Legitimizing transformational change: sport consultants' role in the implementation of strategy 2025
The purpose of this project 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.
In May 2017, Riksidrottsmötet set in motion a profound transformation of Swedish voluntary sport by adopting a new strategic plan: Strategy 2025 (RF, 2017). The purpose of this project 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 implies a study of the system-internal legitimizing accounts and strategies used to gain acceptance for the policy and the change associated with it.
The need for such internal legitimization is especially acute in sport systems, such as Sweden's, wherein the clash between bottom-up and top-down organizing principles are salient. Such systems have governing bodies that are mandated by their federated clubs but that are nonetheless top-down organizations charged with implementing policies that apply to all federated clubs. Systems like these also have bottom-up, grass roots sport clubs whose standing is mandated by governing bodies, but that are nonetheless relatively autonomous and self-governing. This combination renders the use of 'hard' tools such as sanctions inappropriate, and governing bodies are therefore left with 'soft' tools as their primary instrument in the internal advocacy required to 'sell' top-down initiatives to clubs. One such important tool is the system-wide consultancy structures that many systems, including Sweden's, have in place to support club development. Regionally based sport consultants are the front-line personnel in the Swedish system, and their task as such 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. Adding methodological originality to the project, this data will be generated through so-called shadowing of sport consultants' office and field work. With the project's focus and design, we seek to develop a novel approach that contributes to the emerging field concerned with sport policy advocacy. In particular, this approach seeks to gain knowledge on the hitherto unexplored internal sport policy advocacy, the interrelation between external and internal advocacy and the intended and unintended consequences of legitimation processes.