Promoting local ownership in the ‘sport for development’ movement

Submitting Institution

Brunel University

Unit of Assessment

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Human Geography, Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

In the last decade, sport has earned unprecedented recognition in international policy circles as a tool to support international development. Nonetheless, many have challenged this `new social movement' (Kidd, 2008), concerned by its uncritical application of Global North models of sport to Global South contexts. Addressing these concerns, Brunel researchers and collaborators have drawn on the field of international development studies to investigate how principles of local ownership and partnership can be applied to sport. Since 2010, empirical studies and critical conceptual analyses have contributed to this. Specifically through building organisational capacity at local level, supporting partnership between funders and recipient organisations, and developing national as well as international policy guidance to ensure community level experiences and perspectives are represented in sport for development policy and strategies.

Underpinning research

Brunel has an established tradition in research into sport for development. Since 2010 this area of work has been led by Tess Kay and includes both primary (empirical qualitative and quantitative studies) and secondary (research reviews, conceptual analyses and policy guidance) work. The two areas of work have been complementary and mutually reinforcing. During the assessment period empirical studies have been undertaken with UK-funded sport for development programmes operating in single or multiple countries, and these have contributed to the conceptual analyses that has provided transnational policy guidance.

Kay's research at Brunel has developed alternatives to the paradigms and methods that dominated early, hierarchical approaches to monitoring and evaluation (M+E) and research in sport for development (see Refs 1, 3, 5, 6). It has analysed the contribution these systems make to sustaining donor-recipient relations and maintaining dependency in local partner organisations in sport for development (Refs 1, 3, 5). It has also addressed the limitations of such approaches for assessing the contribution of sport to social change (Refs 2, 4). The work draws on Kay's early experiences of contrasting research approaches in empirical studies of sport for development programmes in Zambia (2006, 2007), Brazil (2008), India (2008) and St. Lucia (2009). Moreover, it draws on her experiences as co-investigator during the monitoring and evaluation of Phase 1 of the International development (Olympic Legacy) five-country study (2008-11). These highlighted the feasibility and value of incorporating locally grounded participatory and collaborative mixed method research, including qualitative data collection (Refs 1, 2, 4, 5, 7) while also revealing the limitations of undertaking empirical work that did not include these.

Brunel's research has addressed how these issues manifest at community delivery level in work undertaken by Kay (PI) with co-investigators Jeanes (Monash, 2009-10), Mansfield (Brunel, since 2011) and Palmer-Felgate (Brunel, 2013) in an in-depth two-phase (2009-13; 2013-18) empirical study working with Zambian NGO EduSport on the Go Sisters girls' empowerment project. The empirical research has supported Go Sisters' expansion over a 5-year period 2008-13, funded by £400,000 from DFID and managed by International Inspiration (IN; previously IDS, from a single city (Lusaka) to national rollout to four of Zambia's seven provinces). Brunel has worked in partnership with the Go Sisters staff team to develop organisational capacity to fulfil the monitoring and evaluation requirements of the funder (IN and DFID), by providing training and resources to build research capacity to equip Go Sisters to carry out data collection, processing and reporting. Research tools have been designed in consultation with Go Sisters. Since 2010, four field visits have been undertaken, more than 2,500 questionnaires completed and more than 100 interviews undertaken.

Brunel's conceptual analyses of policy and programme management in sport for development have been informed by an expert symposium and two research studies conducted with policymakers and providers from both the sport and international development sectors. These have drawn on the development sector's principles for participatory, collaborative and bottom-up models of development that facilitate local ownership of projects and programmes. These issues were the focus of a two-day international symposium convened by BC.SHaW in 2011, attended by senior policy makers, advisors and academics from eight countries. In 2012 Prof Kay undertook research for the Commonwealth Secretariat, conducting documentary analysis and policy interviews with the Health, Education, Youth and Human Rights divisions of the Commonwealth Secretariat to identify policy goals and objectives for these areas, to which sport might realistically contribute. In 2013, Brunel researchers undertook a further study of organisational capacity building in sport for development for an External Evaluation of the Go Sisters programme commissioned for DFID (Ref 7) and again involving documentary analysis and policy and management interviews an assessment.

