The Sport for Development Coalition
Posted: Sat, 04 May 2019 15:36
The Sport for Development Coalition is a movement of sport for development organisations in the UK and Ireland. Manager Sarah Mortiboys and Simon Lansley of Connect Sport hosted an event in London recently, bringing together the sport sector in order to hear members of the coalition speak about its goals and the state of play in the sport sector itself with regards to sport for development.
The aims of the coalition are primarily based around: advocacy—showcasing the sector and speaking with a unified voice, (a necessity for the sport sector routinely highlighted by The Sports Think Tank); investment—securing new funds for the sector; and impact—highlighting the sector's value and making the case for investment.
Presentations by members of the Coalition, based on the 5 main strands of the Government's sport development strategy, were followed by a panel discussion and audience questions. Recent projects in the sport for development space were reviewed, providing a number of important insights. These included how the focus of sport for development work has shifted towards making the link between physical wellbeing and educational success at school, highlighting the value of PE and physical activity as a crucial element of wellbeing, and therefore an essential underpinning of educational attainment.
The presentation from StreetGames Director of Strategy, Lindsey MacDonald recounted how the charity uses sport to provide alternative identities for young people vulnerable to falling into criminality. Fear of violence in many communities is impacting physical activity as parents are too afraid to let their children go out and play. Sport and physical activity options for exploring identity are crucial for mental wellbeing, as has been written about before on this website. Lindsey emphasised how sport brings cultural and social capital to communities, making people less isolated and facilitating relationships with neighbours and local residents.
Working in the arena of criminal justice, Alliance of Sport operate with prison populations to prevent re-offending. Crime against persons in 2015/16 cost £50bn to the economy, while crime against businesses cost a reported £9bn. Analysis of the work of Alliance of Sport has shown that £17 are saved for every £1 invested in their projects.
It was thought that the Ministry of Justice did not "understand" sport, and in the ensuing discussion, expert panellists lamented how government departments didnt care whether people play sport or not—but they do care why, and therefore they care what sport can do for them and how it can help fulfil their objectives Sorry don't understand this point?.
Nick Pontefract of Sport England however suggested that the sector may be turning a corner with this eternally difficult issue of communicating the developmental value of sport to government departments.It was also recognised that implementing big policy-changes and a shift in culture of the magnitude sought by sport development organisations could take 10-15 years.
Nevertheless, accelerating this process is a goal upon which many organisations can converge thanks to groups like the Sport for Development Coalition and the cooperation of bodies like Sport England. As the event closed, there was good reason for optimism as, despite the perennial barriers of disparate thinking and a fractious sector, organisations promoting sport and physical activity are working together more than ever before.
Luke Regan is Researcher for The Sports Think Tank