Sport for development and peace in divided societies: cooperating for inter-community empowerment in Israel

Nico Schulenkorf, John Sugden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The idea of using sport for social, cultural and community development has been promoted for decades; however, only limited empirical research can be found that analyses the strategic potential of sport projects in contributing to conflict resolution, reconciliation and peace building in deeply divided societies. This study concentrates upon the experiences of a number of Football for Peace (F4P) projects operating in Israel in 2009. It identifies and investigates the inter-community sport management strategies employed in a particular project that featured Jewish, Arab, and Circassian communities in Northern Israel. The article focuses on and assesses the role played by external change agents in facilitating project delivery and development. Following an interpretive mode of enquiry, observations and focus group discussions with key project facilitators and sport coaches were conducted exploring participant experiences and using this information to develop practical recommendations for social development through sport. The following six strategic dimensions were elicited as critical elements for promoting positive inter-community relations, building local capacity and enhancing overall social development: greater emphasis on training for all volunteers; the provision of role model support; the development of local commitment and leadership; improvement of sport programming; the facilitation of wider community involvement; and project augmentation and extension. We argue that these practical suggestions have transferable implications for other grassroots organisations and NGOs that use sport projects in divided and/or disadvantaged communities elsewhere in the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-256
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal for Sport and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


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