Rethinking the use of sport to tackle social problems

Dr Stephen Hills has collaborated with academics from around the world in conducting an ethnographic study of a new way sport can be used as a vehicle for social change.

Date: 7 March 2018

Dr Stephen Hills, a sport-for-development expert based at London Metropolitan University, studied the ‘Seedbeds of Peace’ programme that uses football to bring opportunities to disadvantaged youths in Medellin, Colombia.

The article, titled ‘Sport as an analogy to teach life skills and redefine moral values: A case study of the ‘Seedbeds of Peace’ sport-for-development programme in Medellin, Colombia,’ details the unique mechanisms through which the programme use football to tackle the complex legacy of an illegal and violent culture that leave disadvantaged children vulnerable to criminal activities left by Medellin’s drug cartel, led by Pablo Escobar.

Dr Hills said: “It has long been understood that sport serves as a hook to deliver other social interventions, but this study has established how sport can be engrained into social interventions by being used as an analogy, comparing sport to life lessons, so to more effectively deliver messages that resonate with football-mad Colombian youths.”

Dr Hills worked alongside Alejandro Gómez Velásquez, of EAFIT University in Colombia, and Dr Matthew Walker, of Texas A&M University in the United States, to conduct the first phase of a study that will now move on to quantitatively measure the effect of the ‘Seedbeds of Peace’ programme.

The article has been published in the Journal of Sport for Development, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal.