Dr Emma Sherry

LBS Associate Professor Emma Sherry recently participated in the inaugural symposium on Sport for Development and Peace, hosted by the University of Illinois as an invited speaker and Town Hall panelist. The symposium, titled Forming Partnerships and Linkages in Sport for Development and Peace: Considerations, Tensions, and Strategies, brought together international academics and sport for development experts and practitioners to discuss how sport, specifically through the creation and nurturing of key partnerships, can be used to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The purpose of the symposium was to bring together scholars, practitioners and students engaged in sport for development and peace (SDP) to create a dialogue about forming and sustaining partnerships and linkages between SDP initiatives and other sectors, the challenges facing partnership development, and strategies to overcome these challenges. The symposium was hosted by the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism (RST) at the University of Illinois, the Sport+Development Lab (SDL), and Play for Change. The SDL is home to faculty and graduate students researching the intersection of sport and development. Play for Change is a registered student organization (RSO) focused on involving undergraduate and graduate students in actionable projects that use sport, recreation, and tourism for social change.

The sport for development and peace (SDP) field has grown exponentially in recent years, with more and more organizations, practitioners, and academics around the world embracing the possible contribution that sport can make to development agendas. SDP can occur at the individual, community, and societal levels. It can be defined as the use of sport as an engine for development through intercultural exchange, conflict resolution and peace building, community building, social inclusion, or programming for interpersonal development or health.

An emerging line of commentary in SDP concerns the nature of partnerships with various industry sectors. Without effective and sustainable partnerships, SDP organizations and scholars cannot viably engage in the field to effect social change; partnerships are the life blood of SDP organizations. However, many challenges and barriers exist that inhibit effective partnerships and linkages. From overcoming power dynamics, to misaligned goals and objectives, challenges can prevent organizations from establishing long-term partnerships and carrying out their missions. Given the international significance of partnerships and collaborations in SDP, much more conversation is needed about the nature of partnerships, their challenges, and effective strategies for forming and sustaining them.

The symposium brought together SDP experts, including Dr Sherry, to share presentations drawing on an original paper written for this symposium. Presenters provided a state of the field synopsis regarding partnerships with a specific sector (for example, health, community organisations, education or national and international bodies), outline challenges for developing and sustaining them, and then propose strategies for addressing these challenges.

In addition to the symposium, there were also two evening public events. On the first night, Dr. John Sugden, one of the world’s foremost experts in SDP and partnership development, provided a keynote address on the history and development of SDP, its current state of the field, and thoughts on developing and sustaining partnerships and linkages. The second night featured a town hall meeting with the symposium presenters focused on the power of sport to work for social good and change, and the challenges associated with doing so.

Dr Sherry noted that although the two-day symposium provided a full schedule for all attendees, the opportunity for international scholars in this field to spend time together to deeply discuss key research, theory-building and opportunities for research collaboration was invaluable. The opportunity for networking and discussion was extended through a very active use of Twitter by those organizing and attending (#sport4change2017) which extended the reach of the symposium to those unable to attend in person. Dr Sherry hopes that this is the first of many such events, and was delighted to be invited to present and share her research in the SDP field.