Closing the Gap - Measuring the contribution of sport to the SDGs
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The need for established methods to measure the impact of sport on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and validating sport as an enabler of social and economic development is overdue. But progress is being made, and the data gap is closing.

Sport is widely cited as a crosscutting tool to enable the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many actors in sport for development and peace (SDP) have now aligned their work to certain SDGs, while global policy makers, including the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNESCO, have identified specific SDGs, targets and indicators that sport policies can contribute to.

However, despite the considerable progress that has been made in advancing the case for sport to contribute to development, and more specifically to achieving the SDGs, there remains a lack of validated international measurement frameworks and data sets for the sport sector. There are major variances in the availability, quality and consistency of evidence that support wide-ranging claims made by the sport and SDP sector, coupled with limited data at scale. This is complicated by the multiple layers of complexity that exist in measuring the contribution of sport to sustainable development, including factors outside the realm of sport (Coakley, 2011; Coalter, 2010).

The Game Plan

Given these gaps, at the most recent International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VI) in 2017, commitments were made to enhance monitoring and evaluation systems in order to maximise the contribution of sport to the SDGs. More specifically action two of the resulting Kazan Action Plan commits to “develop common indicators for measuring the contribution of physical education, physical activity and sport to prioritized SDGs and targets” (UNESCO, 2017).

This action is being led by the Commonwealth Secretariat, given their extensive expertise and experience in providing guidance around sport policy and ways in which sport can enhance its contribution to the SDGs. This work will entail developing, testing and validating a measurement framework and model indicators to support member countries, sporting bodies and other stakeholders to measure and evaluate the contribution of sport, physical education and physical activity to prioritised SDGs and targets.

The State of Play

To date, the Commonwealth Secretariat has coordinated efforts to develop a preliminary measurement framework, model indicators and an accompanying toolkit on “Measuring the contribution of sport, physical education and physical activity to prioritised Sustainable Development Goals”. This links to many existing forms of good practice and draws on, where available, data currently being collected within the sport sector or associated areas such as health and education.

As well as delivering on the Kazan Action Plan, the work is aligned with the current focus on improving access to high quality sport-related data in the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace 2018-2020, and is being coordinated with the monitoring of the World Health Organisation Global Action Plan on Physical Activity.

In total, 90 international and national level stakeholders, spread across the globe, have fed into this process. This includes inputs provided by the inaugural Open Ended Working Group on Sport and SDG Model Indicators (formed at a meeting in September 2018) and a high level Steering Group. Further, a technical expert meeting was held in London in April 2019 during which experts and steering group members provided feedback on the model indicators and measurement framework.

Moving Forward

A number of stakeholders, including national governments and institutional actors, will test select model indicators within their monitoring and evaluation processes in 2019. Following this, further testing and validation will occur as the model indicators iteratively develop in a phased approach.

The development, testing and validation of model indicators to measure the contributions of sport, PE and physical activity to sustainable development is an integral step in more accurately determining the scope and scale of these contributions. This will allow national and international actors to make evidence-based decisions around the value and viability of investments in sport, physical education, and physical activity.

For too long, the sport sector has been critiqued for being unable to demonstrate tangible or wide-reaching impact, while most meaningful data has tended to be project-based. For investments in sport to match its potential as a tool for social change, we need to close the data gap. This ambitious project seeks to chart such a course. The results, to coin a sport metaphor, could be game changing.

sportanddev.org will continue to support and follow developments in this project. More information will follow soon, including public documents on the model indicators and measurement framework.


Executive Director


Target Group

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