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Development through sport based on community development

A broad array of positive community networks and relationships can be developed through engagement with sport.

Sports Social
Last updated: 06.11.2017
Sports Social, Sports Social Network for Sustainable sports based community development

Traditional delivery of sport development programs, especially at the community level, face Particular challenges under neoliberal ideology. While several issues are evident, this article addresses the issue of development through sport for disadvantaged communities. It reviews models where the sport was employed to develop better community and civic life outcomes and to deal with social issues previously dealt with through “welfare state” processes. These new models flow out of neo-liberalist state agendas to assist in fostering social inclusion and to building positive social capital in disadvantaged communities.

Sport is a useful tool, in various ways, to build social capital, foster community development, and build sustainability. That is, many positive outcomes have been achieved by using sport in this manner, even if most of this is reported anecdotally and these follow new neo-liberalism principles and practices. This still begs the question of directionality (sport builds social capital, social capital aids sport, or a reciprocity exists). Such government based initiatives or involvements as being top down, not clearly dealing with the issues in those localities, wasteful of human resources in the target communities, being ideologically-driven, and promoting current social inequalities (i.e., perpetuating the status quo). Such programs do not connect with the communities for which they are identified. This also provides a strong argument against older state welfare policies and programs, even though ideology is also central in this new approach.

Vail (2007) also emphasizes the points raised above by Craig and additionally offers a “Traditional” community sport development process. She argued that a sustainable sport-based community development initiative requires four core components: community selection (a community’s “readiness” and capacity to change); the need for a community catalyst(s)/champion(s) to provide process leadership); the need to build a cadre of collaborative group/community partnerships.

Section of people and organizations who share a vision and have the capacity to achieve that vision through true collaboration and truly shared decision-making); the need to promote Sustainability through community development processes. These elements are variously evident in the examples provided above, but not in a holistic way. Vail argued against the traditional, status quo “sports programming” approach, where programs are dropped-into settings without proper needs assessment in the community, the use of off the shelf programs and marketing, and delivering programs in short-term episodes without ensuring the people and other community-based resources are properly developed. That is, they often miss matters of sports sustainability and true community development.

Here we confront several issues for current and incipient sports managers. One could reasonably critique many current sport management programs and practices. Do current sports managers, or do current sports management education programs, really understand and employ community development models? Is sufficient emphasis placed on community development and the role of sport can play in that development? If sports policy and programs are imposed on communities without the elements Craig (2007) and Vail (2007) emphasize sports managers need to consider what the implications are for creating sustainable effective sporting opportunities that may result in positive social capital outcomes. This critique indicates that sports managers and future sports managers require ongoing education to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to provide sports programs (i.e., deliver properly targeted policy) that can facilitate community development and bring about positive social change in diverse communities. Education programs for incipient sports managers should help students work to employ a community development perspective and develop and deliver sustainable sports interventions, based on the real needs of the communities and on sustainable community development models.

The Positive Futures program: “we have found that while sport does have social value, this can only be fully realized within a social and personal development approach. These approaches are at the heart of the neoliberalist agenda to improve individual freedom and opportunity." Sport and Recreation practitioners are passionate about the impacts their programs have on individuals and their social development. While this is largely anecdotal, new evaluation tools are attempting to capture meaningful data to contribute to the evidence base for this claim.

Long-term viability or sustainability in delivering social outcomes is central to the success of these developments through sports programs. Modern society demands more flexibility and choice and this should also be true of how communities and individuals access a range of opportunities. A one size fits all approach will not meet all community needs. The challenge for the traditional sports sector in Australia is to move beyond current sport delivery practices to provide a range of products including low cost locally developed grassroots opportunities and extended public/private/third sector linking social capital programs. There is a danger, however, in relying on this predominantly volunteer-based sector to deliver social outcomes.

In Australia, the opportunity exists for community organizations, with government support, to establish long-term viable programs that use sport to engage with communities to deliver social outcomes. Partnerships between the traditional sports sector and community-based organizations could be forged to support participation in sport across the continuum from outreach to mainstream participation. Suffice to say, this could potentially open the way for the development of a ”third way” in Australia where community-based organizations provide local grass-root sports participation opportunities for their communities, with strong linkages, collaborations, shared decision-making capacities, and partnerships with community groups and organizations, including mainstream sport. Donnelly (2007) provides the following summation:

"All sport and recreation provision should be based on long-term, established funding; should be continually monitored and evaluated in light of ongoing research, and should, for the most part, be offered for the purposes of social opportunity and social development."

From the above, we note the following criteria to effectively use sport in social development and as a vehicle to contribute to the development of social capital/social inclusion within disadvantaged communities. First, programs should be designed with regard to the local assets (e.g., infrastructure, people, revenues, networks;  available in the target communities. Second, sport-based social inclusion programs should be local area based and address and respond to individual community needs utilizing a social development approach. Third, monitoring and evaluation should form an Integral Component of the program from conception to implementation and should contribute to the evidence base. Finally, development of “third way” sports programs should be explored by all sectors with a view to mainstream or long-term funding ensuring sustainability.

A broad array of positive community networks and relationships can be developed through engagement with sport. This engagement can create opportunities that can foster social inclusion and community development, which in turn, can assist in building high levels of positive social capital.

Sports Social app is shaped in a way to create a mapping of sports activities in a locality connecting the people and places involved in sports ecosystem including players, supporters, promoters and organizers.  Thus resulting in Creating local sports communities and making sports-friendly environment in Localities, Societies, Apartments, and Institutions (Schools, Colleges, and Organizations, Academies, Clubs and Different Sports Facilities).


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