Decolonisation in practice: A case study of the Kicking AIDS Out programme in Jamaica


Oscar Mwaanga1, Kola Adeosun1

1 Southampton Solent University, School of Sport, Health and Social Science, UK

Citation: Mwaanga, O., Adeosun, K. Decolonisation in practice: A case study of the Kicking AIDS Out programme in Jamaica. Journal of Sport for Development. 2017; 5(9): 58-69.

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Similar to traditional development, neo-colonial tendencies are apparent in the sport-for-development and peace (SDP) movement. As a result, a large majority of SDP scholars perceive the notion of ‘decolonisation’ as displacing the antecedents of colonialism. SDP scholars are advocating for a postcolonial approach to future SDP initiatives that will help decolonise the structures of hegemony that are in place. Although the authors of this article agree with these sentiments (and many more), and that the cause is justified, we however postulate that the postcolonial critique presented only offers an early foundation from which to decolonise SDP. Therefore, to build upon these foundations, there is a need for a methodological approach to guide critical engagement in SDP policy and research. Thus we propose the critical-participatory-paradigm (CPP) for consideration in this regard, using Darnell & Hayhurst’s1 points that the time is ripe to pursue a decolonising process that challenges structural inequalities. Through a qualitative evaluation research study of the Jamaican Kicking-AIDS-Out programme, we highlight how the CPP provides an alternative philosophical and methodological framework for decolonisation. Even though decolonisation is not instant, the principles of the CPP resulted in certain principles that could be followed allowing for consciousness raising and the enhancement of control in the research process by all vested interests.


Many will agree with Smith2 who suggests that decolonisation is the process of handing the mechanisms of power, influence and governance back to the indigenous population of a former colony. Although Smith’s assertion is a reasonable view of decolonisation, we recognise that it presents an oversimplification of the decolonisation phenomena. So in building from Smith, we turn to Huygens3 who points out that in many former colonies, the original colonisers now form part of the colony and as such Smith’s recommendations may no longer be wholly feasible, if indeed they ever were. Further Huygens3 writes that decolonisation should be considered as a long-term process involving the divesting of power in various aspects of bureaucratic, political, linguistic, cultural, spiritual, psychological and social domains. As such we can ask whether sport for development and peace (SDP) initiatives, which tend to be finite and short term4 are the right vehicles to deliver longitudinal processes such as decolonisation. Undoubtedly, the enthusiasm laden early years of SDP are slowly settling down, giving way to more realistic criticism that questions whether the SDP movement can actually decolonise and deliver authentic development. In fact SDP has been likened to historical colonial practices resulting in neo-colonial tendencies and many have advocated for decolonising research methodologies.1 Mwaanga5 points to the neo-colonial development discourses, which repeatedly emphasize sport as the vehicle for development and constantly understates people, especially indigenous leaders as the drivers of social transformation in SDP interventions.6

In addition, Levermore and Beacom7 note that the ‘power imbalances’ that surround the global northi and global south maintain the orthodox hierarchical partnerships or “vertical partnerships”8, (p. 158) where northern experts speak on behalf of the south in SDP. Banda et al.9 confirm this point suggesting that the large majority of ‘partnerships’ in SDP are of a vertical nature. Hence Giulianotti10 notes that SDP programmes and policies developed in the global north or by global northern experts represent the unfinished business of neo-colonialism, the “cultural legacy of colonialism”.5 (p. 22) Admittedly, there are some exceptions to this. Lindsey and Grattan’s11 empirical study of two local communities in Zambia details a progressive example of an SDP methodology further intent on the inclusion of local people and knowledge to additionally reduce the positivistic dimension of global northern research results.11

However, there is a scarcity of such progressive methodologies in SDP. Most research that claims to place people at the forefront of knowledge creation or have an ethnographic perspective are either not related to the SDP field or their methods are not applicable in the same way.11 To address this, the paper firstly presents our understanding of how neo-colonialism permeates SDP, proposed recently in our recent chapter,12 whilst using the Critical Participatory Paradigm (CPP) as a means to mitigate these critiques in our research practice and attempt to decolonise our SDP practice. Additionally, the paper will reinforce some of the elements of the CPP and elaborate some of its tenets by providing practical examples of how the CPP was utilised in the research and development work on the Kicking AIDS Out Jamaica (KAO-J) programme. In conclusion, this paper then follows the guidelines of Huygens3 who argues that decolonisation must firstly be presented as a theoretical process but emphasised through practical examples. However before continuing, we consider the Kicking AIDS Out (KAO) network and give a brief but necessary context to the views presented in this paper.


