Increasing social inclusion via sport, for refugee-background young people in Aotearoa : a case study of Ignite Sport and a Capabilities analysis

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Massey University
The cultural significance of sport to New Zealanders, its powerful narrative and universal language suggests that sport has the capability to strengthen refugee-background young people’s social connections and assist in the process of community belonging and participation. Experiencing meaningful relationships has particular relevance for refugee communities because of their previous experiences of not belonging, persecution and conflict. Therefore, due to the increasing number of refugees arriving in Aotearoa it is timely to look at the relationship between sport and inclusion for refugee-background young people. This report uses the Capability Approach as a theoretical framework to understand how ‘sport for social inclusion’ programmes can help refugee-background young people be included into wider society through their participation in sport. The first part of the report examines a mixture of scholarly and grey literature; the second part undertakes a case study of Ignite Sport focusing on one of their community programmes ‘Fusion’. Fusion is a ‘Sports Plus’ programme that uses sport and other activities to facilitate social inclusion outcomes for refugee-background young people. The elements used to achieve social inclusion capabilities, and the challenges experienced in the delivery of sport activities to these young people are identified and discussed. Former refugees were not the interview subjects of the research rather participants were those who design and deliver the ‘sport for social inclusion’ programmes. Findings showed that the success of Fusion is largely due to the quality relationships between staff and the young people and the passion the youth workers have for improving the young people’s capabilities. Utilising sport as a participatory tool to draw them to the programme, participants are encouraged to learn and flourish at their own pace and ability, to participate, and to take risks. This Sports Plus programme provides refugee-background young people with experiences of joy, belonging, friendships, sports skills alongside other learning activities where they foster ‘inner fitness’ skills such as pursuing excellence, developing character and resilience. Fusion facilitates a range of experiences for refugee-background young people that contribute towards building social inclusion capabilities.