ASSOCIATED SPORTS: All
CAUSES SERVED: Athletics, Children and Youth, Community, Disability Issues, Education, Health, Human Rights, Peace, Poverty, Race & Equality, Special Needs, Women's Issues
AGE GROUPS SERVED: All
Forward. By definition, the word represents movement, progress, direction – all of which are qualities embodied within organizations throughout the Sport for Development sector. For SportForward it also represents the movement they’ve helped to create over the past 25 years by providing sports programming for communities in-need in 65 countries around the globe. SportForward’s programs use sport as a developmental tool to address key issues in education, health & hygiene, gender and disability awareness & inclusion, and peace building. As these issues continue to be challenges found around the world, their programs have reached thousands of youth and adults, and worked to bridge the divide and foster stronger communities.
We asked SportForward for some perspective on where they’ve been over those 25 years, where the sector is headed and what we can do collectively to keep moving, forward.
Q: SportForward is a long time practitioner in the Sport For Development community, operating for 25 years. How has the landscape changed in recent years? What has improved? Has any situation become worse?
A: SportForward, through the efforts of its founder, Steve DeVoss, has been actively involved in the Sport for Development community for decades – even before it was a recognized movement. The fact that this has now become a respected academic field of study, as well as an important component of international diplomacy, is a huge shift in the landscape and a huge step forward. As practitioners, we have also seen a shift on the ground, particularly in the perspective of sport as an avenue for social change. This momentum is evident as local communities around the world increase their investment in girls and women’s sports, physical education, and opportunities for persons with disabilities.
Q: Are you moving towards more evidence-based research into the effectiveness of your projects? How can you effectively track the outcomes of SportForward's efforts in the developing world?
A: We have moved towards more evidence-based research, both in our curricula and in our monitoring and evaluation for projects. This is an area in which nearly every organization can improve and grow, so we are striving to better utilize our strong network of representatives and partners on the ground for this purpose. Their local presence and insight positions us for long-term follow-up to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts. This also allows for mutual accountability with our partner organizations and others working in this field.
Click the images below to see pictures from SportForward's program around the world...
Q: Can you speak about the 4 core areas SportForward is focused on - Adaptive Sports, Education, Women & Sports, and Peacebuilding - and why those areas were chosen?
A: These 4 core areas reflect our core values: we believe elevating the marginalized in society, educating those without opportunity, empowering women and girls, and building peaceful communities are the elements that will create and sustain a strong, healthy society. Across the different cultures where we work, we have found these are the areas in which communities have significant need. These are also issues nearly every community will rally to support and promote – a crucial element for the effectiveness and sustainability of our work.
Q: Have there been lessons learned from running programs in one country that have been applied to programs in other parts of the world? Are there any aspects that are not transferable?
A: It is reconfirmed year after year that sport itself is a universal language, and no matter where we go, we find that people are people regardless of culture, language, religion, and income. This is what makes Sport for Development programs so transferable around the world. It is the “universality” of sport, combined with our efforts to make every program appropriate to each unique context and culture that allows us to be so successful. Girls are girls, whether they live in an Ethiopian village or Dubai, and they respond to sports in very similar ways. But at the same time, the uniqueness of their situations within their communities begs a very specific response, and we are committed to designing programs that fit each context. One of our guiding principles is that we learn from, and build upon, every project we conduct. So, for us it is not as much about the ready transferability of our programs and projects as it is about their flexibility and adaptability.
Q: What are the origins for the Adaptive Sports Camp in the US, now in its second year?
A: From 1992 to 2014, our work was focused overseas and on the overwhelming need for programs in developing countries. Whenever we were asked why we didn’t do projects in the US, and specifically adaptive sports projects, our answer was always, “there are so many amazing organizations providing sports opportunities for people with disabilities here!” And while it is true that there are more adaptive sports opportunities in the US than in many places around the world, there are major gaps even here. As our US Office staff has grown, we’ve seen an opportunity to be more involved in our local community in Oklahoma, particularly through adaptive sports.
Q: What are your plans to grow SportForward's footprint in North America?
A: We want to grow a stronger North American support base for SportForward by continuing to raise awareness and partner with US organizations. Our goal is to leverage that support to conduct more programs overseas, because that is truly where we see the greatest need. While our focus remains on addressing the needs in developing countries around the world, we are committed to serving as consultants and trainers for US-based organizations, contributing to the conversation and expanding the impact of the Sport for Development community.
For more information on SportForward, please visit www.sportforward.org