“Leadership and empowerment through sport”: The intentions, hopes, ambitions and reality of creating a sport-for-development organisation in Cape Town


David Meir1

1 University Centre Blackburn College, School of Health, Science and Technology, UK

Citation: Meir, D. “Leadership and empowerment through sport”: The intentions, hopes, ambitions and reality of creating a sport-for-development organisation in Cape Town. Journal of Sport for Development. 2017; 5(8): 19-29.

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Leadership and Empowerment through Sport (LETS) was created in February 2013 to deliver sports leadership programmes in collaboration with governmental departments and community projects in Cape Town, South Africa. This case study research project was undertaken to gain an understanding of the complexities of creating a sport-for-development organisation; to determine the flaws that existed within the process; and to develop possible solutions for their successful resolution. It was also an attempt to connect theoretical perspectives with empirical observations with a clear research aim of informing the way in which the LETS organisation would develop in the future. Qualitative data was collected through interviews and questionnaires with participants and partners on two pilot programmes delivered in Cape Town in 2014. Findings indicate that whilst there were a number of positive elements including the use of a values-based pedagogy, policy links and the desire to work in a collaborative way, there were greater challenges facing the organisation than it was prepared for. The most fundamental issue was the lack of both cultural awareness and community engagement, which highlighted further issues around pedagogy, the relevance for the participants, the methodological approach, and the monitoring and evaluation of the programmes themselves. Looking forward, the research suggests that the adoption of a Participatory Action Research methodology and programme development through the framework of critical pedagogy  will  increase  the opportunity for community ownership and individual empowerment.


Sport-for-Development is a contested social construct; it is a phenomenon created by society, an idea constructed through social practice that finds its expression in diverse social contexts.1 It operates within two overlapping discursive frameworks: Sport as a universal and integrative social practice alongside the notion of the deliverance of aid from the ‘1st World’ to the ’third world’ within an international development context.2 Sport-for-Development is seen by some as a ‘top down’ and principally ‘Global North’ process influenced by the internationalism of development.3 Critics further argue that there is an aspect of evangelical neo–colonialism in the way it is developed and delivered, aligning itself with historical calls proclaiming the principles of equality, justice and the eradication of poverty.4 A further concern is that some traditional aspects within sport contribute towards social exclusion leading to the promotion of inequitable attitudes5 through the implementation of rules, structure and tradition; sport can just as easily prove far more dysfunctional than functional to social order.6

On the other hand, Sport-for-Development projects are believed to have the potential to deliver a wide range of positive outcomes due to the way in which it can be developed in an apolitical, neutral and integrative way7; yet Sport-for-Development can never be apolitical. Any attempt to deliver projects separately from the socio-political landscape will only succeed in reducing the validity, relevance and potential successes of specific projects. Organisations looking to further their own aims and objectives are mediated by wider social issues such as local culture, policy and an array of different power relations.8 It is essential, therefore, for any organisation to increase their cultural understanding through community engagement and understand in depth, the communities that they intend to work alongside.

Within the Cape Provinces of South Africa, barriers that restrict the potential for success within the formal labour market reinforce high levels of poverty. The limitations, vulnerability and exploitation within social and economic structures ensure that many people are ‘simultaneously thoroughly dependent on the City’s informal economy and deeply marginalised within it.9 An increasingly excluded and destitute racial underclass within post-apartheid South Africa remains ‘non-contact’ for a substantial majority of the population.10 Limited access to resources has in the past fostered a culture of interdependency; however, extreme poverty is eroding networks of community cooperation and undermining a fragile social fabric.11 In South Africa, the national unemployment rate currently stands at 50% for people under the age of 24 and the country has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor of any country in the world; many people are trapped in a poverty cycle where they lack skills, employment, and hope.12

A further causative factor in this is the education system. The illiteracy rate is at 18%, less than 50% of people pass their matric certification and 80% of schools are classed as currently ‘failing’. All this is counter to the fact that South Africa has one of the highest levels of investment in education in the world with 7% of GDP and 20% of total state expenditure being spent on education.13 Conventional approaches to learning are struggling to make a significant contribution to benefiting or advancing the position of marginalised communities or meeting their needs. In South Africa, education reinforces the social and economic marginalisation of the poor with few prospects for movement or further development.14 A lack of opportunity within education makes it extremely difficult for young people to find opportunities that enable them to develop appropriate skills and confidence and to make a life for themselves within this challenging environment. The education system is one of inequality based around segregation through ethnicity, wealth and resources. This continues to reinforce feelings of superiority/inferiority and breeds contempt, fear and a sense of injustice. It creates groups of people who remain locked into spaces of poverty.15

