Interview with Miriam Reijnen from NOC*NSF

Following the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo we present to you an interview with our partner NOC*NSF, the Dutch Sports Federation. We are incredibly proud of the Dutch team’s achievements during the Olympic and Paralympic Games and are equally proud to be working with NOC*NSF.

We spoke to NOC*NSF’s Coordinator for the Centre of Safe Sports Miriam Reijnen about topics such as our partnership, implementing SpeakUp and what SpeakUp means for the sport sector.

People Intouch: Let’s start off with a question about yourself, Miriam. Where does your passion for integrity come from?

Miriam Reijnen: I have always had affinity with the topic of injustice, on an above-average level, even as a child. I was quick to notice when something was not right. I was intrigued by the fact that things not always seemed to be just or right, and had a lot of questions about these topics. Questioning such things in a non-judgmental way is at the core of my job nowadays.

People Intouch: Why did you choose to implement SpeakUp in Dutch sport?

Miriam Reijnen: In 2017 a report was published detailing prevalence of sexual harassment in sports. This report contained about forty recommendations for improvement. One of these recommendations is to create a clear overview of the current state of affairs in sport and the amount of misconduct cases, in which transparency is key. Prior to SpeakUp, NOC*NSF had a system in place that only allowed for very limited reporting. Furthermore, the individual sport federations were in control of the administrative side. With the CMS, all sports federations are organized in one overarching system.

People Intouch: In what way is SpeakUp of added value to the sport sector?

Miriam Reijnen: We are noticing that SpeakUp is being used more and more. In the previous year we have witnessed that athletes mostly came in contact with us anonymously. It was good to see that SpeakUp had this effect and that we could engage in conversation with these athletes because of it. In general we have two or three conversations within the safety of the SpeakUp system and are therefore able to establish trust for personal contact.

People Intouch: You have catered SpeakUp to primarily deal with sexual harassment cases. Are there plans to widen the scope in the future?

Miriam Reijnen: In sports, a certain focus is generated by the incidents that occur in certain countries; be it doping incidents, or incidents related to match fixing or sexual harassment. Luckily, we are witnessing an increase of attention for topics such as discrimination, intimidation, abuse of power, bullying and exclusion. Sports are part of society, which means that you can expect topics related to societal trends to pop up in incidents and subsequent reports. We are not able to solve everything, of course, but we are able to stay alert and engage in conversation when needed. SpeakUp helps to make this conversation happen.

People Intouch: It seems almost impossible to make SpeakUp available to more than 5 million athletes. How do you achieve this?

Miriam Reijnen: We are very active on the CVSN’s (Centre for Safe Sports The Netherlands) social media channels, and we also send newsletters from affiliated individual sport federations. It takes time to create awareness, and with such a large number of people to reach, it is an illusion that all will be reached. The main goal is to ensure that people know where to go and how to report.

People Intouch: Why have you chosen to partner up with People Intouch?

Miriam Reijnen: At the time we were in contact with a number of organisations whom offered misconduct reporting systems. People Intouch came out on top because they were able to deal with both the size of our organisation and the amount of cases that we would expect to come in. NOC*NSF is an overarching organisation that includes 80 independent national sporting federations  – which consist of almost 25.000 individual sport associations and their members. The CMS is a flexible system which could be catered to our exact and specific needs corresponding with the sport sector and misconduct that is specific to it. It was good to know beforehand that People Intouch is able to offer plenty of expert advice about the risks and implementation process. To be able to create all the different accounts that were needed and to explain to the users how to work the system you need a flexible provider, which People Intouch is.

People Intouch: How do you view People Intouch as a partner?

Miriam Reijnen: At the beginning of the implementation project we talked a lot about NOC*NSF’s needs and the type of users that needed to be created. What is a sensible way to go about this? How do we arrange the system so that everyone can easily use it and trusts it? How do we pinpoint signals and receive reports in a structured and insightful way? People Intouch has helped us a lot in conveying the right message to the individual sports federations. An example of this is the demos that they provided which are designed to train people how to work with the system. The knowledge that People Intouch brings in these situations is something that we found very helpful.

People Intouch: And finally, would you use SpeakUp yourself?

Miriam Reijnen: I would have no problem at all to pick up the phone and tell my story as long as I know that the organisation that handles my case does so in an integer and proper way. In sport we are dealing with close to 5 million people (including athletes, members, trainers, managers, volunteers, et cetera) that can use this anonymous point of contact. The SpeakUp system facilitates that you have the possibility to listen to all people’s stories and increase the willingness to report. Furthermore, we have noticed that having SpeakUp brings about a feeling of trust towards our organisation.

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