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Call for articles: Do no harm - avoiding pitfalls in sport and development

Indian women in wheelchairs cheering
Author: Felita Viegas
Copyrights: Rural Development Trust

Call for articles: Do no harm - avoiding pitfalls in sport and development

What happens when sport goes wrong? How, when and why can sport make a real difference? sportanddev is launching a call for articles.

Much of the narrative around sport and development centres on the use of sport to achieve positive outcomes. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that sport is not inherently positive and that initiatives may have unintended negative effects. A number of prominent scholars have long cautioned against the evangelising of sport’s role in development, which is by nature complicated, intersectional and deep-seated. In our recent annual survey, sportanddev users echoed the need to think critically about the use of sport.

Not only are there many variables that influence whether a sport-based initiative may lead to positive outcomes; there is also the real danger that such initiatives may cause harm or damage, unintentionally scoring an own goal in their efforts to effect change.

Negative symptoms of sport, especially when it takes place in a hyper-competitive manner, include aggression, violence, and cheating (including match fixing and doping). Further, there are ongoing concerns around the integrity of sport, with issues related to safeguarding and child protection, as well as governance, accountability and transparency among sporting bodies. Sport may also sometimes reinforce existing conflicts and inequities in relation to class, race, gender, ethnicity, (dis)ability, socio-economic status and background. Access to, and experience of, sport is not equal.

The Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport (CABOS) acknowledges this paradox: “There have been instances where sport has been poorly planned, overly aligned to extreme nationalist, political or economic motives or beset by doping and corruption scandals such that a negative impact on human and social development could be argued.”

Other critiques of the use of sport in development include:

  • The north-driven nature of the sector, which produces an ‘unequal exchange’
  • The use of a deficit-reduction model
  • Neo-colonial and/or neo-liberal approaches
  • Reinforcement of the existing structures and systems which produce the problems that interventions seek to solve in the first place
  • The overemphasis on performance/elite sport, with a focus on sporting outcomes rather than development outcomes
  • A lack of social justice approaches

This is by no means an exhaustive list and many other (valid) critiques exist.

sportanddev believes it is important to generate debate and discussion on this topic, to raise awareness of the complexity of using sport for development purposes among practitioners, policy-makers, donors and other stakeholders. This will ideally result in more targeted investments and a better understanding of if/how, why and when sport can make a real difference.

Call for articles

We are launching a call for articles around the theme 'Do no harm: avoiding pitfalls in sport and development'. We welcome submissions on any aspect of the theme from all corners of the sportanddev community, including scholars, policy-makers and practitioners with field-based experiences. Articles may synthesise and link to existing works or publications, or may contain original insights.

Articles should be between 500-600 words. Please include a landscape-oriented picture with attribution details, if possible. We can also consider shorter or longer pieces.

Please submit your articles (or queries) to Nicola Love on love[at]sad[dot]ch in Microsoft Word format, including your name, social media handles, and organisation (if applicable).

Deadline for submissions: 23 February 2020.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020 - 14:14