KAO is a leading international development network within SDP that aims to utilise the power of sport and physical activity as tools to raise awareness and educate about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.13 It was established in Zambia in 2001 with the first author of this paper being directly involved and writing the first KAO manual.13 Since that point KAO has grown, comprising of 20 organisations worldwide with an aim to increase HIV/AIDS life skills within communities. The KAO network is funded and supported by a number of multinational organisations including UK Sport, Commonwealth Games Canada and the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Confederation of Sports (NIF).14 These organisations facilitate the development of coaches and peer leaders who are expected to deliver the KAO curriculum.14 Peer leaders deliver a curriculum containing integrative games that not only encourage participation and enjoyment but also deliver HIV/AIDS prevention messages.14 Through the current peer leaders on a particular programme, new peer leaders are continually identified and trained for their respective programmes and localities.13 New peer leaders at first are trained and receive a level leader one designation, and once they can correctly answer certain questions in regards to HIV/AIDS, assist in the discussions around the topic of prevention and threats they may be recommended for level leader two.13,14 Level leader twos are then tasked with identifying and training more level leader ones from their programmes, while master trainers are responsible for training level leader twos and further growing the KAO curriculum.14 There are fewer than ten master trainers in the entire KAO network.14 This organisational structure is one which is replicated throughout many of the KAO networks worldwide. Although, given the current landscape of SDP, there is further requirement for KAO networks across the globe to justify their effectiveness usually through empirical scientific evidence.14 Nevertheless, this evidence is frequently privileged towards the powerful to justify the effectiveness of sport as a successful development tool, which invariably displays the antecedents of neo-colonialism, thereby forming the basis of our overall critique of SDP.15-17


To begin, we detail this critique of SDP in three inter-determinant parts. The first part of our critique is adapted from the work of Rankin18 who suggests that the recent history of critical development studies presents a form of colonial impression. Such colonial impressions are replicated in many (but not all) current SDP practices which often prescribe sport as the panacea, resembling the historical orthodoxy associated with colonialist practices.1,19-20For instance if we take the United Nations (UN), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the optimism in which sport was promoted to meet wide ranging goals21 from tackling education deficiencies and poverty depravation to eradicating environmental damages,21,22 we begin to see the homogeneous viewpoint of neo-colonialist thinking to solving heterogeneous problems. This is frequently perpetuated by inter-governmental organisations and corporations who embody the belief that inhabitants of the global south share the same identity and henceforth share the same problems that require the same solutions.21-23 One typical example of this homogenous viewpoint permeating SDP is the nature of volunteer tourism or voluntourism, where volunteers are sent to the global south to educate through sport, in turn helping to satisfy one of the MDGs.17,21,24However, the social, political and cultural differences of individual countries presents an unavoidable challenge to the successes of the international voluntourism model in SDP.25 Furthermore, the MDGs as a whole serve as an arena in which the social and economic discourses of the UN have permeated the development field.26 Ilcan and Phillips further note that the MDGs are a calculated practice attempting to reshape development problems of the past, allowing a repositioning of the global north as answers to those problems surface.26 Whilst overtly viewed as positive, the MDGs are actually a form of neo-colonial rationality operating as a “mentality of rule” reworking people and connecting them to particular programmes of choice,26 (p. 845) in this case SDP programmes.21

SDP programmes have been recognised as a tool for change prior to the UN’s MDGs, however the MDGs marked a definitive point in which the wider international community started to consider the full magnitude of sport as a tool for development.22 Proof of this can be seen in the upsurge of literature dedicated to MDG/SDP research post 2000.5 In turn this has increased the institutionalised relationship between sport and development.27 Certainly, within the context of HIV/AIDS, Mwaanga28 argues that the power of sport does not lie precisely in sport itself but actually in people within the local context using sport innovatively as a tool whose transformed (or untransformed) lives is the paramount measure of authenticity in SDP interventions. Consequently, this study proposes alongside Darnell and Hayhurst1 that the time is ripe to pursue a decolonising research process which displaces the antecedents of colonialism. The radical and literary works of Bhabha29 and Said30 cements an already comprehensive postcolonial critique of colonial practices, which can and has been applied to SDP. The way in which this critique has been built in some factions of SDP, even though it offers enlightening and instructive information, is largely theoretical and only in some cases offering practical examples (see Hayhurst31) on how to dislodge the neo-colonial compression of SDP. We contend that to continually develop SDP, there is a requirement for additional philosophical and methodological approaches and frameworks to guide the critical engagement and emancipation of SDP programme practitioners and participants.

