Sarah Zipp

Sarah Zipp


The Human Capability Approach in Sport for Development, a new theoretical model

In recent years sport for development (SfD) scholars have called for theory development, emphasising the need for frameworks that challenge neo-liberal approaches to development in the Global South. SfD researchers have also asked for critical research that examines how sport, development and gender intersect. Drawing on a range of academic fields, including development studies, philosophy, ethics, economics and sport studies, this study proposes a new theoretical model for SfD research and practice.

The Human Capability Approach (HCA), is a development theory created by Indian economist and philosopher, Amartya Sen. HCA explores how people convert resources in their environment toward building capabilities, or possibilities, in pursuit of living in a way they find valuable and meaningful. An HCA approach considers broad socio-cultural, historic and economic influences (e.g. colonialism, gender roles, etc.), rejecting neo-liberal frameworks of development and social justice and focusing on capability development over outcomes. As a theoretical framework, this provides a useful platform to critically examine the experience of SfD participants, without relying on outcomes based monitoring and evaluation techniques that tend to mask or de-emphasise limitations, risks and challenges of SfD programming.

Whilst others have applied HCA frameworks to SfD, no prior research uses HCA concepts to explicitly examine gender, gender roles and the heteronormative, hegemonic framework of sport in the development field. In this study, critical feminist research from SfD is integrated with an HCA model and adapted into dynamic model for SfD programming. The proposed model, built from the primary author’s doctoral thesis in Development Studies, is a flexible framework that can support critical and applied research in the evolving field of SfD.

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