In underserved areas all over Europe – and around the world – many young people experience a general lack of opportunities. Just to name a few, they deal with such issues as poor health, youth unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. At the same time, the world is passing through the biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. This has lead to an increased tension which arguably challenges the social cohesion within many European member states. While Europe tries to integrate and manage the newcomers, many parts of the Middle East and Africa are facing conditions that force people to flee.
The United Nations recognized the power of sport in building a peaceful and better world. Moreover, the UN acknowledges sport’s contribution towards development, prevention of non-communicable diseases, and strong educational value, among other things. They constantly stress the importance of reducing barriers for participation in sports events. Particularly for participants from developing countries. So, all children and populations benefit from the many social and physical benefits of sports activities.
Rules of the Game
This is where GAME comes in. GAME is a Denmark-based international non-profit organization that was started in 2002 when it’s founder saw how marginalized youth from ethnic minorities could be brought together with resourceful youth to find common ground and mutual benefit around street basketball, street dance, street soccer and parkour. The organization militates for acceptance, integration, and non-discrimination through teamwork, communication and fun. Everyone, no matter the nationality, religion, or ability, is welcome to join GAME’s ever-expanding community of players and volunteers. GAME is committed to the idea of using street sports as a vehicle for lasting social change.
Street sports is increasingly acknowledged by both researchers and policymakers as an important supplement to the traditional team- and membership-based sports. Street sports is highly accessible as it can be practiced in local unused public spaces, schoolyards, parks, and urban spaces. Especially for underserved youth street sport is an attractive alternative because it can be practiced in locally with no transport and participation costs. Furthermore, street sport is closely related to youth culture and it probes local engagement and agency among participants.
In Denmark alone, there are more than 180 volunteers in 18 cities engaging children in activities like street football, street basketball, parkour, dancing, and others. But more importantly, kids here learn communication, acceptance, and teamwork. GAME offers more than just a place to play, they provide civic education so needed in our society. As a result of their hard work and dedication, GAME Denmark was ranked the 141st best NGO in the world in 2019.
Creating social change around the world
Social change starts at home, but should not stop there. This is why in 2007, GAME expanded to Lebanon, becoming an international NGO. Other countries and partnerships followed, and today the organization changes lives in more than 10 countries around the world – in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
GAME has partnered with different organizations in different countries to help spread the leadership, social, friendship, educational, physical benefits of sport to a wider audience. All the programs are focused on empowerment and inclusivity, as opposed to hard competition and a drive for gold medals. This means using sport as a path to inclusion for the asylum-seekers arriving on Europe’s shores who are fleeing war and trying to learn a language; it also means providing a healthy and positive activity for the child who was not invited to play in the club’s competitive program; it also means an easily-accessible, teammates for that child whose parents do not have the resources – financial or otherwise – to get them to a more formal team.
Social change comes with people
Volunteers at GAME Denmark are called Playmaker and they are the heart and soul of the organization. Much of GAME’s success is due to the hard work of these amazing young people who are so much more than just volunteers.
Think of Playmakers as a crossover between an older sibling and that really cool coach everyone likes. They are an example to follow, and it is they who mold and care for the children within the organization. The Playmakers make sure that kids get integrates, find friends, have fun and more importantly, return day after day. They are not there only to make sure the children get their exercise, but they mentor, guide and help kids be themselves.
Aside from practices, there are other events Playmakers help with, such as the Playmaker Training program, local events and national events like the GAME Finals. In each of these examples, hundreds of volunteers need to coordinate with each other and with staff and make sure everything is done by the book.
The work of a Playmaker is as rewarding as it is stressful. They are responsible for children and make sure every single one of them has fun, is cared for and is safe. Therefore, volunteers need training and guidance. But more importantly, they need a plan for every practice.
So as GAME grows – in programs, in size, in geography, in language, in ideas – they face a question: how can they modernize their knowledge library, manage information and ideas, and communicate across borders, cultures, languages, problems, in order to provide the best services for the young people that need it most? How can they make sure that this information is accessible to those who need it when they need it? GAME has a wide network of international NGOs working in the field of sports and youth. How do they all work together?
Communication is Key
For this reason, GAME Denmark created the GAME Academy, an information portal dedicated to making the job of the volunteer easier, while at the same time strengthening the organization’s communication and ability to provide for the public. The Academy plays an important role in preparing volunteers for the task at hand. It provides the necessary information, training guides and tools that aid Playmakers and staff in their daily activities. For this, the organization needs a strong communication solution to keep everyone aligned. Which is where Wiredelta® comes in.
We understand GAME’s need for communication, as this is a key part of our daily work as well. However, even though we can relate to the organization’s struggle, we are far from the same situation. Wiredelta is a development company and researching pages and pages of documentation is part of our job description. GAME Academy is a little different.
Just take one step into GAME’s Copenhagen headquarters at the GAME Streetmekka, and that is enough for anyone to understand that there is no place for boring guides or rule books here. Playmakers must match the children’s energy in order to keep them engaged. So, they need a fast and accessible solution for inspiration, practices, and exercises.
However, GAME is still an NGO that needs reports, numbers, and statistics in order to provide due diligence to donors and ensure that their programs are actually useful to the populations they are intended to serve. Hence, fun aside, they require a reliable system that ensures order and control.