The second part of our critique brings to the fore the undemocratic research propensity of SDP, especially within the knowledge creation process where northern voices are “privileged at the expense of other discourses”.32 (p.175) Spaaij and Jeanes33 highlight the historical hierarchy of researchers as a limitation to authentic dialogue and genuine democratic action in SDP research because those who consider themselves knowledgeable rarely consider the advice of those they consider to know nothing.33 This historical hierarchy further prevents the development of critical consciousness in SDP programme participants.33 It should be noted that the aim of this paper is not to simply discredit all SDP researchers and their research. There are certainly many SDP scholars who have advocated and/or included their research subjects in the research process. For example, the work of SDP sociologist Ramon Spaaij34 clearly promotes the inclusion of marginalised people in research programmes by encouraging participants to contribute to the local programme with ideas, information and resources fostering a sense of ownership in the community. This would allow participants to become more than just receivers or consumers of the programme but collaborators and contributors to the process and any subsequent evaluation and knowledge garnered from the programme therein.

The third part of our critique recognises the naivety of some researchers and practitioners in SDP where we (the global north) neglect or deny to subjectively critique our biographical background in the knowledge creation process. Without doubt, this lack of encouragement to emancipate ourselves severely hinders the possibility of emancipating others through our research. This has been termed as critical reflexivity. As a framework, it helps us expose our social position as researchers and consider to what extent this influences our research. This paves the way to alternative framings of reality and grappling with the comparative outcomes of multiple standpoints.35 As both Finlay36 and Forde37 argue, a lack of reflexivity can lead to a nihilistic disposition in research outcomes. Therefore, throughout the study both authors have attempted to engage in critical reflexivity continuously. As an example, the authors’ views are framed from a privileged and socially dominating African Diaspora males’ position, which is in contrast to those of the research participants under the KAO-J programme that do not enjoy the same privileges. Within decolonising methodologies, the critical reflexivity framework allows the research participants to equally contribute to the liberation of all those involved in the research process, including the researchers.38 Thus, we stand in agreement to Bob Marley’s 1980 hit song ‘Redemption Song’, which calls upon Jamaicans to emancipate themselves from mental slavery. But at the same time we question ourselves: to what extent does our involvement in the research project support our own colonial emancipation? For us to consider these critical reflexive questions we must step out of our “comfortable zones of privilege”.5, p.295 A plea reflected in Freire39 suggests that all merchants of revolutionary change must first deconstruct themselves with reflexivity to attain the knowledge of reality before they can deconstruct the current practice at hand.

The further engagement in reflexive, self-examination methods will help to reduce the naivety discussed previously.37 To further elaborate our critiques, we will describe the KAO-J programme in order to give contextual understanding.


Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean with the capital city of Kingston and an approximate total population of 2.7 million people;40-42 like most Anglophone countries, it is a former British colony. While under British colonial rule, sport and physical education were paramount and advocated within the school system. Consequently, the affinity towards sport continued in post-independent Jamaica.40 For instance, Jamaica was the first nation outside of Great Britain in 1966 to host the Commonwealth Games, four years after the country’s own independence. The games were a perfect opportunity to showcase its new found identity and national motto ‘Out of Many, One People’. 40,42 This motto spoke directly to the diversity of Jamaica, which had been influenced by four centuries of slave trade and colonial rule.42 Arguably, Jamaica represents one of the many former colonies mentioned by Huygens3 where the former colonisers now form part of the colony. Indeed, Dawson43 argues that much of the resistance to colonial rule in the late fifties and early sixties in Jamaica did not include a refusal of British heritage nor did it include a refusal of the British monarchy or Britons. Hence, the continuing post-independent decades in Jamaica have been somewhat of a continuum filled with an atmosphere of bipartisanship.43 Perhaps, the independence of 1962 did little to restore the nationalist ideals of Jamaican solidarity and Jamaica has limped on ever since under a kind of unofficial colonialism.43As a result, Jamaica is well suited for a postcolonial (and more probably a decolonising) framework such as the one proposed. However, even with outlining the socio-historical makeup of Jamaica, it is still prudent to explain how KAO-J fits into the neo-colonial model described earlier, thereby requiring decolonisation.

