Understanding sport as the expansion of capabilities: the Homeless World Cup and Street Soccer (Scotland)
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The use of sport to tackle a variety of social challenges, a strategy referred to as Sport for Development and Peace (SDP), is on the rise. Despite the recent attention given to the social value of sport to society few studies have investigated the relationship between sport, homelessness and poverty. This investigation explores such a relationship and in doing so helps to address a gap in existing sport in society research. In addressing such a gap this exploration takes its lead from Amartya Sen’s capability approach. Informed theoretically and methodologically by the capability approach this research provides an original thesis that considers the ways in which sport contributes to the expansion of the human capabilities of a select number of homeless street soccer players. The purpose of this thesis is to provide an original piece of research that advances our knowledge of sport in society and more specifically sport, homelessness and poverty. It uses a qualitative, collective case study design in which the participants of two social enterprises, which use street soccer to help overcome homelessness and its associated effects, were interviewed in order to understand the specific ways in which street soccer has helped to develop capabilities in the sense that Sen used this term. During the research process the notion of pathways with different entry and exit points emerged and became central to this work. This thesis has built on this idea through its use of two street soccer organisations: The Homeless World Cup and Street Soccer (Scotland), each of which operates at a different stage of the homeless pathways. By understanding sport as capabilities this research differentiates stages in the development of capabilities and identifies specific capabilities built through sport as separate to those built through the use of street soccer in either a sport plus and plus sport sense. With the increasing use of sport in development initiatives across the globe, it is both timely and necessary to consider new ways of understanding its social benefits. In the capability approach there exists the potential not only to better understand the ways in which sport interacts with and shapes individuals, communities and societies but also to better inform the use of sport for the purposes of development in the future. This thesis proposes that understanding sport as the development of capabilities is useful not least because of the universality of the new approach to considering and appreciating the social benefits gained in and through sport but also to alert sociologists and other disciplines to the value of Amartya Sen’s capability approach.