Urban Sport-for-Development Initiatives and Young People in Socially Vulnerable Situations: Investigating the ‘Deficit Model’

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Abstract

Critical scholars have indicated that the assumptions underlying most sport-for-development (SFD) initiatives tend to align
with a ‘deficit model’ of youth: young people from disadvantaged areas are uniformly deficient and in need of development,
which can be achieved through sport (Coakley, 2011; Coalter, 2013). In this article, we investigated these assumptions
within six urban SFD initiatives that work with young people in socially vulnerable situations in a ‘first’ world nation,
Belgium. We conducted a survey at two moments in time amongst 14- to 25-year-old participants in order to test two
assumptions: i) ‘participants are deficient and in need of development’; and ii) ‘participation in SFD initiatives leads to
positive personal development’. We operationalised ‘development’ as the commonly used outcomes of perceived selfefficacy
and self-esteem. These are ‘household words’ both inside and outside SFD research, practice, and policy and
carry the assumption that boosting them will by itself foster positive outcomes. The findings refute the supposition that
young people from disadvantaged urban areas are uniformly in need of more perceived self-efficacy and self-esteem and
show that there is no simple and predictable change in participants’ ‘development’. We suggest that, in designing and
researching programs, SFD stakeholders start from an open-ended bottom-up approach which is tailored to the actual life
situations of young people and their individual differences and consider more interpersonal and critical conceptualisations
of ‘development’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-222
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Inclusion
Volume5
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2017

Keywords

  • Deficit model
  • Disadvantaged communities
  • Self-efficacy
  • Self-esteem
  • Sport
  • Sport-for-development
  • Urban areas
  • Youth

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