The KAO-J programme falls under the auspices of the Caribbean Sport and Development Agency (CSDA) based in Trinidad and Tobago. CSDA was the funder and facilitator for the research project and one of the key research partners of the evaluation study of KAO-J. Similar to the wider KAO network, an important characteristic of the KAO-J programme is promoting recreational sport through a non-sport rewards system, where the attempt is to integrate HIV/AIDS life skills in the hope that the right balance between sport and HIV/AIDS education are effectively reached.5,44 Nevertheless, as part of a previous evaluation of a number of KAO networks, Kruse 45,46 notes that there is no systematic analysis that has proven a positive relationship between sport alone and HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, Kruse45 warns that the strong beliefs that sport positively affects HIV/AIDS prevention is based on perception and intuition.45,47 Perhaps these warnings are ignored due to the “mythopoeic world of sports evangelists often fuelled by elite sports people who clearly have benefitted from sport”.47 (p. 309) In return this mythopoeic status promotes the ideology that sport is enough to address HIV/AIDS in many SDP organisations.28,32,37 Equally Kaufman et al.46 has referenced the notable increase of organisations within the global south now dedicated to using sport-based approaches in HIV/AIDS prevention. Unfortunately, the socio-economic crises of many global southern societies has led to a weakening of the state, resulting in the increase of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) whose operational ambition is spread across health, education, poverty and discrimination, mirroring the operational ambition of the MDGs.47 In this case, it has been argued that the influence NGOs have gained in global southern societies mirrors the influence gained by powerful independent global northern organisations such as the UN.48 To this end, Coalter47suggests local sporting NGOs such as KAO-J represent new forms of neo-colonialism because their models and strategies are formed and based on western modus operandi. Arguably within the KAO-J programme, this modus operandi can be seen in the way that sport is predominantly used in all activities and education-based sessions. The view leads us to question the amount of discussion between donors and recipients, or in this case CSDA, their funding partners and KAO-J.48

Consequently, to displace the critiques presented above and in an attempt to decolonise the KAO-J programme, we propose the Critical Participatory Paradigm (CPP) as an additional framework for SDP practice. The CPP is framed from the foundations laid by Heron and Reason49 who present the participatory action research (PAR) methodology as an alternative research approach and emphasise its focus on social transformation and co-operative inquiry whereby researchers conduct research with people rather than on them.


The research consisted of 2 focus groups of participants, 2 Level two peer leaders of the KAO-J programme, alongside perspectives offered from the Jamaican Ministry of Health’s project officer and a minister from the local church that KAO-J participants frequently visit. All participants were between the ages of 18 and 57. Semi-structured interviews were the method of choice for the research programme, as interviews offer a means to in-depth dialogue that facilitates reflexivity.21 In total, nine individual interviews were conducted with a further two focus group interviews, across a total of eight individuals including five females and three males. The focus group interviews consisted of four KAO-J participants each allowing interactive discussions between participants and an opportunity to cross examine others’ views. Two further interviews were conducted individually by the Level Two peer leaders on the first author to serve two main purposes: firstly, to help the author expose his own biographical history, his experiences and truths with HIV/AIDS. His biographical history will hopefully help disarm the first author from his privileged position to some extent and secondly; to assist in framing the researchers’ ontological and epistemological departure point, helping the peer leaders understand why the researcher approached the programme from a particular perspective. Through the guiding imperatives of the CPP framed as ontological, epistemological and political, a loose semi-structured interview protocol was designed: to gain truthful information about the programme from participants and peer leaders in regards to the implementation of sport (ontological); to develop knowledge and engage with the wider community (epistemological); and to encourage reflection on both the part of the participants and researchers in a bid to awaken critical consciousness on both sides (political).

However, we should point out some study limitations. Access could not be gained to funding partners and so their voices are not heard within this critical framework. As such their views on the philosophical standpoint of SDP and use of sport within KAO-J could not be considered. Additionally, KAO-J participants were not interviewed individually simply because of their preference of a group discussion as opposed to one-to-one interviews. Despite these limitations, the use of the CPP did allow for extensive discussions on the use of sport within the overall programme with peer leaders and participants and enabled further critical discussions regarding programme design and focus.


This section highlights how the CPP, through its underlying philosophical principles framed as ontological, epistemological and political imperatives, provide an additional framework for decolonising SDP practice in KAO-J. The CPP emerged from the PAR methodology, which is a convergence of two separate research approaches: action research and participatory research.49 Action Research‘s (AR) genesis is found in the work of Kurt Lewin, as a tool to progress society and engage people in the struggles of their own life after World War II.49-50 Participatory Research (PR) origins are found in community development approaches within the fields of health and agriculture.49 Together they formulate the PAR methodology, which according to Walter,51 is the tool for facilitating social change as it positions the researcher at the forefront of research to collaborate with the indigenous or, as Whyte52 suggests, the researcher becomes the research coach. Like many SDP practitioners and researchers, we are concerned with the applicability of this methodology to SDP as it positions the researcher at the centre of knowledge creation in so replicating some of our early critiques of SDP.5,53 Moreover, even if the PAR methodology proves successful, SDP researchers at some stage usually leave the locality in which they are working. Therefore, the locals must be able to continue development work by themselves, and the PAR does not offer a post intervention framework after a researcher’s departure.

