FC Barcelona and UNICEF launch new research to improve sport for development delivery for children

UNICEF / FC Barcelona

September 21, 2021

BARCELONA, 21 September 2021 –The Barça Foundationand UNICEF today launched new research confirming that sport can have a powerful impact on children’s overall education and life skills development. The research comes with a framework for Sport for Development (S4D) practitioners, and a guide to support good design and delivery of S4D programmes globally.

Playing the Game: A framework for successful child focused sport for development programmes is the second phase of research into good practice in sport for development (S4D) for children, commissioned by the Barça Foundation and carried out by a research team at UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti.  

Evidence from fifty S4D programme case studies confirm that sport is an effective tool for engaging children in activities that benefit their social and personal development. But while the S4D sector sees practitioners around the world using sport to improve the well-being of children, they tend to work following their own practices. The framework and guide provide a unified way to look at programme design and implementation, which can help to have quality programmes, while maintaining individuality.

“The latest evidence confirms sport to be an inclusive means to improve children’s health, to develop life skills, to empower them and of course, to play and have fun,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka.With COVID-19 lockdowns, we’ve seen that sport has played an even more important role to support children’s health and wellbeing. We hope that practitioners will use the evidence and framework as a road map to inspire better delivery of programmes for children, especially the most vulnerable.

Selected lessons from the case studies include:

  • Invest in coaches: No matter how well designed a programme is, recipients will not experience the positive effects of S4D without well-trained, child—centred coaches
  • Organisations need not build from scratch when starting new S4D programmes; there is plenty of curricula and evidence to provide a starting point that can be adapted based on the selected targets, local needs, and theory of change
  • Building partnerships with other organisations (e.g., community-based organisations, corporations, international non-governmental organisations, government bodies) can help to ensure the smooth running of the programme, as well as its sustainability and legitimacy
  • All the elements of programme design are to be interconnected

The research builds upon the findings of the partnership’s phase 1 research, Getting into the Game, which mapped sport for development programmes globally.

For knowledge sharing purposes, the partners convene the Sport for Development Working Group, with members from a broad range of sport organizations and networks, including athletes, governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.  The research was peer reviewed by members of the group.

This second phase of the research positions the partnership between UNICEF and the Barça Foundation as, not only improving the lives of millions of vulnerable children, but as a reference in Sport for Development worldwide. Our aim is  that this evidence-based results  could be widely used to enhance programme delivery, inspire organizations to include sport as a transformation tool in their programs and prompt policy development – so that many more children can be reached with the transformational power of sport,” said  Executive Director of FC Barcelona Foundation Dr. Marta Segú.

In an iconic partnership since 2006, when the UNICEF logo was first seen on the FC Barcelona  jersey, FC Barcelona and UNICEF share the vision of a world where sport and play are integral to every child’s health and overall development, and a catalyst that unlocks his or her potential. The partnership has helped over three million children access sports, play, education and child protection initiatives, and is currently active in active in over 16,000 schools in Brazil, Ghana, South Africa and China. The Club and its Foundation also respond to UNICEF humanitarian emergency calls for support, most recently to the COVID-19 pandemic response in Brazil.

Earlier this year, the partners renewed their long-standing agreement to June 2022.

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