Round two: It's time to revisit and reimagine the potential of sport

Round two: It's time to revisit and reimagine the potential of sport

Holly Thorpe argues for a move beyond small scale intervention to make use of existing global structures.

How can S&D claim space in the post-2015 discussions?

To claim space in the global conversations about the post-2015 development goals, I suggest we need to revisit some of the assumptions underpinning the S&D community, and look afresh at what we can offer.

Following a series of meetings and vast public outreach, the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda recently called upon the world to rally around "a new global partnership" that offers hope and a role to every person in the world. I strongly believe sport can play an integral role in the imagining and creation of such "global partnerships". As various scholars of globalisation and sport such as Robertson, have revealed, sport is increasingly playing a critical role in the "intensification of global connectivity and growing social consciousness of the world as a single place".

Sport has been described by Giulianotti and Brownell as a "potent catalyst of globalisation", with events such as the football World Cup and the Olympics drawing "nations, cities and social groups into transnational contact" and "enhancing public imagining and experience of the world". In many cases, mega-sporting events have been used primarily as a vehicle for promoting a global mass consumption culture. But how might we utilise pre-existing networks, connections and mega-sporting events to imagine "new global partnerships", and raise awareness and mobilise support for some of our existing programmes, and also for new initiatives (that don’t have to be sport related) emerging from the post-2015 development agenda?

By no means am I suggesting that we give up on the important work happening at the community level. But if we want to feature more prominently in the post-2015 agenda, we need to move beyond the focus on sport as purely an interventionist tool. We also need to start thinking creatively and cooperatively about how we can utilise existing global sporting structures and networks (including transnational corporations, media and events) to promote empathy and to activate and engage sporting communities about some of the most pressing issues facing our world.

Certainly, many will resist efforts to use sport in this way. Sport is often embraced because it is deemed to be an escape from more serious social and political issues. But the MDGs and post-2015 policies are about dreaming big and working co-operatively toward radical social change. The time is now for the S&D community to re-imagine the potential for sport to contribute to local and global change.

What should be the focus of the S&D community in the post-2015 policy debate?

Youth are important stakeholders in the post-2015 agenda, and thus the S&D community needs to create more space for the voices and opinions of young people from different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and of different (dis)abilities, sexes and nationalities. It is also valuable considering how we might utilise new technologies to enable such conversations, and also to further enhance global partnerships across sporting communities.

In my recent research on young men in Gaza, I was fascinated to learn how they are proactively creating their own sporting groups and using cheap technologies and social media to communicate with youth around the world and to participate in a transnational community of action sports. As we consider how the S&D community might contribute to the post-2015 policy debates, we should take care not to assume we have the answers for the children and youth of today and tomorrow. Rather, we need to create space for their voices, stories and dreams, and recognise their agency and value their opinions and perspectives on the world they want today and in the future.

Get involved in the e-Debate, share your comments below.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]

E-Newsletter subscribe