The UN’s 2013 declaration that 6 April would celebrate the potential of sport as a catalyst for change was met with enthusiasm by many in the sport and development sector. Yet not everyone shares this excitement. Skeptics view these international days as not particularly helpful to a cause when sustained action is needed. This is a fair point which leads to a pressing question - what exactly has been the impact of the IDSDP?
This question is not easily answered, but is worth exploring. It is difficult to come by statistics that illustrate direct, sustained impact as there have only been two IDSDPs and most groups/institutions who celebrated either did not have an evaluation plan in place or chose not to publish their results. However, there are things to be said about the type of involvement seen both on the ground and through social media.
Activities at the grassroots
In 2015 the IOC encouraged us to think beyond policy implications when measuring success. After all, it was policy work that brought IDSDP into existence and it is up to those who believe in the strength of sport to bring it to life. Over a hundred organisations and institutions around the world registered their IDSDP activities and posted reports on sportanddev.org and other websites. While bigger NGOs, governments and CSOs were active, so were small schools, organisations and undefined groups with less than 20 people. They brought creativity, excitement and true engagement to their communities despite their limited resources. Though many of these groups might not have ongoing sport and development projects, they were at least able to promote the use of sport in accessible and effective ways.
The explosion on social media
The use of social media on 6 April also showed a widespread interest in the role of sport for development. The Peace and Sport final IDSDP reports showed that millions of Facebook users posted or discussed something relevant to the day and twitter users either tweeting or engaging with tweets almost doubled from 2.5 million in 2014 to 4 million in 2015. The most popular tweets included #april6, #IDSDP2015 and #sport4betterworld. Though this does not necessarily translate to concrete, sustained action, this online activity should not be underestimated. Raising awareness and dissemination of information is an important step to increasing the use of sport for positive social change.
Though we cannot get a complete picture of what the IDSDP accomplishes, we can see that through grassroots involvement and social media activity, people are given a chance to learn and participate in a systematic, widespread way that is otherwise not possible. IDSDP may just be one day out of the year, but at least we know it can capture the attention of millions of people.
Photo by leah hetteberg