Meet our Nordic Fellow Johann Olav Koss

Johann is the president and CEO of Right to Play. Right to Play is an athlete-driven international organization that aims at bringing about behavioral changes and enhancing children's holistic development. 

His Changemaker journey

In his youth, Johann discovered a passion for speed skating and trained to become an Olympic athlete. After winning four Olympic gold medals and one silver, setting multiple speed-skating world records in the process, he credited much of his success to his two coaches and to understanding the value of teamwork.


In addition to being a world-renowned athlete, Johann also went on to medical school, where he proved he could excel at both education and sports.

In 1993, Johann became a sports ambassador for Olympic Aid for Eritrea, devastated after its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia. During this visit, he played football with war-affected children and was deeply moved. There, he realized the impact that sport could have in bringing people together.

His Idea

Right to Play identifies pressing social issues affecting young people and develops games and teaching methodologies to address them. Each activity is developed with the ultimate goal of bringing about behavioral change among participants as well as coaches.


All games contain elements that contribute to knowledge building, resulting in new perspectives on social problems and their solutions. Furthermore, the games are participatory in nature and thus work off the principle of reflect-connect-apply.

Right to Play operates in countries affected by war, poverty and disease, identifying local issues and addressing them through adapted sports programs. 

The principle guiding Right to Play is to the goal of bringing about behavioral change among children and youth, furthering their holistic development. Such behavioral changes are cultivated by the involvement of young people in Right to Play’s sports programs, which are designed to teach values and life skills like teamwork, inclusiveness, discipline, and communication.

Right to Play has developed a delivery model focused on capacity building that is easily adaptable to local communities. In addition, Right to Play has successfully established a coach-teacher model that builds local capacity by training participants to become future coaches/trainers. This not only promotes income generation and career building through the development of leadership skills but also provides a meaningful connection between youth and adults, thus eliminating barriers in education. The activities are practical and build role models for children, which has led to an increase in attendance rates in schools. 

Johann has strategically partnered with local communities and citizen organizations in every country his program operates in. 

Curious for more?

Emma Lindgren

Nordic Director