As with any social movement, groups and people need an entity to turn to when they have a question, feel moved to make a difference, want to learn more, or need materials. Enter: a backbone organization. Depending on its mission, that organization also could be responsible for fundraising, coordinating stakeholder efforts, pushing information into and capturing learnings from the grassroots, conducting research, developing tools and best practices, and supporting local groups. It could also convene, mentor, and develop leaders. A coordinated set of national standards may also prove to be beneficial, since youth in low-income communities are often transient. At the very least, such an organization would help to establish credibility for physical literacy.

Our working group’s global scan underscored the importance of a domestic, go-to organization. In every country where a PL movement has taken hold, one group has emerged as a coordinating force. In most cases, it’s been a sport body that leads the organizing efforts.[73] In Canada, it’s a cadre of loosely organized, if like-minded academics and sport leaders that collaborate under the umbrella of Canadian Sport 4 Life.[74] They have created a library of materials to support leaders across Canada and increasingly across the globe. Elsewhere, including New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and Wales, the government assumes this role, typically by supporting the national sport organizations within their respective countries.[75]

The countries with the most established initiatives (England, Canada, and Wales) have ministries of sport that help fund external organizations or offer support in developing and implementing their plans. The United States lacks an equivalent federal body to support sport development, so relying on government resources may not be the most viable option at present. It is worth noting that PL programs that focus on reaching lower-income and underserved groups are typically funded through the government’s social spending, though even in the aforementioned countries, sustaining that funding has proven to be a challenge, suggesting that a new model of funding may be more effective.

In the United States, the leadership body could be an existing nonprofit or foundation that adopts physical literacy as one of its programs. This leadership group should look to build alignment among other existing organizations and their constituencies. One way to do this is for stakeholder organizations to adopt PL as part of their platforms and bodies of work.

Though it is hard to predict the funding needs at this stage in the process, capital will have to be raised to support the efforts of any such backbone or organization. The funds pooled by the organization could then be distributed across communities to incentivize or seed valuable state or local efforts, with the objective of empowering champions and ambassadors to take the lead in their own communities.


• CONVENE LEADERS to conceptualize the most effective backbone organization, as well as potential funding sources that can supply the necessary leadership and staffing, and support the creation of materials and toolkits. Consideration should also be given to additional phases for a PL effort that will address teens, young adults, and aging adults.

• CREATE REGIONAL AND LOCAL HUBS for advancing PL efforts, helping organizations to create their own resources that sync with the recommendations from the national group.

• DEVELOP A ROBUST WEBSITE that can host resources, and draft a communication plan to push information to target audiences.