In early 2012, Grassroot Soccer reached the conclusion of a three-year, $4.1 million grant from USAID to significantly expand our HIV prevention programs in South Africa. This grant was part of the New Partners Initiative (NPI), a special grant mechanism set up by the U.S. Government to identify new small to mid-size organizations that, if given the right amount of support, could effectively deliver innovative and community driven approaches to fighting HIV. In addition to financial support, USAID and Family Health International (FHI 360) provided technical assistance and training to ensure that NPI partners could manage their grants effectively and could strengthen their ties with the USAID missions in the countries where projects were delivered. GRS recognizes the critical role this opportunity played in our recent growth.
GRS was in a perfect position to receive NPI funds in 2008. We had a proven innovative approach to fighting HIV and AIDS, but we had neither taken the model to scale nor worked extensively with USAID in the past. We had only a few staff members and quite a bit of work to do in order to build our team and management systems in South Africa. World Cup 2010 was also right around the corner, and GRS was perfectly positioned to tap into the surrounding excitement in our fight against AIDS.
Our vision for the Football for an HIV-Free Generation (F4) project in South Africa was bold, but achievable. We wanted to scale up our programs dramatically, build a large scale organization in South Africa that could make a significant impact towards decreasing the incidence of HIV infections in youth, and continue to use soccer as a tool to develop innovative strategies for reaching young people.
“I’m proud to say that we have been able to take our model to scale and build an effective and efficient management structure, while at the same retaining the unique culture and quality of GRS programs that makes us effective in changing the behavior of young people.” ~ Kirk Friedrich, GRS Co-Founder and Africa Executive Director
Thanks to the NPI program, we were very successful in achieving our goals. By the end of 2008, GRS had graduated 5,500 young people from our programs in South Africa. By the end of 2011, that number had increased to more than 80,000, and we had sites operating in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Kimberly, and the rural areas of Kwazulu Natal and the Northern Cape.
We reached millions of South Africans with soccer-focused social media, such as Skillz Magazine. We partnered with dozens of complimentary service providers, including various private sector partners and the South African government, to offer a wide range of HIV prevention, Voluntary Counseling and Testing, gender-based violence prevention and child protection services.
GRS South Africa became a truly local organization with a reputation for being highly collaborative, innovative, research driven, and accountable. For this reason, we have gained the respect of the local USAID mission in South Africa and intend to continue to partner in 2012 through a public-private partnership. Thanks to NPI and its vanguard collaborative approach to development, we have come a very long way as an organization and have made a significant impact in the fight against AIDS.