An education system should enrich the lives of learners with sport being a particularly useful area because it can provide hope and freedom and also play a role in the engagement of individuals who are marginalised from traditional aspects of society.16 There are a number of barriers that prevent young people from being able to access and therefore participate within sport. These barriers include a lack of resources and a debilitating lack of support from a variety of presumed sources including schools, community members and government at all levels. It is within this context that the original idea was developed for the creation of a sustainable Sport-for-Development organisation. Leadership and Empowerment through Sport (LETS) was registered in Cape Town as a Non-Profit Company in February 2013. The objectives of the programme are:

  1. To work in partnership to develop current and future community leaders through sports leadership and entrepreneurial programmes.
  2. To create and deliver programmes that contributes towards participant’s holistic development.
  3. To incorporate international best practices and research to develop programmes that meet specific individual and community requirements.

LETS was initially set up with only a limited understanding of the different types of Sport-for-Development programmes that were being implemented in both Cape Town and across the Global South. In the initial stages of development it was clear that research was required to inform the ethos of the organisation, to gain a greater level of understanding of Sport-for-Development and to reflect on how this would impact on its implementation. The aim was to develop the organisation within Cape Town, working with different government departments and community organisations to create and deliver sports leadership programmes. The intention was to educate potential sports leaders and existing coaches in a way that develops their knowledge and skills alongside developing their understanding of how to contribute towards individual and community development through sport.

The initial pedagogical development of LETS was influenced by the values based approach of Football 4 Peace International (F4P), a sport-for-development programme that has been conducting cross-community projects in Northern Ireland and the Middle East for many years.40-43 In their Manual for Community Football they discuss the value of both social learning theory and structural development theory in the promotion of specific values through sport. Structural Development Theory identifies the fact that young people are influenced in their behaviour in response to the behaviours of others and because of the environment that they are in. Social learning theory “advocates that social skills, attitudes and values can be learned by observing behaviours of others and adopting and demonstrating those behaviours.”17 It is the role of the coach, leader and teacher that is so important in promoting specific values to the young people. A further key element of the F4P curriculum is the use of ‘Teachable Moments’. These are specific incidents of behaviour which occur within a session that can be used to translate the four principles of the programme which are concepts and abstractions into practical examples.17 It is these moments that enable the coach to put across the specific values that he or she is looking to promote.

Aspects of this pedagogical approach were incorporated within the design of the initial curriculum to increase the likelihood that programme participants would be able to apply what they have learned within their community and to use their skills to address the wider social issues that exist within them. In building on the initial adoption of a value-based pedagogy, the programme incorporated the aims of the new South African Coaching Framework and the National Sport and Recreation plan. Through initial discussions with partner organisations in Cape Town, there was awareness that sports administrators were incorporating a value-based pedagogy as a way to improve sports coaching and young people’s social development. Their intention, within specific contexts, was to create a learning climate where psychomotor performance is replaced as the criterion for success by a range of value-based behaviour.18 The South African Coaching Framework’s vision is to create an effective, inclusive, cohesive and ethical coaching system that promotes transformation and excellence in an active and winning nation. The Framework aims to provide skilled and qualified coaches to support the development of South Africans at all levels in sport.19 LETS developed its curriculum to ensure it was in a position to contribute to the framework through putting inclusion at the heart of everything that it does, upping the skill of its coaches, and developing their understanding of a new pedagogical approach. LETS also designed the content of their curriculum to meet strategic objectives within the National Sport & Recreation Plan (NSRP). The general aims of the NSRP are to increase sports participation, address the imbalances that are still perceptible within South Africa and help to develop a strong participation base within the community.20 Through delivery of programmes in a variety of different settings and with a variety of different organisations, LETS was capable of contributing towards a series of strategic objectives within the plan. Specifically, LETS was able to contribute to Strategic Objective 1: To improve the health and wellbeing of the nation by providing mass participation opportunities through active recreation.

