Defining Action Sports for Development and Peace (ASDP)
For many years, action sports were thought to be the exclusive domain of privileged, white, Western youth. Stereotypes of surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders and climbers as hedonistic, thrill-seeking, anti-authoritarian, individualistic youth continue to proliferate in the mass media and popular cultural sentiment.
Since the mid- and late-1990s, however, action sports participants have established non-profit organizations and initiatives relating to an array of social issues, including health, education, environment, community rebuilding and recovery following war, conflict and disasters, girls and women’s empowerment, youth development and anti-violence, to name just a few! In 2014, Associate Professor Holly Thorpe coined the term ‘Action Sports for Development and Peace Building’ (ASDP) in acknowledgement of the recent growth of such initiatives around the world and the possibilities these informal, often unregulated, non-competitive activities offer for achieving positive policy outcomes in development situations. As can be seen on the world map, there are currently over 200 ASDP related organizations operating around the world.
There is considerable variation within such action sport-related non-profit organizations and social campaigns. Some ASDPs can be broadly categorized within the Sport for Development (SfD) sector in that they use participation in action sports such as snowboarding, skateboarding or surfing as an interventionist tool to promote peace, reconciliation, and development in different locations across the world. For many others, while the physical act of surfing, climbing or skiing plays an important role in uniting members of these groups and inspiring potential donors, the action sport is not directly being used as an interventionist tool as in many other SfD organizations.
While some of these organizations remain at the grass-roots level and are relatively unknown beyond the local community or outside the action sport culture, others are gaining international recognition from mainstream social justice and humanitarian organizations for their innovative efforts and creative strategies to create change in local and global contexts. In fact, some of the organizations listed on this site have won multiple international awards for their highly creative and innovative strategies to create change in local communities.
Some ASDP organizations are taking inspiration from the unique ethos of these action sport cultures to develop new and innovative models for community development. Moreover, in a broader social context in which acts of social activism and philanthropy are increasingly celebrated, many action sport athletes and enthusiasts are utilizing new technologies and the networks and resources available within their sporting cultures and industries to initiate and facilitate long-term change within local and international contexts. Many action sport participants are also inspired by these organizations, and offer their support either via donations or short-term volunteering positions.
The value of action
sports for development
Action sports offer the potential for developing different skills and learning opportunities than the sports typically used in Sport for Development (SfD) programmes. In contrast to organized sports such as soccer and basketball, most action sports are non-competitive (although competitions are popular among elite performers), thus offering opportunities for children and youth to gain a sense of achievement without having to compete against, and beat, another team or player. Rather, participants can learn alongside one another and gain a sense of accomplishment based on their own skill development.
When appropriately supported, action sports offer ample opportunities for individual empowerment through skills mastery (e.g., co-ordination, balance), as well as valuable social skills (e.g., communication, sharing of social space, understanding difference). Also, action sports can offer opportunities for unique social dynamics with girls and boys, and men and women, participating together (when culturally appropriate to do so). Furthermore, these activities can provide spaces for developing deeper understanding and respect for the environments (i.e., oceans, beaches, mountains, cities) in which these activities often have intimate relationships.
Many traditional sports require umpires or referees to control the play and discipline the players. Most action sports, however, are self-regulating with peer mentoring playing an important role in skill development and helping participants’ understanding of the cultural etiquette for sharing the space. There is also a celebration of play, self-expression and creativity in the use of space and movement in many action sport cultures, which may offer unique opportunities for learning new skills, communication and respect between participants in developing nations or war-torn communities. Arguably, well-designed and critically considered action sports programmes can offer a valuable contribution to the SDP movement by offering empowering learning experiences, encouraging self-expression and creative thinking and developing a different set of physical and social skills among children and youth from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
For many working in the field of ASDP—from grassroots levels to international NGOs—there is a belief that action sports have the potential to make a unique
The ASDP Community
Until now, many ASDP organizations have been mostly working in local contexts with little (or limited) opportunity for dialogue with ASDP’s in different geographical locations. The aim of this website is to create space for the ASDP community to come together, and to engage in a productive dialogue, and to learn from and support one another in the important (though sometimes difficult) work being done. It is also a space for the celebration of successes, and sharing of news and events across the international ASDP community, so please feel free to share your news with us!
The ASDP website encourages founders, international and local staff, athletes, local youth leaders and participants, volunteers, founders, and researchers, to share their experiences and visions for their organizations and initiatives. In so doing, this site will offer an array of different forms of knowledge and expertise to further support the often very challenging work being done in local communities around the world.
Welcome to the ASDP community!
Dr Holly Thorpe (Founder)
This website was founded by Associate Professor Holly Thorpe. Dr Thorpe works in Te Oranga, School of Human Development and Movement Studies, at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. She has published over 60 journal articles and book chapters on action sports in local and global contexts, and is the author of Transnational Mobilities in Action Sport Cultures and Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice, and has co-edited the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Extreme Sports (with Douglas Booth), Greenwood Extreme Sport Series (with Douglas Booth), and Women in Action Sport Cultures: Identity, Experience, Politics and Pedagogies (with Rebecca Olive), and Routledge Handbook of Physical Cultural Studies (With Michael Silk and David Andrews). She has been a recipient of both Fulbright and Leverhulme Fellowships, and has worked with the International Olympic Committee and the Commonwealth Advisory Board of Sports. Holly is committed to finding new ways of putting research into action, and making her research more accessible to wider audiences. Action Sports for Development and Peace is the primary focus of her current work, and in July (2016) she gave a TedX talk titled 'Action Sports for a Better World'. You can read more of her research related to ASDP here. Prior to her life as an academic, Holly was a semi-professional snowboarder.
Holly is very grateful to the Royal Society of New Zealand (via her Fast-Start Marsden Grant) and the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research for their generous support of this website and her ongoing research on ASDP.
Nida Ahmad (Lead Admin)
Our lead Administrator is the amazing Nida Ahmad. Nida is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sports and Leisure Studies program at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. She received her B.A. (2003) in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and her M.A. (2013) in Communication, Culture and Technology from Georgetown University. She has more than nine years of experience developing, managing and implementing professional, educational and sports diplomacy programs for the U.S. Department of State, U.S. embassies abroad and non-profit organizations. She has a slight addiction to coffee and an intimate relationship with graffiti art.