Challenges and limitations

Not any and not all sport

If sport is meant to assist in development it needs to be planned respecting the social, cultural, and historical context of the hosting community.  Furthermore, it must be integrated while understanding the vision, strategy and tactical objectives of adjacent initiatives in order to analyze where such a tool might fit and support the development agenda the most.  Reconciliation of conflicting parties, for example, is founded on mutual respect and tolerance, for which sport may qualify as an appropriate instrument.  Strategically, a program striving to fulfill such a goal needs to reinstate humanitarian values and establish just relationships between the parties; a step that first and foremost requires acknowledgment of each party’s wrongdoings, allowing for forgiveness.  Thus, awareness is essential for a conflict to be transformed, allowing a new social order to be established that allows mobilization and empowerment of both parties’ to prosper; a culture of openness, to discuss issues and find solutions.  That this cannot be accomplished by ‘kicking a ball’ around appears obvious, yet sport can provide a platform where players and spectators alike share some commonalities, even if just the love for the game. 

If we speak from an appreciation of ‘the’ activity, it has to be contested that not ‘any sport and all sport’ (Sugden, 2004) is appropriate.  We cannot assume that soccer, for instance, is extrinsically (e.g., pleasure) or intrinsically (e.g., moral worth) rewarding for the participants if we don’t understand the contextual factors that may influence the activity itself.  Sport has been used throughout history as a political tool and negative connotations derived from that history may still linger.  The risk that the moral development assumption of this paper is diluted, either allowing further widening of the division of power or overemphasizing self-reward rather than a common good, cannot be ignored.  It is inescapable to plan, monitor and adjust the tools to establish a shared vision for everyone that is linked to and active in serving the needs and wants of the hosting community.

Considering the context

Experiences ‘on-the-field’ create a platform that allows exchange and facilitates communication; the latter being one of the most important elements in conflict resolution and its transformation.  Nonetheless, it is claimed morality won’t develop or prosper if experiences are not extended beyond, i.e. ‘off-the-field’.  According to Sugden (2008) who pointed out that, ‘getting youngsters to play together is one thing, but placing them in situations where they had to talk about and confront some of the more sensitive features of their divided society is far more problematic’ (p. 409).  Designing a program that provides such an integrative solution is without doubt a challenging task, not only on a practical level, but also regarding the level of expertise needed by all involved from planning through to execution. 

Written and/or verbal agreements of moral conduct between all participants have to be discussed, aligned, and agreed upon.  Although this may pave the path for a mutual togetherness, attitudes need to change as well; a more lengthy process which should not be underestimated.  The hitherto proposed program needs to cautiously and critically develop a deep understanding of all issues in the respective host community.  For instance, as a third party provider, we risk an intensification of inequality or oppression if certain groups within that society are neglected.  We may have found a solution for one party and brought about equal rights, but we may as well have created new inequalities within the social and cultural context of the conflict.  Maybe we misunderstood historical relations (of power) which are vital to recognize and take into consideration if we do not want to risk a continuation of factors which harmed a social order of mutuality.  If we are to support the creation of a new, more moral one, based on just relationships, we cannot ignore what has happened in the past. 

Flexible allocation of resources

Development work, specifically in conflict-ridden areas, is intertwined in a complex cultural and societal network that can barely be untangled in a way so that it could be studied as a single phenomenon.  Hence, strategies, such as the one outlined throughout this document, have to remain highly flexible: flexible in the allocation of resources, including human ones, such as coaches, educators, program managers, and the like.  Paffenholz (2004) framed the task as one of supply and demand, though in conflict situations demands (i.e. aspirations, desires) may be contradictive and supply (i.e. staff) not available.  Within the field of development there seems to be shortage on both sides and programs face the challenge of balancing both.  For instance, we may introduce a soccer coach, to utilize team sport as a vehicle to teach moral values.  While play we may experience overly deviant behavior of some, which the coach might be incapable to contain and that might threaten overall success.

Consequently, our ‘market’ might be anything but perfect, wherefore supply and demand might be better explained by the winners of the 2012 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2012, jointly awarded to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley, in which they discussed, ‘the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design’ (Mitchell, 2012).  Resource allocation, the researchers argued, is an activity of pairing the needs and the haves, which may better reflect the situation we are facing in the field of development.  The market is anything but ideal, as it reads in the paper from the Economic Sciences Prize Committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science (2012), ‘The procedure specifies how agents on one side of the market (e.g., the employers) make offers to those on the other side, who accept or reject these offers according to certain rules.’ (p. 1).