The original sports leadership curriculum of LETS was split into the following two areas:

  1. Coach education programme for existing sports coaches
  2. Community programme for young leaders

The coach education programme was designed for coaches already working within schools, community clubs and community projects. The curriculum focused on the development of a value-based approach to sports leadership and was developed in partnership with a local government department in Cape Town (Government Department 2 (GD2)) and the initial pilot programme was run with 20 curriculum advisors and developers in February 2014. The initial community programmes were designed for young people who were new to the concept of sports leadership. Its intended outcome was for the participants to use leadership skills in developing activities within their own community. The curriculum again focused on developing the participants’ understanding of a values-based pedagogical approach but in less depth than the coach education programme. The content was developed in partnership with a local government department in Cape Town (Government Department 1 (GD1)) and was delivered as a pilot programme in July 2014 with 25 young leaders.


Study Design

This overall aim of the research is to develop an understanding from a participant perspective as to the strengths and weaknesses of a new Sport-for-Development organisation. A case study methodology was implemented to enable new learning about behaviour and its meaning within a real world context.21 The case study methodology is holistic because it focused on the development of an organisation and also incorporated embedded subcases that focused on the views and experiences of the participants. LETS as an organisation is essentially a bounded entity, which cannot be removed from its contextual conditions and in depth consideration must be given to the nature of the case including historical, physical, institutional and political contextual factors.22 The case develops through a relationship between the researcher and the participants, inviting and engaging the reader to participate within the interaction.23 It is an interpretive enquiry with the intention to go beyond the research of isolated issues and enable an in-depth study of contextual and complex issues.

The research has been informed using a constructivist epistemology with the belief that people effectively construct meaning through the reality that surrounds them. An understanding of their lived experiences within their communities as well as their understanding of the programme was explored with the intention to apply their constructed reality to the future development of the organisation. Both researchers and participants bring their own personal experiences and opinions to the table and these are in turn derived from the history and culture of the communities in which they are from. Whilst the need to reduce bias and ensure validity within the representation of the data is essential, it is difficult to separate ourselves from what we know; our subjectivity is an integral part of our understanding of ourselves, of others and of the world around us.24

Data Collection

The primary data was collected at the following two pilot programmes in 2014: The Coach Education Pilot Programme in February 2014 and the Young Leaders Pilot Programme in July 2014.

Data was collected through questionnaires, focus group interviews with participants, support workers and coordinators as well as individual interviews with managers from the (GD1) and (GD2) in Cape Town.

Drawing upon interpretive paradigms and engaging with human agency in semi-structured interviews allowed for a certain degree of flexibility and the pursuit of unexpected lines of enquiry. Government departments selected participants in each of the programmes and their involvement in the research was voluntary. The coach education programme consisted of twenty curriculum coordinators who worked directly for (GD2). They were employed within schools across the Cape Province to design and develop the sports curriculums within schools. The majority came from an elite sport background in a variety of sports including netball, table tennis, volleyball, football and rugby union. The participants in the Young Leader’s Pilot Programme were selected from various communities throughout Cape Town and the surrounding suburbs such as Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha. These communities are affected with gang violence, drug & substance abuse, unemployment, teenage pregnancies and school dropouts. These participants were part of a wider project being delivered by (GD1) to develop young leaders. Their views were sought on the organisation, the programmes, the potential value of this type of approach within Cape Town and their thoughts on how the organisation could ensure its success and relevance in the future.

*GD1- Government Department 1

**GD2-Government Department 2

Data Analysis

Due to the qualitative nature of the research, a thematic approach was employed in the analysis of the data. The analysis of the primary data came from an exploratory approach whereby the data was read and re-read to look for key words, trends, themes or ideas that have informed the overall discussion. Within the analysis, the focus has been on the richness of the summary data and the interpretation of that data. Themes were defined through emerging patterns from within all corresponding data. They were identified through bringing together comments, which would be meaningless when viewed alone. The aim was to piece together these fragments to form a comprehensive picture of a collective experience.25 Whilst using a thematic approach to data analysis has been criticised for a lack of reliability, it is still the most valid approach in terms of capturing the complexity of meaning. Interest in participants’ perceptions, feelings, knowledge and behaviour have been explored as a proxy for experience.26 The thematic analysis highlighted three broad themes from the raw data:

a) Cultural Awareness and Community Engagement

b) Curriculum Design

c) Monitoring and Evaluation

These three key themes will be presented within the results and explored further within the discussion.