References to the research

1. Kay, T. A. (2011) `Sport in the service of international development: contributing to the Millennium Development Goals', Position paper to the UN/IOC forum of Sport for Development and Peace, Geneva, Switzerland, May.

2. Jeanes, R. and Kay, T. A. (2012) Conducting Research with Young People in the Global South; in Riele KT, Brooks R, Negotiating Ethical Challenges in Youth Research. London, UK: Routledge.

3. Kay, T. A., Hayhurst, L., and Dudfield, O. (2012) The state of play: emerging issues in the contribution of sport to development; in Commonwealth Secretariat SDP Expert Group Meeting Resource Papers, Marlborough House, London, 2 April 2012; pp. 37-46.

4. Kay, T. A. and Spaaij, R (2012) `The mediating effects of family on sport in international development contexts', International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 47(1): 77-94. (REF 2)


5. Kay, T. A. (2012) `Accounting for legacy: the role of monitoring and evaluation in sport in international development', Sport in Society, 15(6): 888-904. (REF 2).


6. Kay, T. A. and Dudfield, O. (2012, 2013) Guide for advancing development in the Commonwealth through Sport. London, UK: Commonwealth Secretariat. (REF 2).


7. Kay, T.A., Palmer-Felgate, S., and Mansfield, L. with Chawansky, M.(2013) Delivering Girls Empowerment through Sport in Zambia External Evaluation of organisational capacity building of EduSport and expansion of the Go Sisters project, 2008-13. CSCF 0438 final evaluation report to the Department for International Development.


Investigators Title Sponsor Dates Value
PI Kay, CI Palmer-Felgate, Chawansky
(Univ. of Brighton)
Using sport for
development in the
Caribbean region
Caribbean Sport
Jun 2013 -
May 2014
PI Kay, CI Mansfield,
RA Palmer-Felgate;
with Chawansky
External Evaluation of Go
Kay Guidelines for the use of
sport for development in
the Commonwealth
PI Kay; CI Jeanes
(2009-11 Mansfield
Evaluation of Go Sisters
programme (1) Zambia
2009-13 £59,000

Details of the impact

A. The research has had impact on international policy through the reach of its theoretical analyses of how sport for development `problems' are conceptualized and addressed.

  • Following her 2010 critique of sport for development for the IOC's Olympic Review, Kay was invited to present her argument for the reorientation of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) in an address to the 2nd International UN/IOC Forum on Sport, Peace and Development (Geneva, May 2011) [A], attended by the UN Secretary General, the IOC, the Commonwealth Advisory Board On Sport (CABOS), and >300 Ministerial and NOC representatives. Kay's accompanying 5,000-word position paper detailed the case for SDP to adopt the principles of international development by promoting models of sport for development that prioritised Global South interests and were locally led, and set out guidelines for this approach. The paper was later circulated by UK Sport to its partner agencies to inform future SDP work.
  • Kay has worked especially closely with the Commonwealth bodies. In October 2011 she was the academic contributor to the Commonwealth Secretariat's seminar to assess the potential for sport to be adopted as a Secretariat-wide development tool, attended by the Deputy General and lead staff of the Health, Education, Youth and Human Rights divisions. In December 2011 Brunel convened a two-day symposium to offer a `safe space' for discussion of the issues and challenges encountered in research and practice in sport for development. Fourteen participants from eight countries took part, including staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat and UK Sport; the Chair and members of CABOS; and academics from Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Ghana. The Leverhulme Developing Sustainable Sport in Africa project, to which Kay is an advisor, also participated. The outcomes of the Brunel meeting were cited in presentations by Commonwealth Secretariat staff to the 2012 CABOS meeting, and incorporated in a resource paper provided for participants in the 2012 Expert Working Group meeting.
  • In March 2012 Kay was commissioned as consultant and lead author of the Commonwealth Guide to Advancing Development through Sport (with O. Dudfield, 2013) for CABOS [B]. The Guide identified relevant policies, assessed the strength of evidence on the value of sport to support of them, and provided a framework for implementation. The Guide was ratified by the Sixth Commonwealth Sport Ministers Meeting (6CSMM; July 2012) [C]. The meeting endorsed the Guide and requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to work with identified member countries to utilise the Commonwealth framework, and other key international policy documents, as a basis for national action planning projects.
  • The 2013 annual meeting of CABOS addressed the next stage in operationalizing the Guide's recommendations through Agenda items to "Note the production, endorsement and publication of the Commonwealth Guidelines on Advancing Development through Sport" and "Provide advice on how Commonwealth Member Governments and other stakeholders can maximise the use of the Guide". The Chair stated that "In recognising the challenge of transitioning policy declarations into action CABOS highlighted the Commonwealth Guide to Advancing Development through Sport as an effective advocacy instrument, guiding framework and analysis tool for governments looking to create an enabling environment for Sport for Development and Peace. Concurrently, CABOS commended the lead taken by the Governments of Barbados, Rwanda and Sri Lanka in using the Commonwealth guidelines and framework in national SDP planning efforts supported through technical assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat. CABOS welcomed the Government of Belize referencing this framework in the revision of their national sport policy and invited other countries to follow suit".

