Model indicators on sport, physical education and physical activity

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Model indicators on sport, physical education and physical activity

This section outlines a toolkit and set of model indicators designed to measure contributions of sport, PE and physical activity to the SDGs.

The importance of developing model indicators to measure the contribution of sport, physical activity and physical education (PE) to national development priorities and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has been widely agreed upon at a global policy level. This action is being coordinated by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in coordination with UNESCO and a wide variety of sport and non-sport actors.

Over 100 international and national stakeholders, representing a broad geographic spread of potential users of the indicator framework, have contributed to developing the model indicators and measurement framework. This group’s input resulted in substantial design improvements being made to version 1.0 of the toolkit and model indicators, which was presented to the inaugural meeting of an open-ended working group meeting in September 2018. Version 2.0 was then completed in February 2019 and version 3.1 was published in November 2019, following the second working group meeting. The current version of the framework (version 4.0) was developed towards the end of 2020. 

What is the toolkit and how can I use it?

The toolkit provides an overarching measurement framework for the contribution of sport, physical education and physical activity to the SDGs, including a set of model indicators that have been developed, tested and redesigned. A number of country, sport and institutional stakeholders have started aligning their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks to the SDGs through the use of the model indicators. The data and feedback received from these early adopters has provided the basis for further validation and development of the global indicator bank. 

Section 1: Sport, physical education, physical activity and the SDGs 

The first section of the toolkit lays the foundations for the development of an M&E framework for sport’s contribution to the SDGs. This includes a brief review of previous international policy work on sport’s contribution to the SDGs, along with an overview of the five principles used to develop the model indicators. 

The section also presents a theory of change for the sport sector, identifying the logic model for sport’s impact on the SDGs at scale. This focuses on how sport, physical activity and physical education initiatives can lead to social, environmental and economic impacts, and critically which aspects of this system mediate this impact at scale. This system-wide theory of change can be further broken down into individual results chains, which define the cause and effect logic behind individual interventions and activities. The next sections of the toolkit provide further detail on applying these concepts in practice. 

How can I use this section?
This section can help policymakers, practitioners and others to better understand the global policy framework underlying sport’s contribution to wider outcomes. In particular, it provides valuable information on how sport can contribute to the SDGs in a targeted manner – this is relevant not only to high level policies but to programmes and projects on the ground that have aligned their work to the SDGs. This is applicable to both public authorities and civil society organisations, as well as the private sector and educational institutions.

Section 2: Practical implementation of a sport, physical education and physical activity M&E system 

This section of the report provides an overview of results-based management (RBM) as a methodology for delivering interventions designed for social, economic and environmental development outcomes. RBM is a strategy by which all actors, contributing directly or indirectly to achieving a set of results, ensure that their processes, products and services are informed by reliable data and contribute to the desired results. Importantly, it prescribes a phased approach to M&E including:

  1. Planning: identifying relevant and desired results and the means for measuring that change (indicators)
  2. Monitoring: a continuous process of gathering performance information on progress towards achieving desired outcomes 
  3. Evaluation: the systematic and objective assessment of an ongoing or completed project, programme or policy. The aim is to determine the relevance and fulfilment of objectives, development efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability
  4. Learning: feedback processes to allow for communication, learning and improvement in order to optimise future performance 

How can I use this section?
This section provides valuable information and guidance on designing RBM systems within organisations. This process, along with developing a theory of change, enables organisations to better determine the logical flow of inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts in their work. This assists with the establishment of an M&E framework or system to measure the above work flow, allowing organisations to better assess their policies, programmes and projects. 

Section 3: The sport and SDG measurement framework and model indicator bank 

Section 3 provides a sample sport policy measurement framework with three indicator categories: 

How can I use this section?
This section provides a direct way to measure sport’s contribution to the SDGs by suggesting model indicators. These indicators cover all 10 SDGs identified in the Kazan Action Plan as areas where sport, PE and physical activity can contribute most effectively. The different indicator categories are useful in different ways. 

