The following post was written by Jemima and Will, two Special Olympics Youth Leaders from Great Britain. The pair make it their mission to strengthen inclusion in their community. Check out how they #innovateforinclusion!
Our Project name is #UnifiedRocks. It is a social Media Campaign. It started with Special Olympics athletes and leaders and we hoped it would spread from here to the wider community. Athletes and leaders would find rocks and draw and paint designs on them. The theme behind the designs is inclusion in sports and how that makes you feel. We wanted it to be as accessible as possible so the designs could be in words, pictures, emojis, colours, etc. When completed the rocks would be taken outside and hidden in the community. A picture of the rock in its hiding place would be taken. This photo would be posted on social media, challenging others to find it and people could share their inclusive story. The next person to find the rock would make and hide their own. Will said ‘I liked the idea and thought people would make some really good designs’.
We had many goals for our project. Athletes and leaders would think about their own journey towards inclusion. They would also be able to celebrate these experiences and be grateful to those who have helped them. The project would also help spread the word of inclusion and Special Olympics in the wider community. People who may not have known about Special Olympics would be able to learn about the organisation and the affects it has. The final aim was for people to be more aware and reflective of their contribution to making an inclusive society. Will said ‘I hope people think more about letting everyone join in and helping people get better’.
We had a launch event down in Brighton. The event was supported by MetLife. We had planned to run a training session as part of the event for many students from different schools in Brighton. Unfortunately, the schools could not attend. Instead we trained the staff members and volunteers at MetLife. This was a great event and all the attendees designed and decorated a rock. We then all hid our rocks around the community in Brighton. Many attendees took the project and helped their children make the rocks. This spread the word of inclusion in Brighton. Will said ‘I loved making my rock and hiding it in Brighton. I also enjoyed running the event and using my voice to tell people all about me and Special Olympics Great Britain’.
We were later invited to attend an event hosted by Special Olympics Great Britain and Hasbro to present #UnifiedRocks. We travelled to the Hasbro offices in London. The event was an empathy training day. Secondary school students attended in the morning and received empathy training. Primary school students attended in the afternoon and the older students helped facilitate the training for the primary school students. As part of this, Will and I shared our story and challenged them to make Unified Rocks. The students then got time to make their own rocks. All the students thought about their inclusivity and what the word inclusion meant to them. After the event the students took the project back to their schools and even more students got involved and made even more rocks to hide in their communities. Will said ‘I loved the rocks that were made and that even more were made too. I liked how the rocks were spread around. I also liked sharing my story’.
We are planning a re-launch of our project on social media due to the current issues going on in the world. We wish to challenge more people to make more rocks during their isolation. In the UK people are allowed to go outside once a day for exercise. We would like people to find rocks when they are out and about. People will then decorate their rocks to represent their views and experiences with inclusion. They will then go on a walk on a different day and hide their rocks in their communities. This will give people challenges, keep them busy and keep them positive. Will says ‘I hope this will help people be happy and get people talking to each other about inclusion’.
Special Olympics Great Britain is working with Hasbro again next year. They are running lots of projects together. As part of this they want to use #UnifiedRocks as a centre of their events. We have created a sustainable project. We have not met all our initial metrics because we used much of the funding to make sure the product was perfect before sending it out to as many people as possible. Now that we have done this, we have found that our project is sustainable and can be used in other countries in the future. Will said ‘I have really enjoyed the project. I am very happy more people want to do it’.
The 2018–2019 Special Olympics Youth Innovation Grant initiative is supported through partnerships with Hasbro, Inc., The Samuel Family Foundation, the Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Kantar Group, the Microsoft Corporation, Lane Global Youth Leadership, and the Lions Clubs International Foundation. Learn more about these inspiring projects at SpecialOlympicsGlobalYouthProjects.org.