B. The research has had direct impact on sport for development at local delivery level, and this has further which has informed the policy guidance detailed above.

  • Work with Go Sisters has increased local M+E and research capacity. The project's data collection and research training needs were jointly identified by Go Sisters, IN and the researchers, and resources for 10 separate data collection exercises provided, supported by training workshops in data collection, data analysis and reporting, delivered by the researchers. These allowed Go Sisters staff and peer leaders to obtain 2,406 usable completed questionnaire surveys and interviews between 2010-13.
  • Go Sisters has made increasing use of the research findings and developed a self-critical, reflective organisational culture recognised within and outside EduSport (e.g. External Evaluation report to DFID). The research partnership approach has allowed M+E to become integral to programme learning and management and valued for its contributions. The annual interpretive research reports to IN have been reviewed with Go Sisters, and the implications discussed. Contributions have been made to work practices, e.g. extension of the programme to entrepreneurship activities in response to issues raised in interviews by the most experienced peer leaders.
  • EduSport and external partners have also noted how the research has given additional profile to the programme, aiding partnership building and funding bids. The Brunel PI collaborated with IN and the Go Sisters Zambian project manager to develop a successful £546,623 funding bid to Comic Relief for further programme expansion over 2013-18, informed by the research findings from 2009-12. In August 2013, the Brunel PI and RA partnered with the Go Sisters Zambian project manager to deliver a workshop on research and practice lessons from Go Sisters on the use of sport to empower young women to an international audience at the Commonwealth Games Conference, Glasgow.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. 2nd International Forum on Sport, Peace and Development 10-11 May 2011:

B. `Commonwealth Guide to Advancing Development through Sport', commissioned by The Commonwealth (June 2013)

C. Sixth Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting (25/07/2012) See b. The state of play: Emerging issues in the contribution of sport to development under 2. SDP (pp20-28):

Contactable sources:

1) Chair, Commonwealth Advisory Board on Sport also Professor at the University of Toronto: As the Chair of the Commonwealth Advisory Board On Sport (CABOS), the contact can corroborate the research impact on policy development of the Commonwealth bodies.

2) CABOS Expert Group Member 2012 (former President of International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Women: As a member of CABOS Expert Group Member in 2012 and also the former President of the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Women, the contact can corroborate the research impact on the policy development of Commonwealth bodies.

3) Former Sport Advisor, Youth Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat: As the Former Sport Advisor in Youth Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat, the contact can corroborate the research impact on policy development of the Commonwealth bodies.

4) PPA Programme Manager at ActionAid (Former International Development Manager, UK Sport): As the former UK Sport International Development Manager, the contact can corroborate the research impact on the project, Go Sisters.

5) International Development Director, UK Sport: The contact can corroborate the positive impact of research on Go Sisters.