting communities and handling through that.
ISA has been working in Mali since 2012, more and more intensively which has led to the creation of our ISA Mali office. The district of Magnambougou has been incorporated into ISA’s activities since 2014. Over the past 5 years, I have seen the commitment that the community members, coaches and youth had to creating safe spaces for the youth and children in the community, even though they were limited due to the lack of a physical space to develop in their community. Lack of civic space is often an issue in large, fast-growing cities.
After observing this development, and recognising the commitment of the community, we decided with ISA to invest in a 3×3 basketball field for the community. One of our biggest partners for this was the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For me, the most important aspect was that this field should not become an ISA field, but should be developed, built and maintained by the community itself. I also felt making another simpel, gray field was not the way forward, but that we should make the best, coolest and nicest field in the country. We developed this field together with the community, where we used the expertise of Shon Price to develop some designs based on a needs analysis. These designs were presented to the youth to choose the best one, following which these youth have been incorporated in the realisation of the field – notably the painting of the amazing design. By letting the youth paint the field, there was a large impact in terms of costs of producing the field thanks to the cost effectiveness, but most importantly, it provided them to be involved in the process and be proud of something they produced. Something that will be used by athletes, youth, coaches and community members from across the country. By involving them throughout the process of developing this field, an increased sense of ownership was created among the youth.
The opening of the field was then not organised by ISA staff, but was done through a bottom-up approach in which youth involved local rappers, MCs, politicians and many other key stakeholders in the event and made sure that the new field became a stage for new (types of) activities and investment from other business endeavours. Notably, the mayor of Magnambougou, Mme Coulibaly Wassa Samake, held an opening speech during the event in which the involvement and dedication of the community was appreciated. The dedication of the youth, and investment from ISA’s part, has also led to more investment within the community for this new public, safe space. A local businessman, Mamadou Soumaoro, decided he wanted youth and children to be able to play at all times and decided to donate lighting for the field. Additionally, many different stakeholders have requested to be able to use the field for local, regional and national events – empowering the (members of the) community of Magnambougou.
In the end, ISA’s investment in hardware will further support the development of the region and has enabled youth locally to think of new ways in which they can continue to contribute to their community. I am very proud to have achieved this through years and years of investing in and interacting with this community, and am looking forward to developing more and more as an organisation, on who we are and on what we want to achieve in order to realise the best impact possible.