Addressing the multiplicity of digital and physical fields within a Sport for Development organisation

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Over the last few decades, the use of sport in international development has known a rapid growth. This phenomenon, known as Sport for Development (SfD), attracts much attention from corporate social responsibility departments, from local and national politicians, while the United Nations has identified sport as having a key role is reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Concerns have been raised regarding the little evidence on which SfD relies, with SfD academics, organisations, and conglomerate calling for better, more rigorous, and systematic evaluation of SfD programmes. In that context, it is central and timely to explore how knowledge about SfD is produced. A central vehicle of knowledge production in SfD is the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) that organisations make of their interventions.
To research the knowledge produced through M&E within an SfD organisation, adopting an ethnographic approach allows to go beyond the analysis of the papers, reports, and other documents presenting evidence. However, doing ethnography of the ‘host community’ (Sherraden et al., 2008), often situated in the Global South, is not satisfactory, as it does not reflect the many fields, individuals, and objects that make up the production of knowledge through M&E. Rather, framing the organisation itself as the physical and digital fields of ethnographic research allows the ethnographer to investigate a more comprehensive picture of the production of knowledge. In this presentation, I reflect on my own PhD research, doing an ethnography of TackleAfrica, a British SfD organisation doing sexual health education through football with young people in several African countries. I explore the methodological rationale, challenges, limitations, and necessary adaptations in adopting an organisational ethnographic approach to investigate the production of knowledge in SfD.
SfD organisations like TackleAfrica are entities formed of multiple physical and digital fields. Digital fields like email chains, Zoom meetings, Whatsapp conversations are key elements to understand the dynamics that produce knowledge, especially given the new constraints caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and its ramifications. For the ethnographer, it necessitates methodological adaptations and to acknowledge the limitations of the knowledge that can be produced from partly-remote ethnography in such contexts, notably in terms of unequal representation of research participants.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2022
EventKnowledge, representation, and collaboration in the Anthropology of Sport: American Anthropological Association 2022 Annual Meeting: Unsettling Landscapes - Seattle, United States
Duration: 9 Nov 202213 Nov 2022


ConferenceKnowledge, representation, and collaboration in the Anthropology of Sport
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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