Chess and Society – Norway 2019


The Chess and Society project in Norway

Name of the project
Chess and Society
BackgroundThe Norwegian Chess Federation (NSF) has experienced a remarkable revitalisation since Magnus Carlsen became the 16th World Champion in Chess in November 2013:More than doubling the number of ordinary members to 5.500Increased coverage in mainstream primetime television and other mediaHuge success with Chess in School initiatives like SkoleSjakken – launched in 2015 – so far more than 1.500 primary schools enrolled; 2000 teachers have been educated to become chess tutors Sjakk5ern: launched in 2017 – Chess competition for school classes 5th grade (10 years of age) – gone full national from 2019 – some 15.000+ kids partipate Government funding for NSF initiatives from educational department, culture department, municipalities and also funding from many other sources/sponsorsIn this situation, in October 2019, it was decided to try to create an even more substantial presence for chess in the Norwegian society, approaching various arenas such as libraries, prosons etc. 
What problem the project wanted to solveThe over-arching belief behind the Chess and Society project launch was that chess has a lot to offer to everyone in society. 
To facilitate that this could really become reality, a project was needed, to take the leadership in introducing chess to various parts of society.
Project idea and set-upThe project identified a long-list of some 30 areas of society where the belief was that establishing chess activity would have a significant impact. 
The rollout would be quite similar per area:

Approach those authorities or other governing bodies that was responsible for the area, make them aware of the intiative, and seek to have them release a «Letter of support», to be used in the initial sell-in phase within the sector. Example: The Government authority responsible for all libraries in the country gave such a Leteter of Support to Chess and Society – Libraries. 

Next, approach the individual units within the sector where the chess activity was to be established. This would typically be the physical place where the users would interact with the sector. Example: an individual library.

Offer that individual unit (e.g. a library) support to start up regular chess activity. The support package would normally include Chess material kitTraining session for those employees or volunteers who would run the chess activityAccess to a «resource bank» on the internet, with lots of «how to do it»- tipsAccess to a network of peer units doing the same thing at the same time

Follow up those units who enrolled, and offer stimulation packages for reinvigorating the local activity on a half-year basis, e.g. visits from the local chess club, tournaments etc
Summer 2018Meeting with Minister of Culture, presenting the project idea. Applying for funding.
Spring 2019Funding received from Government (0,3 mill EUR for a period of 3 years). In 2022, the Government approved another 0,1 mill EUR for one more year. Also, in 2019, a foundation granted some 0,2 mill EUR to the project, and several other partners have approved funding at various levels during the course of the project.
Summer 2019The project was staffed with some 2 central project resources. They are both still with the project. They reached out to the chess society of Norway, in clubs and other local units, and established cooperation with that society. Also, they approached the national organisations for voluntary work ,and set up agreements of cooperation with those, to increase the resource base. 
Autumn 2019The project was launched in the Library sector of Norway. Some 170 libraries (of a total of 300 + libraries in the Country) enrolled.  
Spring 2020The project was launched in the Prison sector of Norway. 24 prisons (of a total of 40 prisons in the Country) enrolled. 
Autumn 2020The project was launched in the Elderly Care sector of Norway. Some 900 individuals have already participated in this sector, despite the problems caused by Covid19.
Spring 2021The project was launched in the Mental Health sector of Norway. Many individuals have already participated also in this sector, despite the problems caused by Covid19. 
Upcoming sectors Substance abuse, Asylum Seekers. A list of some 30 arenas in total have been developed. The idea is to do a launch in one new sector every half year
Finances for the project and how the project leaders managed to receive itAs described above, funding was received from Government in the spring of 2019, (0,3 mill EUR for a period for 3 years). In 2022, the Government approved another 0,1 mill EUR for another year. Also, in 2019, a foundation granted some 0,2 mill EUR to the project, and several other partners have approved funding at various levels during the course of the project.
The exercise to identify where funding might be available was drawing on the experience of fund raising for other chess projects in Norway over the last 5 years. The Chess Federation had built a reputating of high level of project performance, and good project governance. This built trust, and led to smooth funding processes. Also, with the sector approach chosen, many extra possible areas of funding became available, and smaller applications for the various subprojects have been approved on an ongoing basis.
ResultsThe Chess and Society project has delivered top results in all sectors that has been approached so far. The penetration levels (e.g. around 50% of all libraries and more than 50% of all prisons in the country) are impressive. 
3 Norwegian prisons participated in the recent FIDE Intercontinental Online Championship for Prisons 2021 – one of them a team forom an all-female prison. 
Reflections, including problems faced and advice for the futureA general challenge is to make the initatives sustainable after the initial phase. Key employees in the units in question (e.g. libraries) move on, and quite a lot of effort needs to be put in to build report with new people coming in.

Covid19 has made everything more difficult, but ways have been found to work around even this, not least with online chess activity.

The funding potential is huge, and it is only down to the energy and creativity of those who do the funding work to achieve remarkable results. 
ContactGeir Nesheim,, +47 482 22 572