Sport for Development Events and Social Capital Building: A Critical Analysis of Experiences from Sri Lanka

Vera Solutions
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Sport for Development, 2013, 1 (1), pp. 25 - 36
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Most of the `evidence' that sport and event projects contribute to positive social development in divided societies remains anecdotal. In answering the call for empirical evaluations, this paper investigated the role of a sport-for-development project in contributing to intergroup development and social capital building between disparate communities in ethnically divided Sri Lanka. Thirty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with various stakeholders after the weekend-long Intercultural Sports Meeting (ISM) project in rural Sri Lanka, assessing participant experiences, behaviour, and attitudinal changes. Findings suggest that socially focused short-term initiatives have the potential to be a source and a vehicle for intercommunity development; they can provide much needed excitement, animation and vibrancy. However, to contribute to sustainable social benefits sport events ought to be used to grow and leverage a nested sport-for-development program instead of being featured as a stand-alone exercise. In fact, the ability of short-term interventions to create social capital needs to be critically assessed and claims about events lasting contributions to social capital should be treated with caution.
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