Harris, Kevin (2018). Building sport for development practitioners capacity for undertaking monitoring and evaluation – reflections on a training programme building capacity in realist evaluation. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 10(4), 795-814. (Link: https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2018.1442870)

Abstract: At present, the quality and practice of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) in Sport for Development (SfD) projects is under close scrutiny, mainly concerning the capacity that sport has to create social change. Critics have argued that a deeper understanding of ‘what works for whom and why’ is required when evaluating SfD projects. This article explores practitioner involvement in M&E, drawing upon a ‘realist participatory M&E training framework’ developed to train student sport development practitioners to make sense of how and why their SfD projects worked. The training framework was evaluated utilising a realist approach to understand what approaches to evaluation worked for those involved in the training framework. Specifically, 15 practitioners participated in the training framework encompassing 5 community focused SfD innovation projects delivered within the Coaching Innovation Programme at a south coast university in the United Kingdom. The realist evaluation incorporated Q-method factor analysis with realist interviews and reflective blogs. Findings on the value of realist evaluation for practitioners emerged. Practical and transformational evaluation characteristics unfolded and four groups of practitioners emerged, depicting how the training framework worked. These groups were ‘new and emerging evaluators’, ‘polished problem solvers’, ‘passive passengers’, and ‘proficient yet sceptical practitioners’. These were underpinned by holistic narratives in line with Q-method demonstrating shared viewpoints about the training framework. In conclusion, participatory approaches of M&E can work with practitioners and should be embedded to enable application of realist evaluation.

Kevin Harris <kevin.harris@solent.ac.uk> is in the School of Sport Health and Social Sciences, Solent University, Southampton, England.