chapter  21
11 Pages

Sport development and community development

ByIain Lindsey, Andrew Adams

The term community can mean many things to many people. Community is not a single entity but is resplendent within its many dimensions, definitions and conceptualisations, and reflects cultural, political and social aspects of national and international concern. Certainly, in considering the many different uses of the term community, and in particular how it can be conceived alongside sport development, an understanding is required of both what is meant by the term itself and also how specific interpretations of community have been incorporated into particular policy agendas. It is worth noting that Plant, writing in the early 1970s, cautioned that community ‘is so much a part of the stock in trade of social and political argument that it is unlikely that some non-ambiguous and non-contested definition of the notion can be given’ (Plant, 1974: 13). Given this warning that community cannot easily be identified or specified as one single entity and can include a diverse range of individuals, the notion of a geographical community, in which ‘very different world views can share the same geographical space’ (East, 2002: 169-170), becomes especially problematic for policy makers. Indeed much of the literature that examines community development and sport participation tends to assume that geographical community is the community. Vail (2007), in her study of community tennis development in Canada, while extolling the virtues of community development models and need for empowered individuals operating within settings of appropriate capacity, makes no mention of what community is or can be taken to mean. Similarly, Frisby and Millar (2002) highlight the difficulties in defining community development, but do not consider the problematics of defining community per se. Furthermore, Taylor (2003) has argued that the term community can be used descriptively (describing common interests that individuals might share becomes important), normatively (as a school of thought in making assumptions about the way individuals should live) and instrumentally (such that community becomes a proactive arm of policy implementation). In this sense a community may or may not be geographically located. Indeed Anderson (1991) has elaborated on the existence of ‘imagined communities’ which, as potentially large and dispersed groups of individuals, can develop high levels of group identification (particularly when pursuing a particular cause) that can lead to strong feelings of attachment and belonging (Whiteley, 1999). However, much of the literature concerning communities, their development and their involvement in development (Maloney, 1999; Nash, 2002; Taylor, 2003; Stoker, 2004) would suggest that communities once defined and clarified, will tend to operate in a normative way that dictates the moral climate of that community and consequently the behaviour of the individuals who are part of that community. Taylor (2003) has argued that policy makers tend to confuse the descriptive and normative meanings of community, and then subsequently assume that this idea of community will ‘naturally’ facilitate the smooth implementation and execution of policy. For Taylor, policy makers make the assumption:

that common location or interests bring with them social and moral cohesion, a sense of security, and mutual trust. But they [the policy makers] also tend to go a step further and assume that norms will be turned into action; that is, that communities can be turned into agency, with people caring for each other, getting involved in collective enterprises and activities and acting together to change their circumstances.