Programme Theory

Today, there is an increased emphasis among policy makers and organisations to make use of the social value of sport. Expectations are high with regard to this potential of sport. For example, sport is to an increasing extent been viewed as a means of social inclusion. However, despite this rhetoric, to date there is limited understanding in what exactly sport’s social contribution is. Among other things, there is limited monitoring and evaluation with regard to what and how changes can occur. This not only relates to often ill-defined outcomes (e.g., how to define ‘social inclusion’?; what does ‘development’ actually mean?; …) which makes measuring difficult, but also to a lack of understanding of the ‘active ingredients’ of sport-for-development programmes. Based on previous and current academic studies, the research group ‘Sport & Society’ has experience to look at processes and outcomes/impacts of sport-for-development (or sport-plus) programmes that can help organisers and policy makers to get a better understanding of the actual role and potential of sport in relation to social objectives. A part from generic guidelines and theories which are described in our reports and freely accessible to all, we can provide tailor-made assistance to make interventions and policies aimed at using sport as a social tool more efficient and effective.

The VUB-research group ‘Sport & Society’ (SASO) can help to design a specific programme theory for those organisations that want to better understand the underlying mechanisms of their own programme, thereby further improving their effectiveness.  

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The research group ‘Sport & Society’ developed a generic ‘programme theory’ for optimal ‘sport-for-employability’ programmes  which identified the key components, mechanisms, relationships and a presumed sequence of causes and effects. Because of its normative nature, the theory serves as a starting set of guiding principles and recommendations. It can be used as a basis for monitoring and evaluation of existing programmes, as well as to optimise design and implementation of future initiatives.

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Insights from this study provide opportunities for organisers of community sport programmes for at-risk youth focussing on personal development, social cohesion and health to improve their understanding of the underlying mechanisms of their own programmes. The research group ‘Sport & Society’ can help organisations that make use of community sport activities that aim for personal development of at-risk youth by developing specific programme theories and designing tailor-made monitoring and evaluation toolkits.

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