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Sport in the service of international development


Sport in the service of international development

Professor Tess Kay of Brunel University, London, provides with an insight into the contributions she believes sport can make to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

Drawing on a range of research evidence and experience, Professor Kay identified five consistent messages about what sport can do to help achieve the Millenium Development Goals:

  • Sport has special qualities for engaging young people. Many young people want to be involved, making it a powerful tool for development;
  • Sport attracts those who do not respond to other approaches;
  • Sport can deliver development outcomes, either as an incentive (e.g. in some programmes children can play sport if they attend school) or through direct delivery (e.g. certain sport-based games act as HIV-AIDS educational tools);
  • Sport helps establish productive relationships with adults. Young people are more willing to listen to adults when they have a close relationship with them through sport, than in formal settings where adults are more authoritarian;
  • Positive experiences from sport can transfer to other contexts. Young people use the benefits they get from sport in their lives as a whole. Team sports in particular build discipline and self control develop, and personal and social skills.

As shown above, sport has considerable potential to contribute to the MDGs but these goals are extraordinarily ambitious targets that require complex social change. Professor Kay suggested that sport can contribute best if it learns from the wider field of international development. She argued that after a very active decade, sport in development is entering a second phase: the value of sport has increasingly been established, and less energy needs to be invested in advocating for its inclusion in development.

Instead, sport can now concentrate on how it can operate most effectively in international development contexts by drawing on the expertise built by the international development community over several decades. This advises that a sustainable legacy needs:

  • A partnership, not a donor-recipient relationship;
  • Programmes led by the needs of in-country partners, not predetermined by external funders;
  • Participation at all stages, from planning to evaluation;
  • To use local knowledge of local communities;
  • To invest time in planning and to grow slowly.

Professor Kay concluded that, it is by aligning itself with these approaches (above) and offering itself in the service of international development, that sport can make its fullest contribution.

Professor Kay also spoke at the 2nd International Forum on Sport, Peace and Development, on the subject of 'Sport as a catalyst for achieving the MDGs'.


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Professor Tess Kay


Monday, May 16, 2011 - 23:00

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