The transformative potential of using participatory community sport initiatives to promote social cohesion in divided community contexts

David Meir, Thomas Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Sports are popularly believed to have positive integrative functions and are thought, therefore, to be able to galvanise different, and sometimes divided communities through a shared sporting interest. UK government and policy rhetoric over the last two decades has consistently emphasised the positive role sport can play in building more cohesive, empowered and active communities. These positive impacts are particularly important for communities with high numbers of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The purpose of this article is to reflect on the challenges associated with co-producing a participatory community sport initiative with 28 young people, the aim of which was to work towards greater social cohesion in an ethnically segregated
borough in north-west England. Although a great deal was learned from working towards this, the initiative was ultimately unsuccessful because, for a variety of reasons, the young people removed themselves from the process. A major contribution of this article is its consideration of how we reflect on the realities of project failure and how future community sport initiatives might have greater success. In particular, we argue that for sport to make a difference, participants must be enabled to develop a sense of civic engagement and critical awareness which go beyond either sport or community development, emphasising wider sociopolitical development instead.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-238
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes



  • Asian
  • divided communities
  • participatory methods
  • social cohesion
  • sport

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