There are two sides to this particular NGO. On the one side, there is paperwork and endless reports. But on the other side, there are the Playmakers and other volunteers.
More to the point, there are fun games, running around and laughter. So, the solution we build with GAME is divided between these two groups. On the one side, we built a web platform dedicated to staff. On the other side, we created a mobile application, available for Android and iOS, dedicated to Playmakers and volunteers.
The web platform was built using WordPress, as this is a volatile, simple and budget-friendly CMS. The mobile app, however, is a bit of an odd duck in the development world. Naturally, we wrapped everything in Ionic, as we usually do. But the backend does not use NodeJS, as you might expect, instead, it uses PHP.
The main reason we decided on this peculiar combination is the fact that the app communicates directly, in real-time with the web platform. So, our solution allows GAME staff to seamlessly update content or add drills on the web platform and the mobile app updates automatically.
The more GAME Academy expands around the world, the more need they have for proper translations. So our solution to this task was implementing WordPress Multilingual plugin (WPML). The reason we chose this tool is that it’s practical and professional at the same time.
- WordPress admin panel integration;
- Full control over translations;
- Professional translations;
In other words, the plugin allows the admin user to translate every part of the website from the WP admin panel directly. If they want a professional translation, GAME can simply select everything or just sections of the web platform and send it to the WPML experts. Within a deadline set by them, they can get an expert translation for as many languages as they want for as much content as they want. Awesome, isn’t it?
Pushing the limits of WooCommerce
By far the most important one is the Practice Planner. This is a tool similar to an online catalog, but instead of products, it features drills (or exercises). Since we used WordPress, naturally, this feature is built using Woocommerce, with a few tweaks.
The online catalog ends up looking beautifully simple, but there are multiple and somewhat complex features under the hood:
- The filter – traditional filters in Woocommerce work by matching products to at least one of the tags selected by the user. GAME needed a filter by elimination. So, we changed the default filter function into a dynamic one, thus enabling a precise search every time.
- The Box – this is equivalent to the traditional shopping cart, but it’s a box. Once users find their drills, they can add them to this box, thus putting together their practice.
- The practice – the box gives public users the option to keep an overview of their practice and add or remove drills. If the user is happy with the practice they can print it. Users with accounts also have the option to save the practice for later, so they can clear their box, but not lose their plan.
- Print your practice – whether form the box or from the saved practices, the plans can be printed in two ways. One, the long version shows all the details of the drills within the practice. If the user is more experienced and does not need all of that information, they can simply print the short version, that shows only an excerpt of each drill.
In the GAME Academy “hierarchy”, there are four types of users. Public users or anonymous users do not have an account and can only see events made public by staff or Playmakers.
Basic users are created when signing in for the first time. These users have mostly the same level of access as public users, but because they have their own credentials, they have access to their own calendar where they can add events that interest them.
Playmakers and Staff have higher-level access, which allows them to create events, invite others, report practices, and edit events. Playmakers and staff also receive email notifications, reminding them to report practices, or letting them know they have been invited to another Playmaker’s practice.
The reporting tool
The final step in a Playmaker’s day is reporting. Once a practice is done, all Playmakers must go in their account and fill in a short but important form, where they give details about the event. No personal data is collected about participants – just general information, for example, the number of participants, the age group, how many volunteers joined, and so on. However, the information required here varies, depending on the needs of every GAME main zone. After all, the issues Playmakers and children face in Denmark are different than in Ghana.
In short, GAME needed a dynamic reporting form, easy to configure and manage. However, WordPress does not have a suitable solution for this need. So, our amazing team of developers created our own plugin. This way, GAME has complete control over the forms and the information collected.
Moreover, every report must be connected to an existing event, and each event can be reported only once. Once a report has been submitted, the event becomes inactive, thus avoiding doubling the data.
Connecting WordPress and Ionic in one simple app
The GAME mobile application doesn’t just mirror the web application, but rather complements it. Built using PHP code wrapped in Ionic, this hybrid application features only the website’s most important sections.
Inside the app, Playmakers can quickly access the filter, their box, saved practices or calendar. They can also connect with the forum, or simply search for important information about GAME that updates every time the website updates. More importantly, they have access to the reporting tool. Here they can easily log the progress of the practice straight from their phone.
This feature is of utmost importance for the entire GAME Academy. The sooner a Playmaker reports a practice, the fresher the information, hence the better the data. In other words, the sooner a Playmaker reports a practice, the sooner everyone can start working towards improving.
The GAME Academy app is a hybrid compatible with iPhones 5 and more recent, as well as phones using Android 6 and up.
Wiredelta’s collaboration with GAME Academy has been an amazing journey. Throughout this project, we have pushed the limits of our knowledge and skills in ways we couldn’t even imagine. In the end, we proved once more that no matter our experience, the learning curve is never over.
During this project, our incredible team of developers has reshaped and redefined WordPress and its features. The practice planner and the box are probably the best examples where drills replace products, and printable practices replace order confirmations.
All in all, we are confident that the solution built by the Wiredelta and GAME teams is definitely a step forward. Moreover, we are sure that with the GAME academy web and mobile applications, no Playmaker shall ever feel alone.
Do you have a life-changing idea that would greatly benefit your team or your users? Contact us! Together we can bring your dreams into the digital world and revolutionize your world too. In the meantime, don’t forget to visit our website for more cases or your daily dose of tech news.