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Accounting for Legacy: Monitoring and Evaluation in Sport in Development Relationships

Recent years have seen the extension of the Olympic legacy concept to include the use of sport in international development. As in the wider policy area of international development, the external partners that fund sport programmes require in-country accountability for the use of their investment and this has led to monitoring and evaluation (M+E) programmes becoming prominent in knowledge production in sport. Academic and policy debates have emerged around the significant methodological challenges in conducting M+E in international development contexts, but less attention has been paid to the social processes implicit in M+E systems. These processes are significant because of the role of M+E as a mechanism of accountability and control between ‘donors’ and ‘recipients’ of international development aid. Informed by five years experience of evaluating international sport in development programmes and Olympic legacy initiatives, this paper explores this aspect of the role of M+E. It draws on the wider international development literature to examine the role of M+E in the relationship between funders and recipients, especially when M+E practices are problematic. The paper suggests that despite the rhetoric of ‘partnership’ that surrounds sport in development and Olympic legacy programmes, M+E systems play a major role in constructing the donor–recipient relationship as hierarchical. M+E procedures are shaped by funders’ information requirements, emphasize external accountability, limit local programme learning, compromise data quality and impose burdensome forms of data collection and reporting that undermine relationships. The paper advocates refocusing M+E approaches to serve internal programme learning needs rather than external funders’ determined but inconclusive quest for ‘evidence’.