By: Clay Doherty, USAID
USAID’s Office of Development Partners (ODP) and the Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade (EGAT) sponsored a panel discussion on “Measuring the Impact of Sports on Youth Development” on Tuesday, March 1st. Over 125 guests and staff heard from NGO leadership who work with sports as a platform for youth development and spoke on the evaluation techniques for measuring the impact of these programs.
“This was a great opportunity for USAID staff and our external stakeholders to discuss how sports impacts the work we do in development,” said Mori Taheripour, Senior Alliance Officer in PSA/ODP, who organized the event. “Our panelists offered perspectives that show not only the impact of the work on the communities that they serve but also helped bridge the gap between observed impact and evidence-based outcomes that continue to challenge this industry.”
The panelists included Paul Teeple from Partners of the Americas: A Ganar Alliance; Maria Bobenreith, of Women Win; Kirk Friederich of Grassroot Soccer; and Brendan Tuohey of Peace Players International. PeacePlayers International and A Ganar are both USAID-funded programs.
Moderated by Kenneth Shropshire, of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, the panel highlighted the ability for sports to serve as a powerful platform for youth development. USAID currently operates youth programs in over forty countries around the world and over 280 sports-based programs.
Sports-based youth programs have been used to address a variety of development issues, and the diversity of panelists highlighted represented the unique ability of sport, as a platform for development, to address a broad range of sectors including peace and conflict, gender inequality, health, education and economic development.
Panelists discussed how they use evaluation tools and the challenges that they face in seeking data-driven and rigorous evaluation methodology. They shared a variety of anecdotal examples that truly capture the essence and “magic” of their work, but continue in many ways to struggle with balancing anecdotal and hard data, not wanting to lose the intangible, less obvious impact of their work. The discussion explored several issues related to evaluating the impact of sports activities including: how to measure impact over the long-term; how to measure return on investment; and several methods, including the use of interviews to obtain meaningful, unbiased responses. Panelists identified the need to develop better tools for capturing the impact of sports on youth development and noted that USAID could play an important, convening role in this area.
USAID’s Youth Advisor, Erin Mazursky mentioned that the event was the kick-off of a series of youth-focused activities and events that will roll out over the next couple of months. “Focusing on youth is a priority for the agency,” she said. “The recent events in the Middle East have shown that youth have proven that they are not just the next generation of change-makers, but a generation that is right now very much affecting the course of history.”