As a result, the CPP offers SDP researchers a methodology that attempts to bridge the methodologies of PAR and the Freirean critical pedagogical framework5 to deliver both collaboration as well as the awakening of critical consciousness by placing indigenous participants at the forefront of knowledge creation.39 In essence, unlike PAR, the CPP further emphasises critical consciousness for both the indigenous individual and the researcher. It is this critical consciousness that will arm indigenous individuals in carrying out their own studies after the researcher has departed; it is this critical consciousness that will allow the researcher to recognise that indigenous individuals are capable of doing so.38 For Freire, the awakening of critical consciousness facilitates the collaborative enterprise between research participant and researcher.33 Admittedly, the success of the CPP cannot be measured through a single programme in Jamaica, nor can it be fully judged by the authors of this paper or anyone involved with the research programme. Furthermore, given that the CPP is built on the foundations of the PAR model, it is still subject to the same critiques and concerns of externally imposed methodologies.51 Our wish is by no means to propose or profess an infallible paradigmatic framework but merely a paradigmatic framework which, given the reliance on PAR over the last 15 years,54 we feel is more applicable than the PAR to SDP development work.

To begin, the CPP ontology is how we theorise about what it means to exist in the social world and it champions the idea of a subjective ontology.55 This ontological stance submits that “underneath our literate abstraction, there is a deeply participatory relation to things and to the earth, a felt reciprocity”.55 (p. 124) In this subjective ontology, Heron and Reason49 contend that to experience anything is to participate and to participate is to mould, alter and shape. Indeed, we come to know the world at an interactive and participatory interface, which exists between the researcher and what is encountered.50 To this end, the deep appreciation and involvement of the research participants in this study is underpinned by the ontological imperative. This subjective ontology aids the connection ‘felt’ between people and communities, allowing the foundations of trust to be built.50 It is only when these foundations of trust are laid that the indigenous will begin to share truthful information with the researcher.39Therefore, this ontological imperative becomes the democratic bedrock for ensuring that the participants trust us and in turn are likely to be more open with the researcher.5,37,39

To contextualise this imperative within the Jamaican study experience, the first author allowed himself to be interviewed by the peer leaders and shared his own family and community struggles with HIV/AIDS, thus demonstrating a reciprocal approach to research. He was willing to be truthful with the peer leaders in the hopes that they could be truthful with him. Both peer leaders seemingly expressed this within their articulations of their concerns with HIV/AIDS and with the KAO-J programme. As Redding stated,

“And we go back to my environment and the stereotype here because you know when we want to talk about HIV/AIDS even within a sport environment, because maybe cause of the society of the religious or whatever, not many people are talking, you know like you said with where you come from.” (Redding)

Aretha also noted:

“Like you said when you started working with HIV/AIDS you were doing what you are here to do but people tell you, you are doing a good job and people always tell me you doing a fantastic job but I don’t think I am doing a fantastic job…I just think I am doing what I am here for…this is my purpose and so I am fulfilling my purpose.”

The first author’s previous personal engagement with HIV/AIDS and KAO seemed to make the researcher more relatable to their experiences. Moreover, to develop Redding’s comments, if the aim of sport within KAO-J was simply to reduce exposure to dangerous behaviours in relation to HIV/AIDS, it would stand to reason that sport could manage this task by offering a space where youth could utilise their time and energy playing sport rather than engaging in unprotected sex. However, with cultural differences such as religious beliefs, it is debatably beyond the purview of sport to account for such cultural idiosyncrasies:

As Redding noted,

“I feel really uncomfortable to some extent to speak about the success stories because we have so many challenges right, you know we keep talking sport but I think we need to appreciate, we need to appreciate that people need intervention at different levels.”

Jaime also stated that:

“But we have to realize sport can’t do it alone, you know just like in playing sport you have to rely on others you have to depend on your brothers you understand you have to work as a team.”