Cultural Awareness and Community Engagement

Developing a programme in the ‘global South’ when being based in the ‘global North’ offers up a unique set of challenges. A participant in the Pilot Coach Education Programme clearly identified a lack of cultural awareness as an issue for the project.

The issues that LETS will face in trying to reach its aims is in the way in which it attempts to understand the culture in which it works and the backgrounds of the participants. It needs to research local issues and develop local based programmes.

This is especially true as the original idea, curriculum and structure was initially developed in the UK with only a limited understanding of the social, economic and political issues within Cape Town. This reinforced the limitations of the initial didactic approach of the programme. It was a top down process rather than one of a ‘bottom up’ community driven and inspired agenda. There was a clear lack of understanding as to the wider socio-political factors that would impact the development and delivery of a specific programme. As one participant from the Pilot Coach Education Programme stated, “It is important for the programme to develop in a more ‘home based’ way to show a deeper understanding of the cultural and territorial differences within the Cape”.

Alongside cultural understanding there was a lack of understanding as to specific social structures and aspects of territorial differences across the Cape. Another participant from the Leadership Pilot Programme stated, “LETS can go to the different communities, include them and learn more about the community because most of the communities are different.”

This goes beyond ethnic and cultural differences, which includes issues such as social class, crime, gangs, social mobility and the political factors that influence daily life. It is a continuous process in terms of ensuring the relevance of the programme and through dialogue, increasing its cultural and structural awareness.

There are strengths in terms of the structure of the organisation and the partnerships that have been developed but there is still a great deal to learn in understanding the needs of the communities in which the programmes were delivered. The district manager from (GD1) highlighted that there is a need to tackle social issues through implementing development programmes from a local perspective, stating that “We need to speak to the community”.

The engagement of participants from an early stage in the development of the project will enable them to have a direct influence on its future direction. If the agenda is driven by those outside those communities then it has to be questioned whether their understanding and concern for the people of those communities is sufficient and whether their concerns will be taken into account. A participant in the Pilot Coach Education Programme noted that it is important to have engagement with a wide variety of community organisations to provide the opportunity for dialogue, discussion and community ownership, noting:

By establishing links with local role players such as schools, places of worship, civic organisations, local government and community leaders etc. By being linked with the community, the community will be more forthcoming and open up to the programme.

There are the partnerships that are already in place with the government departments and negotiations that have taken place with other organisations based in both the community and within education with regard to the development of future partnerships. Through this engagement the opportunity for ownership and empowerment in the future will only increase.

Curriculum Design

In the initial stages of development, there was limited analysis as to the pedagogical strategies that would best fit the organisation and the community in which it would work. From the data that has been collected, it was clear that the value-based aspect of the curriculum resonated with the participants. As a participant in the Pilot Coach Education Programme noted, “It is important to develop a platform where communities identify the values they think are lacking and need to be addressed.” The curriculum advisors on the pilot programme identified and discussed a series of social issues within the Cape Provinces. These included lack of self-esteem, discipline, empathy, ambition and respect. The participants were clear that the communities in which they lived and schools in which they worked were suffering from major social problems. When discussing the potential of the programme and the problems that it could address, participants made reference to ingrained issues within their communities. One participant in the Pilot Coach Education Programme noted, “I feel the moral fibre in our communities (country) has been worn away and not enough is in place to restore it”.

There was a clear agreement with the participants that a value-based approach has the potential to contribute towards challenging those social issues. Many issues were highlighted with regard to the importance of developing specific values within young people and how it relates to their life within their communities. A participant in the Leadership Pilot Programme stated, “Most of the activities on the programme tell a story about many of our lives. And many of us see a way to get past it with the values that we get out of the game.” A support worker participating in the Leadership Pilot Programme stated, “The young people play the game and realise it is similar to life. Value-based games pin point the mistakes we make in reality and finds a solution to them.” It is a new concept in sports leadership and coaching for the participants who are either new to leadership or who are entrenched in a traditional coaching philosophy that focuses on psychomotor development. The approach puts the activities into context, providing opportunities for participants to gain experience in delivery and to underpin the practical elements of the curriculum with accessible, clear and appropriate theory.

