Strategic Vision

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.