Ethnographic reflections of the role of Global North volunteers in sport-for-development

Ryan Lucas, Ruth Jeanes

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17 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically examines the work undertaken by Global North volunteers in Global South sport-for-development programmes. Whilst existing studies acknowledge the centrality of Northern volunteers to the delivery of sport-for-development programmes in the Global South, there are few detailed explorations of how volunteers approach working in diverse cultural contexts and their impact on local communities. Drawing on an ethnographic methodology and post-colonial theory, the article reflects on the first author’s experiences as an AusAID funded volunteer working as a cricket development officer in the Solomon Islands. In addition to the first author’s fieldnotes and critical reflections, the article draws on interviews conducted with indigenous and expatriate stakeholders involved in the sport-for-development programme. The findings demonstrate the complexities of Global North volunteers’ engagement with sport-for-development. The use of post-colonial theory illustrates the ways in which Global North volunteers can perpetuate neo-colonial initiatives and systems of working that are imposed on Global South communities. The study suggests that volunteers can be very aware of their position but can feel helpless in challenging external agencies to promote more culturally sensitive and localised approaches to development work. Furthermore, the paper indicates the complications of developing localised initiatives, indicating how external agencies, through the Global North volunteer, used indigenous people to create the impression that programmes are locally driven. The paper concludes by examining the ways in which indigenous communities resisted the imposition of a sport-for-development initiative that did not meet their needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-974
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • ethnography
  • local agency
  • neo-colonialism
  • sport for development
  • volunteering

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