Social inequality in health encompasses wicked problems that has proven challenging for public sector to effectively solve on its own (Enjolras & Wollebæk 2010; Donnelly & Coakley 2002). Hence, in order to combat social inequality and exclusion in health, collaboration across public, private and volunteer sectors is needed (Milbourne et. al. 2003). In particular, combating social exclusion in participation in sport and physical activity is a central part of the Norwegian government’s public health work. This is also a main political aim of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports, the largest volunteer organization in Norway. On this background, the aim of this study was to investigate collaborative efforts between public sector and volunteer sport organizations aimed at increased social inclusion in participation in sport and physical activity.
32 public sector employees were interviewed. The sample consisted of employees in the public health sector both at a county level and at municipality level. Twenty-six public health coordinators from different Norwegian municipalities were included in the sample. Additionally, eight political and administrative leaders in public health at a county level were interviewed. Central topics in the interviews included: (1) issues of social exclusion in public health locally and regionally, (2) collaborative efforts with volunteer sport organizations, (3) effects of such collaborations, and (4) challenges and advantages with such collaborative efforts.
The main findings in this article indicate that public sector actors view collaboration with volunteer sport organizations as a valuable resource for public health work aimed at reducing social exclusion in physical activity. While public sector does initiate a number of collaborations with volunteer sport organizations, these collaborations mainly entail public sector agencies providing funding for local sport clubs. However, the development, implementation and sustainment of activity measures are left to the volunteers in the sport clubs.
The results indicate that while public sector does value collaboration with volunteer sport organizations, few of these collaborative efforts can be characterised as collaborative innovation. Furthermore, there is a substantial lack of resources to evaluate the effects of such collaborations. Therefore, it stands to reason that a majority of Norwegian municipalities lack insight into the effects of their collaborative efforts with volunteer sport organizations. Changing conditions for volunteer sport organizations, such as increased commercialization and professionalization, along with a changing political climate, suggests that sport organizations and public sector agents may need to develop new ways of collaborating if the aim is to combat social exclusion in physical activity and sport participation effectively.
Paper written by Anne Tjønndal, presented at the 23d Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Dublin 04.07-07.07.2018