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Reflections on IDSDP 2024
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My reflections on IDSDP 2024 on how the international sport for development sector can build on the momentum it has created in the past two decades.

On the occasion of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) 2024, it was great to see a flurry of activity commemorating the day and highlighting the significant role that sport can play in development and peace-building efforts in communities across the world. At Pro Sport Development (PSD), we too held a small celebration with our internal teams and few partners on IDSDP 2024. I really enjoyed celebrating the day with our team, however, it got me reflecting on the reasons behind commemorating IDSDP annually, and what more we could do collectively as a sector to strengthen sport as an important enabler for sustainable development. I provide some of my thoughts here, which you may relate to.

Enhanced communications

It was great to see the vibrant communications online by a variety of stakeholders on the occasion of IDSDP 2024, advocating for the important role of sport in sustainable development. However, the sector needs to do so more regularly and insightfully about the important work, outreach and impact of using sport for social change. Given the rich work that’s being done globally in this space, not enough is highlighted about what sport can achieve beyond the playing field and why it is such an important methodology. Moreover, communication about sport for development initiatives needs to go beyond just highlighting the activities that are conducted and focus on impact metrics and storytelling of successes (and challenges). The world needs to see the value of sport for development beyond merely engaging individuals and communities in sport, physical activity and play.

Effective communication in the sport for development sector is currently uneven, with larger, global organizations primarily based in the Global North driving a large chunk of the communications and advocacy efforts on behalf of the sector. Smaller, community-based organizations need to be better equipped and capacitated to be able to inform stakeholders about the positive impact of using sport for development. I am sure there is no lack of intent, however, it is also an issue of developing the capacity and having the human resources to be able to do so. This is something the sector as a whole can certainly look to support and enhance.

Regular reflection

As a sector, we need not wait for IDSDP each year to reflect on our progress and share these reflections within and beyond the sport for development community. We need to reflect as a sector more regularly and in a participatory manner on what’s going well and why, what can be improved and how and who are the key stakeholders who can play a role in this. More importantly, these reflections need to be shared widely across the sector, as many individuals and organizations working in the sector go through similar successes and challenges. The reflections can serve as motivations to continue the good work, while learning from others’ experiences with respect to how their work can be improved. Sharing these reflections beyond the sector is also important in order to improve transparency and be open to feedback and learning from other stakeholders.

Increased collaboration

There is some fantastic work happening globally using sport as a tool for positive change. However, how much of this work is happening in collaboration? I don’t have an exact answer, but from my experience of working in this sector in the Indian context for the past decade, I have observed that most of this good work is happening in silos. Even on IDSDP 2024, many stakeholders were celebrating and commemorating the day, however, it seemed that most were doing this individually. Why not come together, on IDSDP and otherwise, to collaborate in order to deepen and widen the positive impact of sport, learn and grow collaboratively and minimize risks? An example of this is the Playmakers Collaborative that we have initiated in India along with the Sport and Society Accelerator and other partners in order to unite efforts of sport for development actors in India to enhance collaboration, promote knowledge-sharing, build common resources and advocate jointly with key decision-makers.  

I am well aware that collaborations take significant time to setup and operationalize in the short-term, however, do the benefits of collaboration in the long-term outweigh these costs? Collaborating, especially to advocate for sport as a positive tool for development and peace efforts, could particularly be of value to the wider sector.

Branching out of our comfort zone

Having witnessed IDSDP for a number of years, I have noticed that it seems like the sector is usually celebrating amongst itself. This is a similar feeling I get from the sector in general, and the good work being carried out globally. How can we take sport for development to the ‘non-believers’? These are stakeholders who do not know about the excellent work being done in sport for development, and may not even be aware that such a sector exists. In my experience, there are plenty of such ‘non-believers’, and these are the ones we need to reach out to and engage in our work. We need to move out of our comfort zone to take the messages of sport for development outside the sector, on the occasion of IDSDP and beyond. Look at the impact that the International Women’s Day has had on not just the development sector and gender equity initiatives, but also within other industries and sectors, such as the corporate world and the sports industry. Can we leverage IDSDP to have such an impact?

Authors

Director-Founder
Pro Sport Development

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