Sport for development: A new platform
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"Covid-19 has brought many challenges, however it may have helped increase the pace of our move to a different way of enjoying sport and physical activity using the platform of technology and social media."

In times of adversity and a departure from the way we are used to doing things, two schools of thought often emerge: A desire to go back to the safety and comfort of what we once knew, or the opportunity to develop and move forwards, adopting new ways and possibilities taken from how we’ve had to adapt.

Since sport for development emerged in its present form some thirty years ago, there have been some notable advances in terms of its structure and more impressively, its practice.

With the whole world on lockdown, elite sports a temporary thing of the past, and amateur sports equally restricted, we have seen many innovations to sport and recreation, most involving social media and live streaming platforms. Of course, these aren’t new, but the explosion we’re witnessing in these platforms being used for everything from yoga, to football freestyle tutorials,  all streaming classes to audiences without geographical restrictions begs the question, what opportunities does this present for the sport for development sector going forwards?

Firstly, we have seen an almost ‘bottom up’ organic approach to sporting activity and fitness. Literally anyone has been able to ‘go live’ and offer all manner of content for viewers to take part in. Adopting this in the sport for development sector could lead to new players and new ways of using sport, to address issues beyond sport that can reach much wider audiences.

Yes, there are limitations based on access to the technology and its implementation, but it would be naïve to think these limitations are no more than temporary, and not insurmountable.

Continuing  in this theme, the pace at which change come where social media and its evolution is concerned, means the next usable application that can be adapted to fit our sport for development aims and agendas, could be right around the corner.

Are we open to these possibilities, or are we going to continue to look at how we’ve always gone about the work we do in the sector? My thinking is very much with the former.

For example, imagine an organisation delivering its sport for development practices for local participants, while streaming and engaging with other online participants and organisations globally?

What wonderful opportunities would emerge, not only from sharing great practices with a wider audience being able to benefit from the sporting side, but the avenues that then become open for real life cultural exchanges and collaborations.

Core principles can be developed that can be introduced to a sport for development audience, and not participants physically present on your programme, but possibly in other parts of your country, in other countries, or even on other continents.

The quality of delivery and the scope of discussions on issues that sport for development seeks to highlight and change, now can have a new dimension to them. By virtue of being able to interact ‘live’ with people from other backgrounds and cultures, every session now becomes a cultural exchange, with the chance to share and discuss common values, ideas and practices.

Young people can take part in games and activities they would otherwise have no exposure to and hear insight and opinion from their peers thousands of miles away.

All of the sport for development activity I undertake seeks to break down barriers, improve behaviour and widen expectations and understanding. The prospect of being able to develop programmes, using examples taken from the way sport and physical activity is being used during lockdown via social media, excites me as the ‘reach’, and thus impact, can be even greater than before.

Covid-19 has brought many challenges to us all. However, it may have helped increase the pace of our move to a different way of enjoying sport and physical activity using the platform of technology and social media specifically.

Who knows where this can now go, or how it will evolve? One thing is for certain, sport for development as a movement must be ready to utilise the opportunities this change presents.

Jason Mckoy runs Mercurial Sports and has over 15 years of experience working in the sport for development sector. A former footballer and now UEFA licenced coach, Jason designs and delivers sport for development programmes, as well as presenting on the subject.


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All the sports
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