International Paralympic Committee
Growing the Movement and Preparing for this Moment
The Paralympic Games traces its origins back to a tiny village in rural England. Dr Ludwig Guttmann was a German-born British neurologist who established the forerunner to the Paralympic Games in Stoke Mandeville, offering sport as a means of rehabilitation for injured soldiers returning from World War II. The IPC, headquartered in Bonn, Germany, was founded in 1989 to serve as the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. Its purpose is to advocate social inclusion, deliver the Paralympic Games, and to support the 200+ Para sporting bodies that comprise its membership.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has worked hard to successfully close any gap between the natural inclusiveness of its external mission (what they stand for), and the internal reality of its culture and process (how they are).
The introduction of an inclusion strategy, inclusive leadership interventions, and people-related systems reviews and adjustments has made the IPC an employer of choice for all.
As the Paralympic Movement grows, the IPC is well positioned to make good on its powerful purpose and act as a credible role model to catalyse change in other organisations.
Given what the Paralympic Games stand for, the IPC needs to be a leader in D&I. But that hasn’t always been the case. Whilst the IPC led ground-breaking work in breaking down barriers around disability, its own employment of disabled people lagged behind. There was also an under representation of women and ethnic minorities in senior decision-making roles.
The work of the IPC culminates in the staging of the Games every two or four years. However, in 2020 the world has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Tokyo Games have been postponed until 2021. The moment is not as envisaged, but it is nonetheless historic. The postponement of the Games has allowed us to focus, in our joint work with the IPC, on these internal aspects of the organisation, and in turn for the IPC to consider and continue to deliver its powerful, inclusive external impact.
Included has supported the Paralympic movement in various ways since 2007 – technically in a Games environment, advocacy within the wider movement such as gatherings, and supporting leadership development in the IPC itself. Most recently we have worked with two-time Paralympian (United States) Dr Mike Peters (Chief Executive Officer of the IPC since 2019) and Craig Spence (Chief Brand and Communications Officer), including sitting with them on the IPC’s D&I steering committee during the Tokyo Games postponement period and beyond.
Having already written an inclusion strategy for the IPC in the aftermath of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and reviewed governance and decision-making procedures, we undertook an Inclusive Leadership Programme in 2017. We went on to identify four workstreams that provided a formal outline for undertaking a review of all People related systems.
The target was to launch the new inclusive systems with a new HR Director. We undertook a SWOT analysis of current people systems. We facilitated two women’s only focus groups, and an all staff D&I strategy workshop. In response to feedback received from 16 female staff, we decided that they would be an invaluable way of engaging staff who were reporting the challenges and identifying clear priorities for change.
Other work we have conducted has included:
- Internally, assisting the search for a new HR Director
- Externally, engaging marketing partners at a 2018 workshop in Bonn with follow up at the European Swimming Championships in Dublin. This helped position the IPC as a thought leader, influencing its key stakeholders with the transition from ‘Diversity 2.0’ to ‘Inclusion 3.0’
- Reframing inclusion (as distinct from “integration”) for Paris 2024 at the IPC Orientation seminar and the wider movement at the IPC Membership gathering in Madrid. We positioned inclusion for success at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 organising committees and for the upcoming Los Angeles 2028 Games.
A report was produced on the back of our work in 2019 that included a list of recommendations, which have subsequently been concentrated down to two main deliverables:
- Helped define clear and shared IPC staff behaviours and related competency rankings for each grade, for assessing all potential and existing staff during recruitment, performance review, and promotion
- Launch of an inclusive maternity programme which will take a proactive and structured approach to managing the careers of women (or men) taking significant parental leave
The IPC was one of the first sports organisations worldwide to include non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in its constitution. Now it’s going further by ensuring that whether it’s gender, race or caring or flexible work requirements, the IPC can be an employer of choice for all.
Today the IPC boasts a diverse workforce of 131 employees, made up of 39 nationalities, and has a strong gender balance with 73 females and 58 males. 13 employees have a disclosed disability.
In terms of external impact, the IPC has recently launched a Paralympic Refugee Team to compete in Tokyo 2020(1). Led by Ileana Rodriguez, a former refugee from Cuba, the Team has been jointly formed with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The Tokyo Paralympic Games, when they take place, will have more than ten times the number
of participants as there were in Tokyo 1964 (375 to 4,350). There will be more than three times as many medal events (144 to 539), almost eight times as many participating countries (21 to 160), ten times as many impairments included (1 to 10), and more than double the number of sports (9 to 22). The number of women competing in the Games will
also have increased by 20% compared to London 2012. Having had limited TV coverage 30 years ago, the Tokyo Games are expected to be broadcast in more than 160 countries, reaching a cumulative TV audience of 4.25 billion.
Such advancements are evidence that the organisation, alongside with the wider Paralympic movement, continues to grow and connect deeply with its fundamentally inclusive purpose.
The IPC has successfully closed some of the cognitive dissonance that has existed between the growth of Parasport and the IPC’s lofty mission on the one hand, and its internal environment on the other. It continues to evolve as an organisation under its new CEO Mike Peters, with the emphasis now clearly on walking the talk when it comes to inclusion.
The IPC can be an employer of choice for all
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