In reality, these viewpoints show that there was a clear demand to build up the KAO-J programme beyond a sport-focused intervention but, for Redding, without the previous proactive voices of the peer leaders or participants of KAO-J being heard, sport remained a central focus despite the external challenges being faced. Arguably the ontological imperative which focused on the first author building a bedrock of trust with the participants allowed such imperative thoughts to be articulated by the participants. Hence the ontological imperative helps to understand the construction of such programmes and the authentic views of those affected by it. This process sets foundations for the further inclusion of research participants and knowledge in the research process.17 Once the ontological realities have been ascertained, arguably one’s epistemological interaction must follow.56

Accordingly, epistemology is what we think can be learnt about the social world.56 CPP epistemology is explained as the extended epistemology because it extends beyond the obvious to engage in the wider social world around. In effect, it obliges the researcher to engage in research with the community as a whole in an attempt to understand its rituals, day-to-days and nuances. The extended epistemology encourages the researcher to spend time in the locale they are investigating, echoing the recommendations of Spaaij and Jeanes.33This imperative sees the production of knowledge as an interactive process between the researcher, the research participants and the community in a collaborative exercise in search of change.5

The collaborative and interactive production of knowledge was centralised in the Jamaican study experience through the input of various vested interests. For example, in respect to spending time in the community, the researchers attended services at the local church that many of the participants of the KAO-J attend, owing to Redding’s previous comments regarding religious influences. Whilst our ontological imperative seeks to gain truth directly from peer leaders and participants within the programme, the epistemological imperative seeks to gain further knowledge from influential people in the wider community through an extended or deepened integration into local social processes.5 Within the Jamaican context, in their first visit to the locality, the researchers spent the first two weeks conducting observations and field notes, learning what they could about the programme before initiating the interviewing process. In addition to this the researchers have continually visited the KAO-J programme post research, to continue interaction with peer leaders and to continually advise, should the KAO-J programme request it. This last point was directly influenced through the comments of the local minister, Kirk:

“But I think they have knowledge, knowledge of what can be and how you can prevent this thing but what they need is to be continually told, by Aretha by Redding, by us by you, so if you can continue to help them and how you can work, it will help them, it does help.”

Kirk’s comments show an interrelated and community approach to KAO-J where the church also looks to advise the KAO participants without being officially involved. Given Redding’s earlier comments in regards to religious stereotypes, the church’s involvement in helping to deliver a successful programme that contributed to changing HIV/AIDS knowledge made the researchers sceptical. As such, Aretha responded to our questions to this effect:

“It is extremely important because while growing up in a church I found that the topic of sex is taboo and swept under the carpet. Pastors would not speak about it parents would not speak about it and so a number of my friends were becoming pregnant and their parents are Christian and they were singing at the choir and I said to myself you know something is wrong and because I had exclusive HIV information a lot of friends did not but now one of my co-workers said to me you know let us try a church and so we tried and it was absolutely wonderful I went to the church, the pastor was good with it, the information that we pass on, the games that we played is okay they just don’t want their young person’s to be exposed, but my thing is right we already have lots of information about HIV and sex but I have no reservations with the church.”

In effect, Aretha is referring to KAO-J only providing knowledge on HIV/AIDS, whether from them alone or by other sources such as the church, and suggests a need to move beyond this in programme delivery. Cooke raises a similar point:

“You know right, we need more than just games and knowledge, we need to show them hope, show them they can be more, we need to give them skills that makes them want to be more.”

This last point relates to the need to develop transferable skills within the KAO-J programme and moving beyond the global model of the KAO network that simply focuses on developing HIV/AIDS education through sport.28 To reach this conclusion requires the extended epistemological imperative that promotes attention to the wider community beyond the individual programme being investigated. Arguably, this form of decolonisation recognises the influence of all actors and structures in the process and seeks to investigate through engagement, commitment, communication, action and reflection.57 By forcing us to engage with people outside the KAO-J programme, the extended epistemology exposes us to see knowledge creation as a community exercise requiring us to spend time in the wider community in question as per the previously cited advice of Spaaij and Jeanes.33

Lastly, the political imperative represents the subjective consciousness of the CPP, underpinned by the philosophies of praxis and reflexivity, and challenges the third section of our critique of SDP. Praxis, according to Freire,33,39 is the reason for existence, a practice of freedom that advocates authentic liberation through awakening the critical consciousness of research participants, so that they might act and reflect upon their world in order to transform it. Essentially, our ontological imperative has so far allowed us to gain truth from the perspective of the knowledgeable whilst the epistemological imperative allowed us to further investigate by immersing us closer to the wider community. The political imperative, therefore, allows a reaction to what we have seen and heard, while retaining closely the perspectives of reflexivity in order to remind us who should be the drivers of this reaction. Participants within the focus group interviews highlight the need for an instant reaction to the way the KAO-J programme ran. For example, a male participant from Focus Group 2 asked:

“They say you need to buy condoms, but what you gonna buy first when you no money again, when you no job or opportunity to get a job, condom or food”?