Whilst there is an agreement that a value-based pedagogy has the capability to provide solutions to wider social issues through sport, it is important that the organisation continuously looks to evolve and improve. More holistic and more critical approaches to pedagogy will be explored to ensure that participants are provided with the opportunity to understand their own reality. A specific pedagogical philosophy is required that will empower the participants and challenge the wider socio-political situation that reinforces a framework of inequity. An example of this was the desire of GD1to incorporate an entrepreneurial element to the programme, stating:

What is important for us is that you look to incorporate an entrepreneurial aspect to the programme. We want the young people to have those skills as we feel they are lacking within the communities.

Alongside this sentiment, the City of Cape Town Recreation Study in 2011 highlighted that residents desired more informal recreation opportunities for all ages at a community level, rather than formal sport. They want recreation activities to be used to build their communities, to address social problems and to connect them with other communities through friendly competitions.27 A manager from GD1 reinforced this point, saying:

I do think the recreation focus could increase. Sport programmes are often dependent on equipment and facilities but the starting point for recreation can be the space and resources at their disposal. There should be less of an emphasis on formal sport moving more towards a programme where rules can be made up to suit attaining social outcomes.

A key challenge for LETS as it moves forward is how it works with their partners to support the participants in a collective way, ensuring that the structure of the organisation provides the opportunity for further development. There are, however, potential tensions between the agenda of the government departments and the interests of the community. For the organisation to develop in the way that it wants, the interests of the community in which it serves must come first. The partnerships with the government departments have been highly beneficial, yet it is important to be aware of how their future agenda may be in conflict with both the needs of the community and the future direction and development of LETS.

Monitoring and Evaluation

One support worker in the Leadership Pilot Programme stated, “It is important to ensure that those learners who begin the programme complete it and use their skills positively in their community.”

The strategic partners within Cape Town provide the key support, opportunities and resources to participants upon completion of the programme, which is something that would be very difficult for an organisation such as LETS to do alone. Strategic partners also help with LETS’ intended goal to support staff from (GD2) and participants in the post-programme phase. This approach ensures that there is sustainable contact between programme participants and staff based upon the respect for cultural contexts in which they live. There is an understanding through shared lived experiences and of the realities that they will face in the implementation of their ideas. The success of the project will be based on the impact that the trained leaders have following the completion of the course, especially around the amount of events they run, teams they set up and the coaching sessions they deliver. It will also be measured in the future impact for the individuals themselves and where it takes them.

The generic process for the monitoring and evaluation of both programmes was as follows:

  • Stage 1 – Partner organisations identify and recruit participants
  • Stage 2 – LETS delivers the pre-agreed programme
  • Stage 3 – Participants are supported post-programme to deliver sessions within their own communities and schools by the partner organisations
  • Stage 4 – Participants and the partner organisations collect data (e.g. number of sessions, participant numbers, age, gender, ethnicity, etc.)
  • Stage 5 – LETS undertakes an analysis of the data collected.

It is the collection of the data at stage four and the subsequent analysis of that data in stage five that ascertains the relative successes and failures of the programme. This approach has been supported by the partner organisations prior to the programme delivery. However, through the data collected after completion of the pilot programmes, it was clear that there were fundamental issues in their ability to undertake the required monitoring and evaluation post programme. As a manager from GD1 put it, “The key issue that we had was that there was a change to the regional boundaries in the city, we no longer had people in place within the organisation to monitor the young people.” Another manager from GD1 stated, “If I am being honest we did not know how to collect the data that you wanted. We do not have the resources in place to be able to monitor participants, we were not prepared.” There are clear structural, economical and communication issues that have impacted the development of a rigorous process of monitoring and evaluation. Without an effective system in place, the future of both partnerships and ultimately the organisation itself are at risk.


Culture, Community and Methodology

During the process of developing the organisation, opportunities were limited for the participants to have ownership of the content of the programmes. Dialogue existed between LETS and its partner organisations but not between LETS and the participants; it was a case of top-down implementation. There is a need, therefore, to seek a methodological approach to research that provides the participants with a voice and ensures that the programme is culturally, socially, economically and politically relevant. Reinforcing a hegemonic framework through traditional research approaches raises the question of whose interests are being served through dominant ideas, in which contexts and with what effects.28 The adoption of decolonising methodologies will investigate and attempt to understand the complexities of negotiating dominance and consent, and locate the possibilities of emancipation and social change.28 One such decolonising methodological approach is Participatory Action Research (PAR), which is a democratic, equitable, liberating and life enhancing form of qualitative research.29 The engagement and involvement of the participants at each stage of development creates the opportunity for collaboration between participant and researcher, ensuring authentic local voices are not missed or dismissed in the evaluation process.30 The interaction between researcher and participant is imperative if social change and empowerment are to occur.31 Participation enables people, through a philosophy of action, to determine their own development and to participate meaningfully in the process of finding their own solutions. In order for LETS to maintain relevance, achieve its objectives, meet the needs of stakeholders and deliver innovative and appropriate programmes, the adoption of a PAR is an essential future development.

