Breaking Boundaries with the Cricket Changemakers – a Youth Participatory Action Research approach to design and implementation of Sport for Development programmes
The Cricket Changemakers project is a groundbreaking Youth Participatory Action Research (PAR) initiative integrated into a community cricket program in Nepal. The project, part of a PhD study undertaken by Sara Begg at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, is embedded in the Cricket for Equality project. The project is co-delivered by Cricket Without Boundaries, the Nepal Cricket Foundation, Sabal Nepal and the Saptari Cricket Association, and involves working with teams of adolescent girls as co-researchers to identify, describe, and transform gender-related challenges, the “Cricket Changemakers”.
The project's first phase included a 6-week research period during which the Cricket Changemakers used participatory research methods to explore the factors influencing girls' participation in sports, particularly cricket. The study revealed that restrictive gender norms, limited resources, fear of violence, and the normalization of discriminatory behaviours significantly hindered girls' participation in sports. However, it also highlighted the desire for change and the transformative impact of girls' sporting success on community perceptions.
The participants produced posters summarising their work, and these have formed the basis of implementation of new activities. The three main recommendations from the Cricket Changemakers were:
- Empower girls through regular coaching
- Work with boys to challenge abusive and discriminatory behaviour, and support girls to play
- Make girls cricket more visible through organising matches and use of social media
Youth PAR in the Project Cycle
The Cricket Changemakers project exemplifies the use of Youth PAR throughout the project cycle. The project actively involves young individuals as co-researchers, allowing them to identify challenges, propose solutions, and contribute to the development and implementation of sport for development initiatives. This approach ensures that the voices and perspectives of young people are central to the project's design and impact, promoting ownership and sustainability.
Following project design, youth continue to be involved in implementation, identifying new challenges and areas for development and continuously shaping the work of the project. This was exemplified by a recent mini project linked to the International Dignified Menstruation Day on the 8th December; a Global South led initiative aiming to emphasise freedom from menstrual discrimination. Cricket Changemakers from Saptari Province produced a simple informational video normalising menstruation, inspired by international superstar Mithali Raj.
Play-Based Research Methods
The project utilizes play-based research methods, including play-based Focus Group Discussions, and play-based survey methods, to capture the experiences and perspectives of the Cricket Changemakers and their peers. Play-based methods are also used for introduction of research and social science concepts, such as the Socio-Ecological Model. These innovative data collection and learning methods create an inclusive and dynamic environment for understanding the experiences, challenges, and aspirations of the youth, leading to more meaningful and contextually relevant outcomes.
Co-Design and Co-Delivery of "Sport Plus" Activities
The intent to co-design and co-deliver "Sport plus" activities involves collaborative efforts between young participants, community members, and project stakeholders to create and implement sports programs that address a wide range of developmental needs. This approach fosters a sense of ownership, inclusivity, and cultural relevance, ensuring that the sport-based interventions are responsive to the specific context and the aspirations of the youth involved. In, conclusion, the Cricket Changemakers project represents a powerful model for understanding and addressing restrictive gender norms in the context of sports and beyond. By integrating Youth PAR, play-based research methods, and the co-design/co-delivery of "Sport plus" activities, the project empowers young people, fosters leadership, and promotes holistic development within the communities it serves.
The findings from the project have the potential to inform the development of targeted interventions to promote gender equality and create more inclusive opportunities for girls in sports. The use of participatory research methods and the active involvement of adolescent girls as co-researchers in the Cricket Changemakers project exemplify a promising approach to empower, engage, and mobilise youths' expertise to improve health and wellbeing, and to drive positive social change.
Cricket Without Boundaries are excited to now be launching a second project, piloting the scalability of this approach to our project work in Rwanda where we have brought together an exciting consortium of stakeholders to deliver the project.