SAP Social Sabbatical: Helping Homeless People Through the Power of Sports

The Homeless World Cup (HWC) Foundation helps people take their lives in a new direction. During an assignment through the SAP Social Sabbatical program, one SAP employee got to know the organization better.

Mette Tang works as Customer Experience director for SAP Denmark, so her daily job doesn’t often involve soccer. But during her recent participation in an SAP Social Sabbatical in Scotland, Mette focused on soccer everyday while supporting HWC.

Founded in 2003, the nonprofit organization helps homeless people around the world, using the power of sports to inspire them to change their lives. The foundation organizes a “Homeless World Cup” annually and runs many other smaller projects. Since its start, HWC has grown and now has partners in 73 countries, touching more than 100,000 people every year around the globe.

The challenge for HWC was that it had not changed its business strategy since it was set up 15 years ago. Along with two other SAP employees, Mette was asked to create a new business model that would drive sustainable growth and improve efficiencies for the organization.

Homeless World Cup Foundation team
Mette (front row, second from right) and team at the Homeless World Cup Foundation’s office in Edinburgh.

Having worked at SAP for 18 years, Mette knows her professional strengths: “You automatically use the skills you have come to master without really thinking about it.” Mette found putting her skills to use in a completely different context both tested her abilities and was very rewarding as they were put to use for a good cause.

Working with the team at HWC, Mette and SAP colleagues Benny Keane and Thibaud de Keyzer developed a business strategy that would help the organization in the short-, mid-, and long-term. Mette explains, “We created a simple strategy to increase impact while taking into account HWC’s very limited resources.”

“SAP Social Sabbatical is designed to solve concrete business challenges of nonprofit organizations by bridging the digital divide. It also challenges SAP leaders and talent to understand the global consequences of a rapidly digitized world, to embrace the idea of life-long learning, and to be role models for living SAP’s vision and purpose.”

– Alexandra van der Ploeg, global head of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP

During her sabbatical, Mette learned more about the reasons why people become homeless.

“When people are thrown into chaotic circumstances, it can quickly lead you down a dark path,” she explains. “My perception of homelessness has changed significantly. I realized that once you are in that kind of situation, it is tough to get out of it.”



Colleagues playing table soccer
Colleagues getting to know one another through table soccer.

Soccer can be a very powerful tool to help break the downward spiral. Mette was particularly surprised to learn that having a little daily regularity, such as scheduled soccer practices, can be a catalyst for change for the participants. It inspires relationships, brings structure and support, and gives a sense of belonging. In a survey conducted by HWC, 94 percent of the players said that HWC had positively impacted their lives.

By undertaking a two-week sabbatical at the organization, Mette and her SAP colleagues were able to put their skills to work bringing alive SAP’s vision to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.

There were many reasons why Mette decided to participate in a social sabbatical, but the main factor was her desire to inspire and help others, just as she had been helped herself.

“Back when I was deciding what to do with my life, I had people around me who took the time to help me find the right path and direction,” she says. Her SAP Social Sabbatical enabled her to support an organization committed to doing exactly the same thing.

This article first appeared on the SAP News Center.