Sport is so much more than the games we play. Sport brings people together from diverse backgrounds. It reinforces healthy lifestyles and fosters civic pride and participation.
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Sport for Development initiative envisioned and supported a network of community leaders. The goal? To actively use sports programs to help build more resilient places to live.
About the program
The Sport for Development movement in Canada involves projects that use sport to build healthy communities. It trains the next generation of leaders and influences government at all levels to adopt more inclusive and robust sport-related policies.
McConnell has long supported community sport projects. We have made a positive impact through:
- generating new discussions between community leaders and policymakers
- influencing the development of provincial and national sport policy
- supporting skills development for community sport coaches and leaders
From 2011 to 2015, we collaborated with the Ontario Trillium Foundation on several projects. This included an initiative to embed local sport granting within community foundations.
The granting phase of Sport for Development is complete. We learned a lot. We continue to share knowledge gained from community sport approaches with key players. They include professional sport foundations, coaches’ associations and communities committed to engaging youth.
Granting total: $7.7 million
Key Lessons from Sport for Development
- Community sport programs have a significant impact on health and educational outcomes for young people. They help recent immigrants integrate into Canadian communities, provide an alternative to gang behaviour, and foster community participation.
- Program effectiveness is enhanced by recruiting and training teenage volunteers to coach younger children. Almost half of all volunteers in Canada begin their volunteering through sport and recreation. It becomes a catalyst for a whole range of volunteer activities later in life. The active participation of young volunteers improves program impact and makes a longer term contribution to the voluntary sector.
- The Sport Matters Group has built an effective network of community and national sport leaders, without building an organization. This may be a model for national networks. They can extend their influence without controlling resources.
- Community sport initiatives bring people together. They include those working in health promotion, crime prevention, and immigrant settlement and education.
- Sport for Development proved highly successful, both in local communities and at the national policy level. But challenges remains. Embedding promising models into Canadian funding and governing sport institutions is difficult. A mindset shift is required.
- Some community sport practitioners are changing their service-delivery model. They’re moving away from using outside experts to organize sports programs towards a more local approach. In this way, citizens use their own talents and resources to build programs and impact communities.
- There is an untapped capacity for young people to design and run their own programs. Taking advantage of this will require a significant shift in thinking from the sports community.
- Academics and sport practitioners adopt very different approaches to research and its use. Bridging the gap between these two cultures would benefit everyone.
- Community sport organizations are mostly self funded. They rely on parental and community support rather than government grants. Future scaling strategies should explore social enterprise and social impact bond models.
Recent Grants & Investments
Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L)To establish a “Community Connections Fund” that will match local contributions for CS4L projects.
True Sport FoundationTo set up the True Sport Community Fund in six provinces and three territories.
Sport Matters GroupTo support their leadership role in the Sport for Development movement within Canada.
Impact & Lessons Learned
Sport for Development
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation's Sport for Development initiative envisioned and supported a network of community leaders. The goal? To actively use sports programs to help build more resilient places to live.Learn More
Good Sport was written by award-winning author Silver Donald Cameron, and includes a foreword by Governor-General David Johnston. It is a compilation of stories that reflect the diversity of projects that took place in the Sport for Development initiative, from the participantscategory perspectives.Learn More
A Dialogue - Sport Matters Group: 2009 Progress Report and our Reply
Reflections on Sport Matters Group, a group who collaborates to advance sport and public policy, with a reply from the Foundation.Learn More
The Sport Matters Group: 'Un-organizing' the Future of Canada's Not-for-Profit Sector
Examine la structure informelle du Groupe Le sport est important (GSI) et présente un aperçu de son statut de « non-organisation ». Explore les avantages de cette structure peu courante et offre une inspiration pour l'adoption d'une structure « non organisationnelle ». D'abord publié dans The Philanthropist. En anglais seulement.Learn More