We are requesting organisations using sport for social cohesion to complete our short survey, in order to inform future programming and best practice.

The use of sport to promote social cohesion has grown rapidly in recent years. This includes the use of sport for social inclusion and the integration of refugees and migrants. Public, private and third sector organisations are using sport as a vehicle to advance social cohesion in various contexts.

However, there are various challenges which continue to limit our understanding as to how sport and social cohesion programmes can be most effectively designed, delivered, and measured.

As such, sportanddev, the German Sport University and Sport and Social Cohesion Lab project partners, are conducting a survey to identify common features, challenges, and best practices in the use of sport for social cohesion.

The survey is part of a broader mapping exercise which seeks to contribute to better understanding of social cohesion at the practitioner level, and the programmatic factors that may influence success.

There is great diversity of programmes and approaches to sport and social cohesion, including measurement tools. While this is to be celebrated, it poses challenges in identifying standards, common features, and best practices. Further, evangelical notions of sport and top-down approaches remain common, resulting in a gap between theory, policy, and local practices.

Why is this important?

Grassroots practitioners voices are often marginalized and crucial factors such as the type of sport, duration of participation, frequency of participation and non-sporting activities are under-reported and analysed. This makes it difficult to identify factors which enable interventions to be effective.

This survey and mapping exercise is part of the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab, an Erasmus+ funded project. The project adopts a highly participatory Living Lab approach to tackle the gaps in knowledge and implementation.

This approach will directly engage programme participants, generate understanding of the elements that advance sport for social cohesion and develop relevant tools for the exploration, measurement and improvement of programmes and outcomes in highly diverse urban neighbourhoods.

How will the findings be used?

This survey will help us identify the assets, needs and challenges experienced by organisations in the use of sport for social cohesion. This will include shaping activities in the above-mentioned project. Findings will be shared publicly and used to inform policy and practice.

On February 24 and March 5th, partners from the Sport and Social Cohesion Lab (SSCL) gathered online to officially kick-off this new, innovative, pan-European project.

Given the increasing change and diversity in European cities, encouraging social cohesion is of the utmost importance for stability, growth and solidarity. In particular, we see that sport and physical activity have become increasingly recognized and implemented as tools to foster social cohesion in communities around Europe.

However, despite this boom in sport and social cohesion, there remain some “wicked problems” to be addressed. Most pressingly, current definitions and understandings of social cohesion rarely take into account the needs, expectations or understanding of practitioners and participants on the ground. In turn, this leads to programmes, approaches and evaluations that do not reflect the needs and realities on the ground.

To address this, a collaborative, participatory approach is needed. As such, the Sport for Social Cohesion Lab will implement a Living Lab approach through NGO-University partnerships in four different countries. These Living Labs will directly engage programme participants, generate understanding of the elements that promote social cohesion in a sport setting and to develop relevant tools to allow for the exploration, measurement and improvement of social cohesion outcomes in highly diverse urban neighbourhoods.

Through this, the SSCL project aims to increase social cohesion and support practitioners in delivering high-quality sport for social cohesion programmes.

Moving forward, we will first conduct an in-depth analysis of the  situation in the  four partner NGOs and also conduct a broader European mapping exercise. This information will allow us to tailor the Living Lab approach to each unique setting.

This project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme, and features ten partners from six different European countries. As part of the project, ENSE will support the development of the living lab approach and take a leading role in dissemination activities. More detailed information about the project and the partners can be found here.

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