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More than a Game: A Review of the sport for development landscape in India

Copyrights: Pro Sport Development

More than a Game: A Review of the sport for development landscape in India

A research study by UNESCO New Delhi and Pro Sport Development highlights the priorities for the Indian sport for development organizations, moving forward.

The context

In August 2021, UNESCO New Delhi and Pro Sport Development (PSD) launched a research study into the sport for development (S4D) sector in India. The objective of this study was to understand the current landscape of the S4D sector in India and the scope for S4D programming in the country. Given the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the S4D sector around the world, the study captured how S4D initiatives can be supported and sustained in India in the future.

The study aimed to understand how S4D programming in India is enabling the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and their alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It identified existing gaps within the sector and provide actionable recommendations for the growth, sustainability and large-scale impact of S4D programming in India.

This study complements UNESCO’s recently launched sport-based flagship program, Fit for Life, designed to accelerate recovery in a post COVID-19 world by supporting inclusive and integrated policymaking and enhancing the wellbeing of youth. The global program is supported by partners worldwide and uses data driven sport interventions to tackle crises of physical inactivity, mental health, and growing inequality.

The research

This mixed-methods research study incorporated both quantitative and qualitative methods, using secondary and primary data sources. An initial literature review of existing research studies documenting prominent S4D initiatives and programs, including evaluations, documents and case studies, was conducted. A survey was also designed to understand the current status of the S4D sector in India, focusing on the thematic areas of work, types of S4D programs, as well as challenges and strategies for their future success. A total of 48 unique responses were received.

Further, in-depth interviews were conducted with senior members of six S4D organizations in India. These interviews formed the basis of the case studies presented within the report, including stories on Jungle Crows, Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti, Slum Soccer, Umoya Sports, Dream a Dream and Dakshin Foundation.

The findings

The findings revealed the major focus areas of S4D organizations in the regions, with the most prominent themes being meaningful youth empowerment and promoting gender equality, followed by enabling education and promoting good health and well-being. The SDGs targeted by S4D organizations were also reflective of their thematic focus, with most utilizing sport to enable outcomes pertaining to SDG 5: Gender equality, SDG 3: Good health and well-being, and SDG 4: Quality education.

The study revealed several gaps and challenges within the S4D landscape in India, including a scarcity of funds, policies that promote performance and elite sport over participation, a lack of research and advocacy, minimal support from the corporate sector, an inability to measure the impact of S4D programs effectively, and a lack of qualified trainers. The study also highlights a few successful strategies and operational models that have been utilized by S4D organizations in India, as well as popular sports used in S4D programming, future strategies to grow the sector as well as the impact of COVID-19.

Reshaping the Indian sport for development sector

Based on the data collected and analyzed, the study provides a set of practical recommendations and measures focusing on the pressing needs to be addressed in order to reshape sport and development programming in India.

These recommendations include the need for greater advocacy efforts for S4D at all levels of operations (national, regional and local). The recommendations prioritize the need for more in-depth research into the impact of S4D programming, robust assessment and evaluation tools as well as better alignment of existing S4D initiatives with national policies and schemes.

Increased collaborative efforts within the S4D sector and beyond was another key recommendation, with a strong emphasis placed on working and upskilling local partners to create more sustainable programs, knowledge sharing to enhance best practices along with greater collaboration with those working at national and local levels across the country.

Furthermore, the recommendations also highlight the necessity of better training programs for S4D personnel in India. There is a need for standardized knowledge resources and capacity building programs that can equip trainers with the unique skillset required to implement S4D programs. However, it is vital that these programs and resources are produced in different regional languages and promote sensitivity towards minority groups.

Lastly, the recommendations also look at ways in which organizations can look to access better funding avenues that are more long term and sustainable in nature. The report shares that only 8% of S4D programs currently receive funding from the government and it is essential that public sector funds are unlocked going forward, and advocacy as well as alignment with government policies and schemes are essential to achieving this. Moreover, S4D programs in India must be able to align their outcomes and objectives to private sector donors and CSR funding. The recommendations also suggest that it is important that in a post COVID-19 world, there is an opportunity to position the important role that sport can play in achieving public health outcomes and scale up funding for S4D towards better health and wellbeing.

  • Read the full report here

For any questions, please feel free to contact the authors at


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Friday, August 5, 2022 - 21:57

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