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Youth leaders in Namibia work to strengthen inclusion in their community).
Special Olympics Youth Innovation Projects

In its inaugural year of 2018, the Special Olympics Youth Innovation Project initiative has empowered youth leaders from around the world to lead projects and realize the Special Olympics movement’s vision of an inclusive future. Youth Leaders with and without intellectual disabilities designed and implemented projects to transform their schools and communities into centers of inclusion.


These global projects were diverse, ranging from Unified basketball in Macau to inclusive fitness and art in Nigeria, to inclusive youth leadership development in India and Argentina, to expanded inclusive opportunities for university students in the United States.


The Youth Innovation Project initiative funded 80 projects led by 142 young people representing 40 countries spanning all seven Regions. Of these, 15 projects concluded in 2018; the remainder will continue throughout 2019. An additional 89 projects from 53 countries were approved in 2018 to begin in early 2019.

Projected Impact across 80 Projects Initiated in 2018:

  • 3,600+ youth engaged in the project planning process
  • 340 Special Olympics Unified Schools with expanded programming
  • 300+ new Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools®
  • 2,650 newly engaged Special Olympics Youth Leaders
  • 3,550 Special Olympics athletes involved in projects’ events
  • 9,900 people without intellectual disability engaged in the Special
  • Olympics movement
  • 100,000 social media impressions for the projects’ activities

Direct Impact from 15 Projects concluded in 2018

  • 970 youth engaged in the planning process
  • 15+ new Special Olympics Unified Schools programs expanded
  • 8 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® established
  • 220 newly engaged Special Olympics youth leaders
  • 580 Special Olympics Athletes engaged in project events
  • 820 people without intellectual disability participated in project events
  • 70,000 social media impressions for the projects’ activities.


Through a global digital collaboration platform, the youth leaders were able to share their local impact and challenges directly with each other and offer their support and ideas across great distances. Additionally, each youth leader received skill development support through a series of web videos and other resources designed specifically for the leadership of a Special Olympics Youth Innovation Project.


The initiative’s 2018 impact and future potential is a testament to the vision and leadership shared by partners who supported the project. They include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Samuel Family Foundation, U.S. Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, Hasbro and Lions Clubs International.