THE BLOG

The Victory In Bringing Our Best Selves Together For Social Change

We all have the power to make a difference in the world. One person can make a great difference, indeed. Just look at the Greatest Of All Time, Muhammad Ali, who has left the world a far better place by being in it. I remember back when he attended our Special Olympics World Games in Ireland in 2003, and the impact he had on everyone he met. He was surrounded by so many that we had to form a human chain around him to protect him from the crowds, but he wanted to meet our athletes above all else.

He wanted our athletes to be the best that they could be, just as he was, regardless of their intellectual disabilities. He knew that every one on this Earth has the distinct possibility to be the very best they can be. That "impossible is nothing". But what about the rest of that famous Ali quote - that challenges people to explore the power they have to change the world? Imagine if we explored that power together, as a united front working together to make an impact?

There are many challenges and problems in the world today that can also be met with great innovation and solution through collaborative efforts for true social change. If we each have the power to make a difference, what if we worked to merge those powers and abilities to benefit the greater good to make true, meaningful impact?

The other iconic figure at our 2003 World Games was Nelson Mandela. Ali and Mandela met at our Special Olympics Youth Summit held during the Games and brought so many people together to celebrate. Mandela has said: "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."

I believe that sports has always been an incredible catalyst for impact in the world. I have had the opportunity to witness this power firsthand over the decades working with Special Olympics. Working now as CEO of Special Olympics, we serve over 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in nearly 170 countries all over the world. Their accomplishments have made an incredible difference on their own merit but they also have a global community to join them in playing unified.

By bringing people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same playing field through our Special Olympics Unified Sports® program, we are fostering more together than we ever could apart. We are breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions. We are fostering inclusion and acceptance for all. We now have more than 1 million people across the world playing Unified Sports! They are making a difference by working together as teammates and friends to change their communities for the better and to promote a more inclusive world for everyone.

We have merely begun to explore the potential this Unified Sports program has to change lives. We know that it takes insight, innovation and collaboration to make a meaningful difference. Partners in the corporate sector, like ESPN, partners in the government sector, like the U.S. Department of Education, partners in the sports sector like the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer - they all have their own individual assets and power to make a difference. In collaborating to leverage the unique assets and abilities that each of our partners can bring to Special Olympics, only then are we in a position to foster true innovation through the power of our sports platform.

As we reflect on the legacy of Muhammad Ali, I see it as a challenge to find new ways to become even more innovative and collaborative with each of our respective talents to the benefit of all. We need to be courageous, as our athletes say "be brave in the attempt", to step outside our comfort zones and push the boundaries of what is possible in our efforts on and off the playing field. If we seek out ways to work together with others to change the world, who knows what we could accomplish together? It is incumbent upon us all to explore ways to best work together to make meaningful impact through whatever platform is at your disposal, sport or otherwise. Because beyond the boxing ring, Ali represented the capacity we all have to be our best selves. Being our best means working together to make important change because, as Ali also said: "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with the Social Innovation Summit 2016, the premier social impact event of the year representing a meticulously curated gathering of corporate executives, global philanthropists, technologists, grantmakers, innovators, and social entrepreneurs converging from around the world during this exclusive two-day event in Washington, DC. You may learn more at www.socinnovation.com.