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Sarah Zipp, Tavis Smith and Simon Darnell

Sport for development (SFD) research and practice has become more critically examined recently, with many scholars calling for better understanding of how and why sport might contribute to the global development movement. Developing and refining theoretical approaches is key to unpacking the complexities of SFD. Yet, theory development in SFD is still relatively young and often relies on oversimplified theory of change models. In this article, the authors propose a new theoretical approach, drawing upon the capabilities approach and critical feminist perspectives. The authors contend that the capabilities approach is effective in challenging neoliberal ideologies and examining a range of factors that influence people’s lived experiences. They have woven a “gender lens” across the capabilities approach framework, as feminist perspectives are often overlooked, subjugated, or misunderstood. The authors also provide an adaptable diagrammatic model to support researchers and practitioners in applying this framework in the SFD context.