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2020 on sportanddev: A year in review

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2020 on sportanddev: A year in review

As 2020 draws to a close, we reflect on some of the most important events in sport and development in a challenging and tumultuous year.


We started the year with a call for articles on avoiding the pitfalls in sport and development. We asked the sportanddev community to address the negative symptoms of sport, and the conditions needed to ensure that sport makes a real difference.

Other highlights from the month included the launch of a new resource on sport for healing from Edgework Consulting, and an article by sportanddev senior consultant Ben Sanders on why investing in grassroots sport has more long-term value than elite sport.


In February, we began to publish articles from our call on avoiding pitfalls in sport and development. Readers highlighted various issues, ranging from governance and management to safeguarding and sexual abuse, and from sexism and racism to labour rights and enjoyability.

Another highlight from this month included news of a group of young climate activists and environmentalists sailing from Cartagena, Colombia to Bonn, Germany to attend an international climate conference in an effort to elevate the voices of Latin American and the Caribbean.


Fears of COVID-19 began to rise around the world in March, but we started the month strong, celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March, with articles discussing role models, grassroots athletes, the inclusion of women with disabilities in sport, and women’s leadership in sport. These articles reminded us of the importance of including women in sport and ensuring that they remain a vital and important part of sport for development.


By April, many countries had begun national lockdowns, throwing the world into an unprecedented situation. As many facets of life and work suffered, so did the sport for development sector.

Yet, we celebrated the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April, highlighting six stories from our community. Nicholas Bruce led a series of articles exploring sport and development stories across the six continents.

As the world grappled with a new reality, we launched a section on COVID-19, providing information on the ways in which the sport and development community has responded to the pandemic. This included: policy resources and guidelines; programme resources, guidelines and recommendations; prevention and containment measures; information on how programmes have adapted and innovated; guidance on returning to activity; and various support and assistance packages.

In the effort to adapt to this new reality, the Commonwealth worked with partners to create resources and commission research to help community sport and relevant authorities through the pandemic.  


In May, we collected articles on what the future of sport and development should look like in a post-pandemic world. With more than 50 articles from across the globe, the topics ranged from funding, adapting programme models and partnerships to social responsibility, education and mental health. An overarching theme of the articles, however, was the resilience of the sport and development sector, as well as the importance of #BuildingBackBetter with greater access, equity and inclusion.


Building on the momentum of our call for articles on the future of sport and development, we held a webinar on the topic. More than 1,000 people from over 60 countries watched on Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. It was moderated by Eli Wolff (Power of Sport Lab) and Marion Keim (Foundation for Sport, Development and Peace). Panellists were Rekha Dey (Rekha Dey & Associates), Oliver Dudfield (Commonwealth Secretariat), Maria Bobenrieth (Women Win), Warren Lucas (youth leader) and Ben Howard (Pacific Sports Partnerships).


In July, we announced our partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. This month also saw the launch of our massive open online course (MOOC) called “Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes”. It was created by sportanddev in partnership with the Australian government and the Commonwealth Secretariat. An updated version of the course will be launched in April 2021.


August saw the celebration of Safer Sport Day, and the theme for this year was to ‘Take the Pledge,’ encouraging organisations to commit to making sport safer for children everywhere. Indeed, safeguarding was an important issue throughout the year, as many discussed the important role it plays in ensuring children can access and enjoy sports in a safe and healthy environment. This included an article on prevention and protection strategies, an article on insights from a survivor/ally research team and the launch of a new digital platform and online courses on safeguarding by UEFA and Terre des homme.


September was a busy month as we focused on sport and refugees. We published articles from our call on sport and refugees, receiving over 40 articles from the community. We held our Week of Action on sport and refugees from 21 to 27 September, in collaboration with UNHCR. The activities during this week, which included a webinar and a Twitter Q&A. The week raised awareness on the role of sport in addressing the challenges faced by refugees, encouraging discussion and collaboration, and providing guidance and resources for organisations working on the topic.

We also launched a new section on our website on sport and refugees, in collaboration with UNHCR, featuring news, tools and resources.


In October, we published the results of our 2020 annual survey to understand the role of sportanddev in the sector, recommendations for the platform to improve, and the thoughts of the community on the broader sport and development sector.

We also celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October with a series of articles and media from ChildFund.


In November, we launched a report in collaboration with the Japan Sport Council, which highlighted the findings of a comprehensive survey on the sport for development sector. It illustrated the need to build capacity in programme design, project management and policy implementation.

This month also saw articles addressing discrimination in sport, like research from the UK that showed that Black and Asian people are patronised and poorly represented. However, we also saw a commitment from international organisations to address discrimination, including the International Paralympic Committee planning a refugee team for Tokyo 2020 and Commonwealth countries unanimously agreeing to promote human rights and tackle discrimination at all levels of sport.


On 3 December, we celebrated the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, as we received over 90 articles from a call for articles. We received articles from over 40 countries on all six continents, including Saint Lucia, Macedonia, Nepal, Portugal, Brazil, India, UK, South Korea, Mexico, Peru, Vanuatu and New Zealand.

We also hosted a panel on Sport and Youth Engagement in Turbulent Times as part of the Generation Amazing Festival, whereby we convened youth leaders to discuss how youth groups can stay connected through sport during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Other highlights from the month included: UNHCR’s celebrations of the first anniversary of the Global Refugee Forum,  which tracked the progress of a coalition of more than 80 entities in their work towards their pledges through sport; an interview with Patrick Glasser, UEFA’s head of social responsibility, to understand the role sports federations play in tackling climate change; and a report from Pro Sport Development’s scoping study on the sport for development sector in South and Southeast Asia.

Looking forward

This year has been a busy one for sportanddev, as we, along with the rest of the world, navigate the uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and grasp what this means for us as a platform, a sector and as humanity. As we move into 2021, we hope that this year brings with it some solutions to the global problems facing us and good health for all. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with the sportanddev community, and we are grateful for your support.


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Wednesday, December 23, 2020 - 19:56

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