Marie Biermann is a sport and international development professional who currently works as a researcher at the German Sports University in Cologne. Her main tasks include monitoring and evaluation as well as supervision and consulting of sport-in-development programmes all over the world. For her PhD studies, which she successfully completed in 2016, she conducted a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Khayelitsha, South Africa.
Opportunities and Limitations of Sport-in-Development Projects in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Analysis of their Impact in the Context of Development.
In the last three decades, sport has gained impressive momentum as a tool for development and is seen as having the ability to improve social, cultural, educational and psychological circumstances of marginalized communities. Others have been more critically posing questions about the impact of sport to reach the proclaimed goals. To shed light on the often broad and inscrutable sport-in-development field, this study analyses the value of sport for generating or inhibiting development.
In-depth data is gathered in and around four sport-in-development projects in Khayelitsha in South Africa over two six-month visits. The major focus is on participants, coaches and significant others as well as the socio-political context. The study adopts an ethnographic approach, including participant observation, general field observations and researchers’ experiences, as well as a semi-structured interview guideline.
The study finds that beneficiaries living in a marginalized community with many socio-economic drawbacks benefit from sport-in-development projects that offer opportunities that are otherwise hardly available – and thereby increase beneficiaries’ well-being, at least during the time the beneficiaries are involved in the project. This positive change is not only found in beneficiaries, but also in the majority of their significant others. Findings indicate that when sport-in-development programmes are well-designed and consider a range of enabling factors, programmes can partly influence skill development and behaviour change. Sport itself thereby plays a rather subordinate role. Besides the factors within the programmes, the impact strongly depends on the infrastructural, political and socio-economic circumstances in Khayelitsha that also affect the community. These contextual conditions influence the performance of the programme as well as the capacity to transfer learnt skills and behaviour into real-life situations. Therefore, any wider impact on other levels than the individual one is the exception and is subject to the individual’s unique biography, contextual circumstances, and structural inequalities.