Our cities are rapidly changing and have become increasingly diverse over the past few decades. This creates both challenges and opportunities, and there is a need to ensure social cohesion within communities. Sport and physical activity are increasingly recognised as a way to build relationships between people from different backgrounds, promote social inclusion and build personal competencies.
The Sport and Social Cohesion Lab brings together organisations from four European countries to implement and develop projects in five European cities: the Hague (the Netherlands), 's-Hertogenbosch (also known as Den Bosch, the Netherlands), Bochum (Germany), Dublin (Ireland) and Olomouc (Czech Republic). NGOs are working with universities, while emphasising the involvement of participants in programme design and delivery through a Living Lab approach.
The project aims to strengthen the impact of programmes using sport for social cohesion by analysing three main questions:
- Which processes lead to social cohesion in various sports programmes in the districts of five European cities?
- Which methods and tools support professionals in developing and measuring processes that contribute to social cohesion through sport?
- What is the best way to distribute the new knowledge about the use of sport to increase social cohesion in big cities?
What is social cohesion and how is it relevant to sport?
Social cohesion has been defined in different ways but broadly encompasses social relations, trust, and a sense of belonging. Other definitions also include elements of equality, well-being, and shared values.
There is increasing recognition of sport’s potential to contribute to social cohesion. However, increasing social cohesion is not a simple, linear process. It is a challenge that does not have a single solution, a so-called “wicked problem.”
This makes fostering social cohesion through sport challenging and means there is a lack of tools, guidance and evidence to support sport for social cohesion programmes. Implementers also do not always know how to integrate the wider community into programme planning or delivery.
- For more information on definitions of social cohesion and its relationship to sport, read pages 4-5 of the project’s Living Lab Framework
January 2021-December 2023
Why we chose a Living Lab approach
Living Labs are collaborative. Partners are seen as equals, and participants can directly influence and improve the programmes in which they take part. This benefits current and future participants as programmes continue to grow and improve, strengthening the impact of activities on individuals and communities. Research also shows that actively including and listening to participants can be an be an important component of social cohesion and peacebuilding.
- Generate a deeper understanding of the processes behind social cohesion outcomes in sport programmes in neighborhoods in four European countries.
- Create methods, materials and tools that will support practitioners around Europe in understanding and measuring the processes that support social cohesion in sport and physical activity.
- Disseminate knowledge about the methods sport and social cohesion programmes, and describe best practices to programme implementation, public-private partnerships, organisational arrangements and policies.
While the project focuses on Europe, the project outcomes will also contribute to the body of knowledge on sport and social cohesion globally. Knowledge shared from the project will also be relevant to organisations that are not working on social cohesion but are interested in using sport to address other complex challenges.
Project resources and outputs
- Mapping Sport and Social Cohesion in Europe: An Exploratory Study
- Living Lab Framework
- Living Lab Interim Neighbourhood Reports
- Final Neighbourhood Reports
- Sport and Social Cohesion Toolkit
The five Living Labs are being implemented by universities and NGOs in four countries:
- Bochum, Germany: The German Sport University (who are the coordinator of the project) and In Safe Hands
- Dublin, Ireland: Munster Technological University and Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI)
- 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands: International Sports Alliance (ISA)
- The Hague, the Netherlands: The Hague University of Applied Sciences
- Olomouc, Czech Republic: INEX-SDA / fotbal pro Rozvoj and Palacky University Olomouc
There are also two additional technical and dissemination partners:
- The European Network of Sport Education (Vienna, Austria)
- The International Platform on Sport and Development (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Banner image at the top of this page by INEX-SDA / fotbal pro Rozvoj, depicting Living Lab activities in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
The project is funded by the European Commission through its Erasmus+ programme. The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.