Trying to catch the fog: can ‘active research’ contribute to enhancing a sports development partnership?


Lindsey, Iain and Hamilton, Ian (2009) Trying to catch the fog: can ‘active research’ contribute to enhancing a sports development partnership? In, European Sports Development Network Conference, Nottingam, UK, 04 - 05 Sep 2009.

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Description/Abstract

Partnerships are ubiquitous in the practice of contemporary sports development and, as a result, have increasingly become a focus for research in a variety of countries (e.g. Alexander, Thilbault, & Frisby, 2008; Babiak & Thilbault, 2008; Lindsey, 2009). To date, this research has tended to focus on explaining the prominence and formation of partnerships as well as describing the form and nature of partnerships that exist. Recognising these themes in the existing research on the wider practice of network governance, Søresnsen & Torfing (2008, p10) recognise the need for a ‘renewal and enlargement’ of the research agenda. Similarly, there is a need to move beyond the initial descriptive focus of research on sports development partnerships to begin to consider issues, such as the reasons for the success of failure of partnerships, which may be more enlightening for academics and practitioners alike. Moreover, research on sports development partnerships would also benefit from encompassing more diverse methodological approaches that would augment the qualitative, retrospective interviews that have been used in the majority of studies thus far.

To these ends, this study examines a formally constituted sports development partnership operating across a local authority area in Southern England. Three research questions underpin the study:

• What internal structures and processes enhance or constrain the sports development partnership?

• What external factors enhance or constrain the sports development?

• What contribution can research examining these questions make to the effectiveness of the sports development partnership?

Adopting a ‘decentered’ approach advocated by Bevir & Richards (2009), the study utilises ethnographic methods to focus on the beliefs, interpretations and actions of partnership members. Interviews with partnership members, observations of partnership meetings and facilitated group discussions are being undertaken over an extended period of time. In line with the third research question, and recommendations by Huxham & Vangen (2005) and McKay & Romm (2008), an ‘active research’ approach underpins the design of all of the research methods. In this way, it is hoped that conducting and disseminating the research contributes to the improvement of the sports development partnership though encouraging both individual and collective reflection.

As the study nears its conclusion, contributions by both the chairperson of the sports development partnership and the researcher will consider the extent to which the research has met its objectives. The chairperson will examine the contribution of the research process to encouraging reflection within the sports development partnership on group dynamics, representation, individual contributions and other influences on the overall character and strategic direction of the partnership. From the researchers’ perspective, comments will be made as to whether the research approach has been effective in developing new understandings of sports development partnerships. Moreover, other issues pertinent to conducting ethnographic, active research on sports development partnerships will be identified.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)
Keywords: partnership, active research, ethnography, reflective improvement
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Divisions: University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Education > Leadership, School Improvement and Effectiveness
ePrint ID: 68714
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2009
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:48
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/68714

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