Pedagogy and Curriculum Design

The initial didactic approach of LETS was highly technocratic and underpinned by a positivistic, utilitarian philosophy and hierarchical structure that favoured an externally imposed agenda within pedagogical content.32 There was an increased awareness that as the organisation developed, this type of approach would not work in reality as it had been developed in a way that would impose a pre-set agenda. A values based pedagogical approach worked well for LETS in this instance yet the imposition of a curriculum for the perceived benefit of a specific community with only a limited understanding of its validity and worth within a specific context ensures that the process is inevitably flawed. The original position of LETS was one where it provided an opportunity for participants to actively participate in wider social, economic and political spheres rather than providing an opportunity to durably transform those spheres.33 In developing a relevant programme, dialogue and collaboration are imperative within the pedagogical design. A point raised in the primary data collection is the need for the curriculum to move towards a more recreational model and away from the more sports-orientated elements. This relates to a report by the Human Science and Research Council, which identified the need for increased participation through: “A shift in emphasis to sport that requires minimum financial outlay and infrastructure” and “A focus on the activity, rather than the facility or lack thereof, to increase possibilities for participation.”34

Alongside this is the assumption that youth from different social and cultural backgrounds participate in sport or recreation for the same reasons as those in Western societies.35 Within the Young Leaders Pilot Programme, it was obvious that their love of music and dance was a highly influential part of their lives and through developing a larger focus on recreational activities, there is the opportunity to return to more traditional methods of learning that have served communities well for many centuries.36 Rather than the content being imposed, it can be created collaboratively to ensure a higher level of relevance for those for whom it is intended. Dialogue and collaboration enables participants to look at the world from a critical perspective, raising an understanding of how they can shape their own reality.37 A greater understanding of how to develop LETS within a framework of critical pedagogy is required if the actual empowerment of participants is to be achieved.

Critical pedagogy has central concerns to bring about social change through education, to open up possibilities and alternatives, to reveal the complexities of social life, and to resist the imposition of simplistic explanations and quick fix solutions. Emancipation, empowerment and critique are the three dimensions of critical pedagogy that are embedded and constitutive to the practice of sport.38 Human emancipation involves the ability to change and to adapt to new challenges and new sets of circumstances. Critical pedagogy seeks to achieve human emancipation through empowerment but only when it is realised in the practical daily activities of individuals. The final dimension of cultural critique has the aim of assisting people to see beyond the obvious and to enable them to enhance self-knowledge, act in informed ways and to see beyond surface appearances.38 Freire’s conceptual and ethical framework both challenges the status quo and articulates a language of policy. The intention of the framework is to synthesise politics and education to develop greater humanisation and to challenge and provide alternatives to the current state of domination and oppression that exists within specific communities.36

An example of both dialogue and the resulting changes in the pedagogical approach is in the recent change to incorporate an entrepreneurial aspect into the curriculum. Through placing sports leadership and entrepreneurialism together within a context that the participants can relate to and apply, a mutual process is developed. This links into the key characteristics of dialogical action which are cooperation, unity, organisation and cultural synthesis.37 Cultivating an entrepreneurial understanding can create the opportunity for participants to develop their own initiatives or events post-programme. It is their choice as to how they utilise those skills to develop sport, recreation and their own financial gain. Through the promotion of entrepreneurial skills, the participants are gaining knowledge that will enable them to participate and contribute to their own community and to potentially better their own lives, thus awakening their critical consciousness.37 Yet in order for this to be of value, an understanding of the complexities of the promotion of entrepreneurialism within communities in and around Cape Town needs to be understood. Entrepreneurialism is highly evident within these communities, but it is the absence of developed social organisations and the lack of support available, rather than the absence of entrepreneurial energy at the personal level that create barriers to individual progress.39 Entrepreneurialism is limited through the individualised nature of it. In the Global North, entrepreneurialism is a collective endeavour; within the Global South, the lack of a collective approach within communities has become a bigger obstacle to economic development rather than the deficient entrepreneurial spirit of individuals.39 The provision of collective support and guidance is therefore imperative if the participants are to be able to develop their ideas in practice.