Category 1 indicators are universal and designed to be measured at scale. These are relevant for global actors, policymakers and national governments, though local actors and civil society organisations can also align and input into these indicators. 

Category 2 indicators are more sector specific, relevant to each of the 10 SDGs identified in the Kazan Action Plan. For example, there are specific indicators on how to measure the contribution of sport, PE and physical activity to SDG 3: Good health and well-being. Actors that work on these thematic areas, whether at the policy, programme or project level, may find them relevant to their planning, design, implementation and measurement processes.

Category 3 indicators provide a means to capture the impact of programmes that contribute to the SDGs. Many actors deliver interventions in specific local contexts and this work can make crucial contributions, but measurement is often limited to the meso (community) and micro (individual) levels. Given this, the report provides a methodology to link different programmes and outputs that target similar issues, measuring their total effect. For example, organisations using sport for health may have similar outputs and outcomes, which may be aggregated (if possible) and/or synthesised to provide an overview of the total change their programmes create.

This section also provides recommendations on how to use the measurement framework, different approaches to measurement and data gathering, and disaggregation of data (i.e. splitting data by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and other characteristics).

Section 4: Implementation Planning 

Finally, practical implementation advice is provided in the fourth section of the toolkit. This includes an overview of the following implementation methodology:

  1. Build a common understanding of the potential role of sport, physical education and physical activity in development 
  2. Research and map “potential” sport results areas against relevant development priorities and prioritised SDGs
  3. Formulate a policy, strategy or action plan for sport’s contribution to different development priorities 
  4. Channel sport-related results into national development plans and other strategic implementation frameworks and plans (and identify coherent data sources and indicators)
  5. Develop an aligned monitoring and evaluation framework 
  6. Establish a holistic monitoring, evaluation and learning system 
  7. Collect and coordinate data collection, analysis and reporting 
  8. Formulate a learning and knowledge dissemination approach 

How can I use this section?
This section is arguably the most important. It provides clear and detailed guidance on how to develop and implement an M&E framework and system that can measure the contributions of your sport-based policy, programme and/or project to the SDGs and other development priorities. This includes developing, implementing and continually assessing a theory of change and RBM approach for your work, and being able to use and report findings and learnings.

Deliverables and outputs

The Commonwealth has produced several documents as part of the project. The most important is the toolkit: Measuring the contribution of sport, physical education and physical activity to the sustainable development goals: Toolkit and model indicator bank [version 4.0].

In addition, the following are available on request from the Commonwealth Secretariat (queries can be directed to

  • Open-ended working group on model indicators on sport, physical education and physical activity and the SDGs: Meeting report and recommendations
  • Measuring and evaluating the contribution of national sport, PE and physical activity policies to the SDGs: Discussion paper
Who is the target audience?

This work intends to mobilise all stakeholders engaged in the use of sport for wider benefits, including contributing to the SDGs and other relevant development priorities. While it has been mandated through the Kazan Action Plan and UN Action on Sport for Development and Peace, it is designed to benefit all individuals and organisations engaged in policy and programme design, delivery and measurement and evaluation.

This acknowledges the diverse array of networks and actors engaged in enhancing the contribution of sport to sustainable development, including: 

  • National governments 
  • International and national sport organisations 
  • Development agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) 
  • Funding partners and sponsors 
  • Universities and educational institutions
  • Other organisational and delivery partners 

The initiative seeks to align to relevant international policies and commitments, including the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace, the UNESCO Quality Physical Education Guidelines, the WHO Global Action Plan for Physical Activity and the African Union Agenda 2063. It also aims to align to sport policies and guidelines such as the IOC Agenda 2020, other key thematic areas outlined in the Kazan Action Plan (e.g. the integrity of sport) and other instruments.

This alignment is important because it means the toolkit and model indicators do not simply propose a new system and set of indicators but attempt, as far as possible, to integrate existing measures into this initiative, helping to reduce the reporting burden and ensure improve coordination and buy-in.


PDF icon Category 1 Indicators1.1 MB
PDF icon Category 2 Indicators1.22 MB

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