To help remove barriers to play in Europe, NIKE, Inc. is partnering with 12 community organizations that address inequities across race, gender, sexual orientation and disability.
Meet Jannine Bardouille, A Trailblazer at Nike Working To Erase Sport Inequality
We chat with the inspiring leader about her groundbreaking work at Nike and what it means for the future of sport.
It seems as though the insidiousness of inequality has been around for just as long as human comprehension. We see inequality deny, defer, and discourage across the globe as it infiltrates every industry - and sport is no exception. Yet, with plenty of initiatives worldwide committed to combatting inequality in sports, you haven't seen one quite like this.
After graduating from the London College of Fashion, Jannine Bardouille later dedicated her career to sports and a greater purpose. The pioneer started at Nike in 2018 where she joined the sports apparel giant's Social & Community Impact Team, guiding the London office's strategic initiatives and efforts to encourage kids to get active with community partnerships and programs. And this was only the beginning.
2020 saw Jannine launch Nike London's community grants that supported non-profit organizations dedicated to creating longstanding change for the Black community. Two years later, Jannine completed the Nike Inc. DEI Leadership Acceleration Academy through the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business and became the first ever EMEA Inclusive Community Portfolio (ICP) Director, overseeing a grant portfolio focusing on equity through sport.
It was in this role that Jannine launched the ICP Fund, a series of valuable social impact investments into 12 community organizations working to create equal opportunity throughout sports in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, and Barcelona.
Jannine Bardouille, Director Inclusive Communities Portfolio EMEA
Devoted to abolishing barriers to play across Europe, the ICP Fund, is supporting organizations that address inequities within race, gender, disability, and sexual orientation. The grants come as a part of Nike's 2025 Inclusive Community target to invest a staggering $125 million to contribute towards equality in sports.
We caught up with Jannine to learn more about the brand-new initiative, the inspiring organizations it is supporting, and how together we can make sport more inclusive for all.
Many people across the globe experience barriers to play. In what ways is Nike dedicated to change this and create a more equitable future for all athletes?
At Nike, we focus on creating more equal inclusive, and equitable communities starting with investing in local community organizations on the ground. That is the best way for us to create real change - by supporting the people based in the community and working day in, day out.
What is something you really want people to know about the program investing in inclusive communities across Europe?
With the Inclusive Community grants, we have initially invested in 12 organizations across EMEA who are addressing inequity across race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability. We want people to know these amazing organizations, who they are, and the great work that they do. These organizations lead this important work, and we want to uplift and support them.
Athletes of the Special Olympics Committee enjoying a tennis session.
Lack of representation in sport is nothing new. So what was the catalyst for this initiative?
Nike has a long history of investing in community organizations and providing access to sport globally, not just in EMEA. In terms of this initiative, it's a continuation and extension of our commitment to creating a more equitable playing field for all.
We know that we live in dynamic times, and for us, it is important to invest in organizations, focusing on the specific needs for the communities they represent. The world can be polarizing, so we believe that we need people on the ground committed to serving the most underrepresented and minoritized groups long-term.
Can you tell us a little about the local organizations that Nike has partnered with?
In Berlin, we have some amazing organizations that we work with. So within this specific investment, we have two very different partners, who are both serving important needs in the city.
One organization is the Special Olympics. They are currently working on putting on an incredible event in Berlin this year, which will be the third largest sporting event in the world, specifically for people with intellectual disabilities, and celebrating them in sport. Our investment into their Unified Generation programme is working with them to create more access for younger people to be involved with these sports to support the long-term impact of the World Games in the city. This is an example of connecting a long-time partnership to a unique global moment for Berlin.
The other organization we work with is called Seitenwechsel. They do incredible work creating safe spaces specifically for the MINT*A (meaning girls, inter*, non-binary, trans*, and agender people) community, specifically in Berlin.
What was the most surprising thing to you about inequality in sports?
Inequality in sports is, unfortunately, a reflection of the disparity that can sometimes exist in the wider world. However, what continues to inspire me through this initiative is the positive change that can take place by working with the right people in the right organizations. During a time that can be turbulent for so many, it is encouraging to focus on the steps forward we are taking to address inequity in sport.
How do you think intersectionality can change sport and redefine who an athlete can be?
Intersectionality is key in sport and in life. For me, intersectionality is really about the things that bind us and bring us together as opposed to separate us. It's about recognizing the commonalities between groups, and also recognizing the opportunity to learn from other people who you may have shared connections with but have a different experience to. So whether that's intersectionality of race and gender or ability and sexual orientation, it's an incredible opportunity to learn more and advance for all.
I believe when you create solutions for the most underserved and minoritized groups, things improve for all. So, intersectionality is key to make sure that we can identify what those improvements need to be, and is central to our Inclusive Community work.
Fernanda (left) and Maria* (right) of Seitenwechsel e.V., one of the local Berlin community partners Nike invests in.
How will communities as well as individuals benefit from the initiative?
One of the things we really look at is identifying amazing leaders in communities that drive impact and change. By investing in leaders like, for example, Fe from Seitenwechsel at an individual level through the organization that Fe works, we impact the community through the work that they lead. We have to make sure that we are supporting the right people on the ground who really understand and have first-hand experience of the community to create the most impact.
What does the future of sport look like for you?
I believe the future of sport is inclusive, where people are free to be themselves while participating and equitable, where everyone can take part. Of course, we know sports change and evolve over the years, and different sports have relevance to different occasions, but the most important thing is that people feel that they can be their full selves when participating.
The future of sport would be a place of belonging for all, regardless of background or any minoritized group they may come from.