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Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools

Building schools and communities of inclusion.

Our innovation cultivates inclusive mindsets through Unified Champion Schools (UCS): programming that convenes youth with and without intellectual disabilities through sports, leadership development and community engagement.

HundrED 2024


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED Global Collection 2024

Web presence






Target group
Students upper
April 2023
Inclusion is not just a state of being. It is a mindset comprised of a set of skills and behaviors. The most significant barriers to inclusion of children with ID are negative attitudes, i.e. stigma, and a lack of meaningful data. Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (UCS) serves as a platform to address both of these barriers.

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

Inclusion is the issue of our time. In an increasingly diverse world, the skillsets and mindsets to constructively engage those who are different are urgently needed. A future where stigma and exclusion no longer plague the marginalised requires a generational tipping point in development of these skills, beginning in schools.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

Special Olympics has extensively studied the impact of UCS and found that developing inclusive learning environments produces better outcomes for all students, teachers, and communities. It helps all students develop SEL skills, which improves their sense of connection to their school community. Research shows dramatic declines in bullying, teasing, and offensive- language through participation in Unified Champion Schools. UCS students in Greece reported they are now nine times more likely to believe they can learn from people who are different from them . As one of its most important outcomes, UCS positively impacts students without intellectual disabilities, with over 90 percent of students without intellectual disabilities in India and Kenya reporting a mindset that is more inclusive of those with differences . In Mainland China, over 50 percent of students without intellectual disabilities reported improved social-emotional skill development after participating in Unified Champion

How has it been spreading?

Current Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools engage over 1,000,000 students in 30,000 schools around the world. Over the course of the next 2-3 years we aim to reach 2,000,000 students in over 150,000 schools.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Special Olympics programming is in over 190 countries around the world. We encourage you to reach out to your local Special Olympics office and see how you can bring Unified Champion Schools to a school near you.

Impact & scalability

HundrED Academy Reviews

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools offers access to high-quality physical education for children. A proven model for inclusion through the development of physical abilities and creative abilities.

They have already scaled significantly in 36 countries, reaching 1 million children, the model is a school based programme, which appear low cost and easy to implement and engage with, you just need willing school staff.

- Academy member
Academy review results
Read more about our selection process

Implementation steps

Contact local Special Olympics office find your local SO Program using this link.
Set up a meeting with your school and SO
During the meeting discuss Unified Champion Schools and the different areas of work.
Start a leadership committee
After the meeting set up a leadership committee at your school made up of students with and without ID, teachers, and administration. This leadership committee will plan all events.
Plan first event
Plan first sport event for students to participate.

Spread of the innovation

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