Round one: A voice challenging conventional thinking

Round one: A voice challenging conventional thinking

The scope, popularity and percieved neutrality of sport have given the S&D sector a high profile...

How has the S&D community contributed to the MDGs?
Sport has long been engaged for a variety of objectives and purposes. Amongst this history the discernable effort made by the S&D community over the past decade to articulate the role sport can play in the MDG process has been of particular note. In turn the MDGs have provided a framework to guide the S&D community’s contribution and a reference point to formally engage with other development actors.

Sport was not alone in this regard. All manner of "communities" involved in political, vocational or socio-cultural practices sought to articulate and advocate for their unique contribution. But the scope, popularity and perceived neutrality of sport meant the S&D community has been amongst the highest profile (albeit still with a tendency to have much of the conversation amongst itself).

While the reaction of other development actors to sport-based approaches has ranged from dismissal to embracement, the S&D community has been a part of a voice challenging conventional thinking. Notions about what constitutes effective development are different now to when the MDGs were first agreed. Consideration of a broader range of perspectives, methodologies and approaches is a key part of this change. It would be misguided to suggest the S&D community alone has affected this "change", but the community has played a role. While the level of this influence is varied, and for some S&D stakeholders it does not reach far enough, it is worth highlighting this contribution.

How far have we come as a sector? 
If measured by size and scope alone the sport and development sector has grown significantly over the past decade. But the "sector" is not a homogenous entity - individuals with vastly different social, cultural and ideological perspectives are involved and engage for varied reasons. Amongst this diversity the clarity with which stakeholders articulate and demonstrate how sport can (and cannot) contribute to development provides a useful point of reflection in considering how far the sector has come. Equally important is the level to which stakeholders work to promote safe, equitable environments; commit to transparency and good governance; prioritise environmental sustainability and can access sustainable resourcing so development goals are not superseded by commercial or (geo-)political priorities. 

Is sport a well-suited tool to trigger change?
Using these criteria as frames of reference much progress can be identified which, while not uniform, is a credit to the stakeholders driving these agendas. But it would be naive to suggest no challenges remain or there is not work still to be done across the sector. That this is the case does not denigrate the value of sport as a tool for positive change. But instead underscores that, as with most tools, it is not the tool itself that is the trigger for change but the way the tool is used – a fundamental guiding principle for the sport and development community.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]

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