The Importance of Theorizing Social Change in Sport for Development: A Case Study of Magic Bus in London

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For sport for development practitioners, a theory of change document is a critical first step to map how program inputs yield the desired program outcomes. Yet, in our experience, this document is rarely created in practice. Accordingly, this study makes use of the case of an award-winning sport for development charity that expanded their operations from India to London to illustrate the pejorative implications resulting from failing to create a theory of change. A mixed-methods, quasi-experimental approach was utilized to understand program mechanisms, program processes, and how these influenced the aggregate participant experience. The quantitative analyses yielded no significant effects. Triangulating the qualitative data revealed that personal, social, health, and economic education was a competing product to the program. The limited effects are attributed to a failure to identify and attempt to assuage a local social problem. In addition, alignments with stakeholder expectations, program context, and legal requirements were also derailing. A discussion of the results, implications, and recommendations for establishing and implementing a theory of change are provided.

Hills is with the Guildhall School of Business and Law, London Metropolitan University, London, United Kingdom. Walker is with the Department of Management in the G. Brint Ryan College of Business at the University of North Texas, USA. Dixon is with the Department of Health and Kinesiology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.

Hills (S.Hills@londonmet.ac.uk) is the corresponding author.
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