A female participant from Group 1 stated:

“Me like coming here, me like gaining knowledge, but there is no opportunity, you know I am not promiscuous but I have friends who live promiscuous because that’s how they get their money right and they will tell you that the guys that they are with them don’t like to using condoms, buts that’s how they get their money.”

Redding further notes a need to develop employment skills within KAO-J as opposed to learning about HIV/AIDS through sport. A peer leader, Redding stated:

“But there are some success stories that come from KAO, take ****** I would like to use her as an example in Kicking Aids Out helped her to find her identity beyond giving her HIV knowledge which she can replicate and which she does a very good job and she does a very good Job also in Trinidad but help her as an individual to find her identity so when she was settling to become an air hostess her dream was to become a pilot she was settling to become a air hostess cause she couldn’t see where the money was coming from, she couldn’t see where the opportunity was coming from….through kicking aids out we continue to ignite or sustain that fire and that belief that this is what we’re telling young people….but there is not enough of that happening, there is not enough avenue for that, we need to build avenues, build skills so that the young people now can find go do that, go build their dreams.”

The statements all equally speak of a need to develop further skills, namely employability skills beyond knowledge gained from the KAO-J programme. Indeed, the traditional KAO model, which is reflected in KAO-J, seems to drive HIV/AIDS knowledge through a form of ‘plus-sport’ model where the popularity of sport is used as a “fly-paper” to attract young people to gaining HIV/AIDS knowledge.46 (p. 298)

Admittedly, neither author is an employment expert nor do we claim critical consciousness is equivalent to employment skills or will lead in the end to achieving employment. We are of the mind-set that developing critical, analytical thinking skills does allow you to mitigate some of the complexities of the employment barrier such as filling in an application form more competently and being more adept at answering interview questions.58 In this regard, the collaborative and interactive development of praxis was centralised in the Jamaican study experience through three separate approaches. Firstly, peer leaders and all participants were supported to interview each other during focus group interviews. This allowed for critical discussions to arise amongst peers with individual personal experience about community needs and the technical research to blend and therefore generate knowledge that reflects the realities of the programme target groups. Secondly, KAO participants were given the opportunity and training to transcribe their own focus group interviews and decipher common codes and themes. By working together with different participants to transcribe and identify codes, it allowed all participants to be researchers in the research process. Also, as Dey59 suggests, different researchers with varying intrinsic understandings and subjective ambitions derive different things from research data. Therefore, in some cases, the research process sheds new light on our thoughts of social reality while at the same time allowing multiple voices to be heard.60

Thirdly, the first author given his unique position as arguably the first master trainer of the KAO Network supported the training and identification of new peer leaders for the KAO-J programme. Supporting the two already established KAO-J programme peer leaders in identifying further participants to be trained in the roles of Level One and Two peer leaders. This would allow three things: the first being that participants of the KAO-J programme would be able to take on more responsibility and develop critical skills such as organisation, management and communication, which are all desirable for employers. In theory, this process of training participants to level leaders could continue after the researchers had left with Level Two leaders training New Level leaders once others had left or once they felt participants were ready. The increased number of peer leaders meant that KAO-J could cast a greater net in the community, allowing the programme to reach more people. This starts to consolidate our attempt to make KAO-J programme self-reliant upon our departure from the programme. Whether these reactions to developing employability skills within the KAO-J programme proves successful is subject to an extensive monitoring and evaluation process over a substantial period of time.

Admittedly, in developing critical consciousness we worked from the springboard of our own understanding and capabilities. We recognise our own limitations in this regard owing to our own reflexive stance throughout the research process. Indeed, reflexivity urges the researcher to continually question their biographical make-up in relation to the construction and suggestion of research policies and ideas, allowing the researcher to acknowledge their contribution ultimately as a novice within the complex topic of development issues.5,39 Given the subjectivity of praxis, owing to its two component stages of self-reflection and action, it is accepted that oppressed people can acquire critical awareness of their own accord, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation without necessarily the need for an external intervention.39 However, Freire does note that when externals recognise with their oppressed counterparts a need for transforming the un-just order, the speed and barriers of social change are often reduced.39 Therefore, reflexivity further emancipates the researcher to attaining the knowledge of reality, to trust in their research participants and discover themselves simply as collaborators to the transformation. It is this reflection that moves us closer to bridging the dichotomy of the researcher and researched.39 Ultimately, the political imperative of the CPP functions as an instrument through praxis and reflexivity to view SDP from an additional dimension. Building from the foundations of the PAR, the CPP reminds the researcher to factor in their backgrounds, while attempting to awaken the critical consciousness of participants to struggle for their own liberation.39,48,49


