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Going to scale?

Going to scale?

Publication type

Research and Project Evaluations

A critique of the role of the public sector in sport for development and peace in South Africa

The Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) field has grown rapidly, but still faces certain theoretical and practical limitations. There remain serious gaps in our collective understanding of which initiatives work best, how and why, and whether these can be scaled. Further, there remains little literature or robust debate around the governance of SDP, with limited conceptualisation of the optimal institutional arrangements and roles and responsibilities of the relevant stakeholders operating in this emerging sector. As such the best methods of cooperation and collaboration may be unclear or vague, reducing the likelihood of strong partnerships, shared outcomes and ultimately greater impact.

This study contributes to the SDP field as an emerging field of development cooperation and explores optimal governance of the sector. The article herein analyses the role of the public sector in SDP, examining how it can best work with other stakeholders and partners to ensure sport is optimised as a vehicle for social change. This article forms part of a larger doctoral study that examines roles and responsibilities (current and potential) of the public sector, civil society and academic sector in SDP, providing a cooperative governance framework that would result in improved levels of cooperation and coordination of the sector.

The study examines public sector engagement in SDP in South Africa, using a parallel mixed methods approach, including key informant interviews, surveys, document analysis and observation. Findings show that state led SDP initiatives can achieve results and the state has the potential to mainstream a SDP intervention. Very few civil society actors show similar capacity for scale and reach, though they may be more effective and efficient, responsive and flexible, and more adept at monitoring and evaluating their work. As such improved outcomes are more likely if partnerships exist within government and with other organs of society. It is recommended the state plays a strategic and regulatory role, focusing less on service delivery while providing greater leadership and direction in coordinating efforts related to SDP.

It is suggested a society centred approach should be taken to SDP, while allowing the state to provide leadership and direction, manage and regulate, and intervene when needed as per the concept of a ‘developmental state’. A common critique of SDP is that projects tend to produce micro results while claiming macro outcomes. A strong and visionary state can provide opportunities for a coalition of actors to implement policies, plans and programmes at scale, enhancing the potential of SDP to achieve real and lasting change. It will require teamwork.



Ben Sanders


Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 10:20