Intercultural openness in clubs

Integration, participation, intercultural openness and intercultural competence - what are these?

Integration means that all people who are lawfully and permanently living in Germany have equal opportunities enabling them to participate fully in society regardless of their culture, religion, origin and ethnicity. This is based on the fact that integration is not a one-way street, but is understood and practised as a dialogue between people with and without a migrant background (BMI (2009), Intercultural openness in sport - practical tips for associations, clubs, active individuals and interested parties, Rostock, P. 7).

Participation means giving everyone equal participation and access opportunities – to education and employment, society and politics and culture and sport (BMI (2009), Intercultural openness in sport - practical tips for associations, clubs, active individuals and interested parties, Rostock, P. 8).

In science and practice it is agreed that the term intercultural is based on a broad understanding of culture. It describes the everyday cultural characteristics in people's private life and working world. Culture is something dynamic in this context that is subject to constant change. Individuals in this context find themselves in a constant process of negotiation in their culture and in discourse between different cultural orientations.

Interculturalism in this context includes differences in gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or in the socio-economic situation or the differences in company and administrative cultures.

Openness as a second term seems clear and understandable. But if you consider that openness presupposes unity then the term opens up further dimensions. Unity can be based on conscious or subconscious mechanisms of exclusion. Power issues and interests are associated with this. However, openness is an active, consciously formed, (self-) reflective process with the aim of facilitating recognition between different people, ways of life and forms of organisation.

This project is based on the broad understanding of culture. Intercultural opennessis regarded as a “consciously formed process that facilitates (self-) reflective learning and change processes by and between different people, ways of life and forms of organisation” according to research literature. It breaks down “access barriers and segregation mechanisms in the organisations that are to be opened up” (S. Handschuck & H. Schröer (2012): Intercultural orientation and openness: Theoretical principles and 50 implementation activities, Augsburg: the goal, P. 45).

Opening up does not just mean being open to new members. Opening up also means being open to reflect on yourself as a person and as an organisation and reflecting upon your own attitude.” (Wolfgang Fleiner, Vice President on the Board of Management of Schwäbischer Turnerbund e.V. - Swabian Gymnastics Association - (STB) at the kick-off meeting on 25.11.2016)


Intercultural competence refers to the ability to be able to confidently and successfully deal with people from other cultural circles (to “interact”). Being interculturally competent is anyone who recognises and understands concepts of perception, thoughts, feelings and actions from other cultural circles that are unfamiliar to them without prejudice. The constant willingness to learn is essential (BMI (2009), Intercultural openness in sport – practical tips for associations, clubs, active individuals and interested parties, Rostock, P. 8).

What are the benefits of intercultural openness?

  • Increasing your own attractiveness: The public rewards organisations that have an open and pluralistic way of thinking and also accept social responsibility.
  • Gaining members: Organisations that appreciate diversity are also recommended in many ways.
  • Loyalty from members of staff: Employees feel appreciated as individuals if their skills are valued and this leads to their loyalty to get more motivated and more involved.
  • Innovation through diversity: Mixed teams often come up with more creative and innovative solutions than homogeneous groups.
  • Improving interaction with one another: Mixed teams learn much more from each other and therefore extend their horizon; an important factor in the increased competition for qualified employees in full-time employment and also in voluntary work.
  • Overcoming prejudices: Mixed teams are very important for overcoming prejudices. They underline the importance of cultural co-existence and its benefits.
  • Development and access to other target groups: A diverse membership structure offers opportunities to speak to new target groups and improve contact with them.
  • Increasing member satisfaction and loyalty: Diversity leads to more tailor-made activities for members and therefore also to greater member satisfaction. It is also easier to address the needs of heterogeneous customer groups with a diverse group of employees and a diverse membership structure

(Please refer to.: Intercultural openness - what is it? Who benefits from it? Why is this? Diakonisches Werk Berlin-Brandenburg-schlesische Oberlausitz e.V., a charitable organisation of Protestant churches in Germany and Austria as well as numerous free churches.)

What intercultural challenges are there in sport?

The spin project organised by the North Rhine-Westphalian Sports Federation examined integration processes in and through sport in two project phases from 2007-2011 and 2011-2015. A special focus was placed on girls and women. Young women with a migrant background were specifically recruited to train as exercise instructors.

A survey conducted among the club staff was able to determine different challenges in dealing with other cultures in the club that have been interpreted differently in the clubs and consequently the reactions to these are also different.  Some clubs observed that Muslim girls stayed away from sport during puberty, others determined that this was also the case with boys. There were also differences regarding the headscarf. One club rejected it categorically, others did not see it as a problem.

The club staff considered parental involvement to be an important issue. It is important to establish trust, particularly when dealing with the parents. If the parents are not familiar with the club, they also do not know what their children can expect there. Therefore it is important to be polite to the parents and give them respect, including with regard to their origin, religion and traditions.

Further literature

Intercultural openness in organised children's and youth sport

Work tool for organisational and staff development in the dsj and its member organisations

To download and order free of charge

Intercultural openness in sport
Practical tips for associations, clubs, active individuals and interested parties

The handout intends to provide suggestions for popular sport and amateur sport and promote integration into sport with practical tips. It contains important information for sports associations and sports clubs, but is also specifically geared to supervisors.

To download and order free of charge