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Legitimizing Transformational Change: Shadowing Regional Sport Consultants in the Grassroots Implementation of Strategy 2025
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2745-4841
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9619-801x
2019 (English)In: Book of Abstracts for the 27th European Sport Management Conference. Sevilla, Spain., 2019Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

1. Aim of the research 

In 2017, the Swedish Sports Confederation set in motion a profound transformation of Swedish voluntary sport by adopting a new strategic plan: Strategy 2025 (RF, 2017). The purpose of the project this abstract reports on is to create knowledge on the workings and intended and unintended consequences of the ‘internal sport policy advocacy’ performed to usher sport clubs in the direction set out in this strategy: the delivery of more fun, healthy and developing activities. This implied a study of the system-internal legitimizing accounts and strategies used to gain acceptance for the strategy and the change associated with it. In order to capture these accounts and strategies, we focused on the system-wide consultancy structures that many systems have in place to support club development – regionally based sport consultants whose task is to be the interface between clubs’ needs and wishes and top-down policies. The project’s empirical base is data on such consultants’ club-directed legitimizing claims and strategies connected to the internal legitimation of the implementation of Strategy 2025.

 

2. Theoretical background and literature review

Nonprofit public policy advocacy is normally understood in terms of civil society organizations’ attempts to influence public policy on behalf of a collective interest (Jenkins, 2006). Initial analyses in a project undertaken by the second author (Stenling & Sam, 2019) clearly show how such external advocacy conducted by Regional Sport Federations (RSFs), has created a gap between the claims and promises made in external advocacy and sport clubs’ recognition of the value of the strategy. Importantly, the data also shows that it is the ascribed task of RSF sport consultants to conduct what we here term internal advocacy, i.e., to close this gap by legitimizing Strategy 2025 in the eyes of clubs. To theoretically base our project, we use Creed et al.’s (2002) conceptualization of advocacy as the production of legitimization accounts.

 

3. Research design, methodology and data analysis

Analyzing the construction and use of both legitimizing claims and strategies, requires data that reveal both cultural content and ‘legitimation in action’ (Barley, 2017, p. 354). Since our focus is on how a specific function conduct internal sport policy advocacy, we employed a method that allowed us to focus on the work of individuals that fulfil this function: shadowing (Czarniawska, 2007). Shadowing essentially involves following an individual during her/his daily (work) life, and it is therefore a way of studying the situated work of people who move often and from place to place. Since shadowing generates large amounts data, we chose to shadow few individuals but at many points in time. Employing these points of departure, we selected eleven shadowees from two regional sports federations (the regional extension of the Swedish Sports Confederation, divided by geographical location into 19 regions, responsible for providing administrative support to and representing all sports within a specific region). The actual shadowing was performed when consultants met with sport clubs (n=11) to discuss the implementation of Strategy 2025. The actual shadowing implied sitting in on these meetings and asking follow-up questions afterwards. Transcribed recordings (approximately 27 hours) and field notes were analysed using a mixture of predetermined and emergent codes, all the while using the constant contrasting/comparing tactic (e.g., Charmaz, 2014). The material was thereafter subjected to theoretical coding wherein we sought to establish relationships between codes.

 

4. Results/findings and discussion

As per abstract submission deadline, data are being analysed to be presented at the time of the conference. However, initial analyses indicate that much of the sport consultants’ work is devoted to make sport clubs understand the strategic importance of the new strategy vis-à-vis external stakeholders and the surrounding society. In doing so, consultants employ system-internal legitimizing accounts and strategies emphasizing how the external resources directed towards sport are dependent on sport clubs acting and appearing legitimate.

 

5. Conclusions, contribution and implications

At the conference, these results will be discussed in relation to ongoing modernization trends well documented in the contemporary sport policy literature. We envision possible contributions to consist of the unintended consequences of the consultants’ efforts to legitimize Strategy 2025 and, more specifically, of club- and policy-related consequences of consultants’ interpretations of the ‘gap’ between the strategy and clubs’ needs and wishes, and their efforts to close this gap.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-163357OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-163357DiVA, id: diva2:1351655
Conference
27th European Sport Management Conference, September 3-6, 2019, Sevilla, Spain.
Available from: 2019-09-16 Created: 2019-09-16 Last updated: 2019-09-16

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Fahlén, JosefStenling, Cecilia

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CiteExportLink to record
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