On August 12, the charity Belong launched its guidance 'The Power of Sport - guidance for strengthening cohesion and integration through sport'. Belong is a membership organisation which connects, support and mobilises organisations working on cohesion and integration. Download the guidance here. ConnectSport spoke to its CEO Jo Broadwood.
Hi Jo, thanks for speaking to ConnectSport. Please can you tell us about the project.
“The true impact of physical activity projects extends far beyond the pitch, court or sports hall. This resource offers a user-friendly approach to measuring both the individual and community-wide impact of a project on social cohesion. It not only breaks down outcomes into short and long-term measures, but also outlines the conditions and context for maximising the possibility of improved social cohesion in a project’s design. It is for all those commissioning, designing and evaluating programmes of sport and physical activity to strengthen local cohesion and integration.”
Thanks. Can you tell us a bit more about what Belong does.
“Belong – The Cohesion and Integration Network is a national charity and membership organisation. Our vision is a more integrated and less divided society. We bring organisations and individuals from across different sectors and localities together – to share ideas, knowledge and experience in order to build the capacity, skills and resources for a more cohesive, integrated and stronger society.
"Our purpose is to ‘connect, support and mobilise’: connecting people, places and organisations locally and nationally across the UK and across different sectors to disseminate knowledge and best practice on integration; supporting all those who are delivering cohesion, integration and intercultural work - giving them the resources, skills, training, inspiration and confidence to improve practice.
"With our members, we raise the profile of this vital work, developing a shared voice, consulting on key issues of interest to our members, and influencing policy so that together we can make an integrated society an everyday reality.”
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your work?
“Belong was originally conceived of as a digital platform so we have continued to provide our members and wider stakeholders with inspiring and engaging content, training and resources throughout lockdown.
“Belong also partnered with the Centre for the Study of Group Processes to win funding from the Nuffield Foundation to investigate the impact of Covid-19 on societal cohesion. ‘Beyond Us and Them’ our research project is now well under way. Working with Belong members and community activists and six local authorities who have previously prioritised cohesion programmes we are collecting evidence on how Covid-19 is impacting intergroup relations, levels of trust, social connection and belonging in diverse local areas. You can find out more about the project here.”
How does sport and physical activity contribute to improving cohesion and integration?
“Sport has the power to change the way we see ourselves and the way we see others - and our whole notion of who ‘we’ are. The impact goes well beyond the individual players and can positively influence the much wider circle of support staff, volunteers and spectators. Many different sports have therefore already been used in this way, breaking down the boundaries between communities who have had little previous contact, challenging stereotypes and the myths about ‘others’.
“As lockdown lifts, communities are rediscovering the joy of people gathering to engage and connect socially in local sport and physical activity. Programmes that utilise the power of sport to strengthen cohesion and integration will be an important element for communities as they rebuild, reconnect and recover from the impact of Covid-19.”
The Sport for Development Coalition is a growing movement of organisations using sport and physical activity to intentionally generate positive social outcomes. How do you see the Coalition contributing to your aims and ambitions?
“Our aim is to produce an online and digital toolkit using this guidance as a template. We have benefited hugely from the insight and expertise of a range of contributors, researchers and expert sport and physical activity practitioners including our funders, Spirit of 2012 who have come together in a unique collaboration to produce this guidance. We welcome wider engagement with Coalition members to ensure that the finished toolkit is designed with the end user in mind, i.e. full of great case studies, accessible, relevant and easy to use. If you would like to hear more please do stay in touch via our newsletter, or sign up as members of the network. Associate membership is free and you can put your organisation on the Integration Map!”
Pic credits: Belong and Youth Sport Trust.