A review of sport for development in South Africa
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This systematic review commissioned by Laureus Sport for Good Foundation South Africa looks at the status quo of sport and development in South Africa and what is necessary to advance the sector.

South Africa is home to a wide range of sport for development (SfD) initiatives, seeking to use sport for social change. However, while the use of SfD has grown rapidly in South Africa and globally, the overall impact of the SfD sector remains unclear – and this limits the potential to scale approaches.

This is partly due to a lack of robust research and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), limited long-term results, unclear theories of change, and few strategies to tackle broader structural problems (Coakley, 2011; Giulianotti 2011; Richards et al. 2013).

As such it is often difficult to determine "what works best" in SfD, and identify the common and critical factors that affect the ability of sport-based interventions to deliver outcomes and sustained change.

Given this challenge, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation South Africa (Laureus SA) commissioned a systematic review of SfD evidence in South Africa. This review builds upon a global review of SfD evidence in six cities (including Cape Town) and a country review of SfD in the United States.

What did the review investigate?

The systematic review assessed the quality of SfD evidence in South Africa, seeking to identify critical factors that impact the efficacy of SfD interventions, and analysing the potential to scale approaches.

What did the review reveal?

The review found examples of good practice and clear opportunities for learning and advancing SfD in South Africa. The quality of methods and evidence in South Africa, however, was low and more research is needed to assess the efficacy and critical factors impacting SfD interventions. Across studies and SfD programmes, interventions and contextual factors were inconsistently reported and studied making it difficult to compare different interventions. Opportunities exist to improve research and MEL to demonstrate and understand what works best.

How can we move forward?

The findings from the review findings informed the development of five overarching recommendations for organisations, researchers, funders, and policy makers:

  1. Promote multi-sector collaboration to advance SfD in South Africa
  2. Develop better outcome measures for youth-targeted SfD
  3. Position individual behaviour within a broader ecosystem
  4. Improve youth participation in SfD
  5. Coordinate efforts among researchers, practitioners and donors to improve the quality of methods in SfD research

The end game

Laureus have now worked with independent researchers to systematically review the evidence of youth-focused SfD in six global cities (Global review) and at the country level in the United States and now, South Africa.

Ultimately this provides opportunities for improved and systematic evidence on what works (and what doesn’t) in the use of sport for development and peace, with strong alignment to international policies and commitments, while ensuring findings are contextually relevant to South Africa.

This provides the opportunity for Laureus, governments, aid agencies, local, regional and global actors to better determine the value and viability of investments in sport for development, ultimately enabling resources to be allocated to approaches and programmes that show the greatest potential for impact, including to the SDGs and other identified development priorities.


Executive Director


South Africa