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Most corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes for professional sport teams and organisations fall under four categories: community involvement, youth education, health and philanthropy. The majority of football clubs and organisations have a CSR strategy, some better than the others, but with something as new and under-developed as CSR in sport, it is difficult to judge whether these are effective or not. One method of doing so is through monitoring and evaluation (M&E). In recent times, there has been an increasing focus on monitoring and evaluation in sport. This is due to a variety of different reasons such as increased competition for donor funding, the need to measure results and progress, to be more accountable to stakeholders, strategic long-term thinking and to demonstrate effectiveness of sport as a tool for development.

Most corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes for professional sport teams and organisations fall under four categories: community involvement, youth education, health and philanthropy. The majority of football clubs and organisations have a CSR strategy, some better than the others, but with something as new and under-developed as CSR in sport, it is difficult to judge whether these are effective or not. One method of doing so is through monitoring and evaluation (M&E). In recent times, there has been an increasing focus on monitoring and evaluation in sport. This is due to a variety of different reasons such as increased competition for donor funding, the need to measure results and progress, to be more accountable to stakeholders, strategic long-term thinking and to demonstrate effectiveness of sport as a tool for development.

Projects are usually evaluated by looking at milestones, outputs and outcomes. All these are useful in measuring the impact of sport but it is important to recognise the circumstances of each project during evaluation as it is not an exact science and therefore cannot be generalised. It is also important to mention that while milestones and outputs are relatively easy to measure, outcomes are where the impact is generally made and these are often intangible and therefore, harder to prove.

Football is used as a tool to tackle various developmental and social issues in a wide array of sectors such as education, gender inequality, race equality, peace and conflict, health and economic development. But while there is a general consensus that football’s unique qualities make a strong impact on these issues, monitoring and evaluation remains a challenge.  In order to accurately measure the impact of football for development programmes and see the contribution that football is making to social and developmental issues, it is vital to have a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system.

The football for development industry faces a lot of challenges to prove their worth as most monitoring and evaluation focuses on evidence based outcomes rather than a combination of scientific data and long-term qualitative impact and process evaluation. Project managers usually focus on measuring the inputs and outputs like how many coaches are needed, how many children participate and how much money is spent. What needs to be assessed alongside that is whether or not programme objectives have been met and what impact has been made on the issue at hand.

StreetfootballWorld, in partnership with Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and Aqumen Social Technologies have developed a tool to help sport for development organisations to capture real results and clearly communicate the impact that sport is making on social issues. InFocus provides a tailored package that organisations can customise to suit their needs. It also deals with the issue of staff engagement that we discussed earlier as staff members are required to take an active role in the monitoring and evaluation and build on M&E processes that the organisation already has in place. This system not only helps sport for development projects better evaluate their impact and make necessary changes to their operations but also helps donors and partners better understand how the programme actually works and what results it achieves.  Rather than a numbers driven evaluation that focuses on milestones and outputs, this system allows for a broader view of outcomes and impacts reached.  It is basically a support system with online training sessions and one-to-one sessions that helps organisations with their M&E.

Another commonly used monitoring and evaluation tool in the sport for development field is Views. This is a data collection software created by Substance Cooperative, a social research company that works in the sport and social development sector. Views is flexible and can be tailored to fit each organisation’s needs. It incorporates quantitative data such as participation numbers, attendance, history and outputs as well as qualitative methods such as case studies to monitor and evaluate projects effectively.

A widely asked question is whether CSR falls into the remit of marketing or whether it is seen as a stand-alone activity, which organisations choose to adopt out of a greater responsibility to society. It is important to note that for football organisations, brands and clubs, CSR provides a big return in terms of brand awareness and attracting new fans. Some well-known CSR advantages include enhanced brand value and reputation, developing relationships with stakeholders and greater awareness. All these are also typically benefits of marketing.

It is clear that just giving funds is not enough to qualify as CSR and does not underpin a successful partnership. Partners investing funds into programmes should also contribute expertise, resources and specialist staff to monitor and evaluate projects.

Monitoring and evaluation should have a long-term nature. In order to fully assess the effectiveness, efficiency and impact of such projects, sufficient resources should be given to ensure sustained evaluation.

Partnerships and collaborations are the key to success in football CSR. By sharing best practice and working together, more successful programmes can be created by leveraging their various networks and resources and bring about a culture of self-regulation which is embedded in the project itself. CSR should not just be about doing good for the sake of looking good. Partnerships should be formed that deliver a real impact on communities as well as achieving economic returns.

These are the thoughts and views of Back in Football with a special thanks to Onformation (@onformation). For more on this issue please follow Back in Football on Twitter (@Backinfootball).

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