Spaaij and Jeanes,33 in their paper titled “Education for Social Change? A Freirean Critique of Sport for Development and Peace” concluded that SDP programmes often do not go far enough in providing truly transformative change for their participants. Referencing the uncritical use of sport employed by many SDP programmes that leave various unanswered questions and unfulfilled promises. In our opening, we questioned this approach generally in SDP and argued that similarities of this approach exist in the KAO-J programme where the methodology is one based on the wider KAO network, which relies on sport as its central methodology.13 This deployment or over reliance on sport within KAO-J extends the neo-colonial blanket in the name of HIV/AIDS reduction and social change.21 The last point may give the impression that we would advocate removing sport from development programmes for fear of reproducing neo-colonial relations. However, that simply is not our desire. In truth, we take a more cautious and balanced approach to sport similar to that of Levermore,61 who suggests that the use of sport should be considered equally alongside other engines of development. So, in answering one of our earlier questions of whether sport is a suitable vehicle for addressing social issues such as HIV/AIDS. In short, addressing HIV and AIDS through sport programmes can have many advantages. Firstly, it can be a tool through which to address the discrimination of People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and other target populations.28,37 In addition, sport can contribute towards HIV/AIDS preventative education and advocacy.28,32,37 However, as revealed in this paper, it is possible that sport can be suffocating in relation to the real needs of its programme participants. Hence, we pursued a decolonising methodology within KAO-J with an approach based on the “de-reification of sport” and a change of focus to developing critical skills that may, for example, lead to employment.46 (p. 311)

However, to be honest in our attempts to decolonise, we have probably failed. We argued that the CPP presents a philosophical and pragmatic methodology that permits locals a sizeable input in documenting their existence and future, which is something we still advocate. However, on reflection Huygens2 originally suggested that the processes of decolonisation requires many aspects of consideration including, for example, psychological formations of the coloniser and the colonised—a task far beyond the remit of this paper and methodology. Though, the CPP through its underlying imperatives, has elucidated some of the weaknesses of the KAO-J programme namely the assimilation and dominant use of sport21 and ignited a process of critical discussions with a view to moving towards decolonisation. Further research needs to be conducted into the psycho-social processes which form colonisation and how this may be reversed.2

The need to adopt a methodology that engages with locals as the key players in policy development has been stated and the CPP is only one means to achieve this. Through the vantage points of praxis and reflexivity, the CPP allows researchers to turn research into a legitimately transitive process.33,39 It is in this show of solidarity that the indigenous will discover that they are themselves the praxis of their own liberation centring themselves as the foundational sources of knowledge, information, enterprise and labour.39 Still, it is necessary here to offer important caveats regarding the study and the proposed methodology. The CPP in its ontological imperative argues that a foundation of trust must be built to gain truthful information from research participants, which can be achieved through common experiences. In this case, the first author opened up and shared his own familial struggles of HIV/AIDS with the participants, which we understand may not always be possible for all researchers, especially those looking to adopt this methodological approach. Still, a researcher opening-up to their own vulnerabilities and real life challenges that relate to the research at hand is encouraged. Indeed, the act of gaining trust and engaging in honest and true dialogue is crucial but an infinitely complex endeavour. As researchers, we must explore ways to achieve this very important task. Accordingly, Freire62 notes that the scope of trust can be nourished through more than one avenue. However, this is not an avenue that can be fully explored within the remit of this paper and we acknowledge that in regards to the methodological framework proposed, there is a limitation here. Moreover, the CPP was specifically utilised within the KAO-J programme and, as such, no claims are made that the framework is easily applicable to other indigenous communities. To make such a claim would not only compromise the proposed methodology, it would also undermine the philosophical standpoint of this paper. Nonetheless, we finish as we began with Smith,2 who reminds us that regardless of what methodology you use during the research process, indigenous research should be a humble and humbling activity.2


The authors would firstly like to thank all the participants involved in the KAO-J research programme as well as the Carribbean Sport Development Agency. Secondly, the authors extend their gratitude to the numerous anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments in developing this paper and lastly, to Dr. Ben Powis for his linguistic support.


i The binary of Global North and Global South is ‘of course, geographically inaccurate and too generalised to encompass the complexities within and between nations, but it is perhaps the least problematic means of distinguishing between relatively wealthy countries and continents [Europe] and relatively poorer ones [Africa]’.6


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