Partnership Working, Monitoring and Evaluation

The key failing of the organisation and its partners to date is in the implementation and delivery of an appropriate monitoring and evaluation strategy. It may be possible to argue that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ the programmes have made some contribution30 but the process that was created has not worked as intended. Currently there is no specific way of highlighting the successes of the initial pilot programmes beyond the initial participation figures and qualitative data presented here. This is due to the difficulty of communicating with partner organisations on the other side of the world, the pressure that they are under with regard to other programmes, the resources at their disposal, a lack of initial planning for the collection of post programme data and a lack of support in developing their understanding of how to collect this data. There has been a clear response from one of our partners that they do not know how to collect the data that was required and that they did not have a reporting structure in place. Without the collaboration, support and communication from its partner organisations, the organisation is put in a vulnerable position because it is extremely difficult to develop in these conditions in an informed way.

It is important to learn from these mistakes, which point to requiring a specific and appropriate model of monitoring and evaluation to enable the partnerships to work effectively in the future. A clear collaborative structure will ensure appropriate monitoring and evaluation of the participants as they plan and deliver within their communities with an agreement in place that what is being requested is achievable. Once an appropriate model is in place, it must avoid becoming no more than a box ticking exercise that simplifies the holistic nature of the project and reduces the capacity for critical reflection. Any claims of success have to be tempered with the realistic understanding that Sport-for-Development projects are not capable as stand-alone entities to fully resolve issues that have eluded many other development organisations and governments in the past.7

Study Limitations

It is important to recognise a number of methodological limitations within this study. First, the data was collected during two pilot programmes delivered by one organisation, and therefore cannot generalise the finding beyond them. Second, the data was collected and analysed by the author of the paper. A criticism of bias could be placed upon the study for this reason. The research was however an interpretive enquiry and acknowledges that our subjectivity is an integral part of our understanding of ourselves, of others and of the world around us. It is within this context that the data analysis took place. Alongside this limitation is the overall aim of the study, which was to highlight the flaws that existed within the organisation and to find solutions to resolve them. There was no rationale for bias in the analysis of the primary data. Third, the fundamental limitation is in the lack of post-pilot programme data collected. If this had been undertaken by the partner organisations, there would have been a clearer understanding of the successes and failures of the programme. This was an exploratory research project and any future research on LETS has to ensure that it undertakes data collection throughout the lifespan of the programmes in order to achieve a specific understanding of the process and its outcomes.


This research project sought to gain an understanding of the complexities of creating a Sport-for-Development organisation and to find potential solutions to the flaws that existed within the process. The findings from this study suggest that future developments are undertaken in collaboration with individuals and communities in which the programmes will be delivered, ensuring both a level of ownership for the participants and a level of cultural understanding for the organisation. This is fundamental if any claims of increased empowerment and emancipation are to be made. Methodologically, the adoption of Participatory Action Research will provide further opportunity for engagement and ownership over the development of the organisation. Many issues are involved in such a process, not just operational issues such as funding, partnership building, monitoring and evaluation and curriculum development but also the more affective issues such as cultural understanding, social issues within the communities and how best to engage collaboratively with individuals from within those communities to drive the future of the project.

A key question that has emerged through this research is whether or not LETS can develop participants’ understanding of their own reality or whether it functions as a reinforcement of the current dominant socio-political order, perpetuating the structures and routines within which oppression is practiced.34 In response to this the organisation itself must be flexible by embracing adaptability and change, and be capable of developing bespoke programmes to meet individual need. This opens up the need for the curriculum to relate to the specific nature of critical pedagogy. By removing the didactic and top-down approach, a true understanding of reality can be developed for the participants. It must however be greater than this; the dialogue and action that comes through this collaboration must enable the participants to be provided with the opportunity to transform that reality. This is why developments such as the promotion of entrepreneurial skills, developing a recreational programme and ensuring that appropriate post-programme support, monitoring and evaluation are in place are so important. Through genuine collaboration between communities, who understand their own circumstances better than anyone else, and an informed and experienced organisation like LETS, there will be a greater opportunity to meet the needs and expectations of programme participants and their communities.


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