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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Addressing physical inactivity in children through inter-organizational collaboration : a study of benefits and challenges Ladner-Beaudry, Wendy


Physical inactivity in children is being recognized as a growing problem in Canadian society and one contributing factor is the undervaluing and subsequent decline of physical education in the public elementary school system (Bedingfield, 1995; Donnelly & Kidd, 2003; Kidd, 1999; Wilson, 2002). Developing partnerships with other organizations in the sport delivery system has been recommended as one strategy for addressing this social problem (Canadian Sport Policy, 2002; Mills Report, 1998; Thibault & Harvey, 1997). However, schools and sport organizations exist in an environment of scarce resources and, in the absence of a clear working framework, interorganizational collaboration has proven difficult (Huxham & Vangen, 2000; Frisby, Thibault & Kikulis, 2004; Provan & Milward, 2001). The purpose of this case study was to examine three existing partnerships between provincial sport organizations (PSOs), sport clubs, and elementary schools who collaborated to develop programs to augment the physical education curriculum. Four specific research questions were addressed regarding: i) the environmental pressures leading to collaboration, ii) the resources shared, iii) the benefits obtained, and iv) the challenges encountered. A total of 16 interviews were conducted. An analysis of related documents and observations of the programs were additional data sources. All data were transcribed and analyzed using Atlas.ti, a qualitative data analysis software program. The results revealed that the partners experienced a number of environmental pressures leading them to collaborate including scarce resources accentuating non-profit pressures, sport system under-funding, and the undervaluing of PE in the public school system. In terms of resources, the PSOs contributed coaches, equipment, administrative support, and infrastructure; the sports clubs contributed; coaches, equipment and infrastructure, and the schools offered students, teachers as support, facilities, curriculum time and infrastructure. Although the partners experienced a number of challenges when collaborating such as communication and coordination when initiating programs, scheduling around limited facilities, scarcity of coaches, non-profits working in the public sector, and administrative limitations of the PSOs, overall the interviewees felt that the benefits outweighed the challenges. Examples of benefits for sport organizations (clubs and PSOs) included: exposure and legitimacy, increased membership, access to facilities, experience for coaches, and resource sharing. Schools experienced benefits such as resources for PE (on site Pro D, access to sport equipment), curriculum benefits, physical activity opportunities, and social and school community benefits. This research provides a greater understanding of the complexities of inter-organizational collaboration and its potential to improve elementary school physical education curriculum. The implications are discussed and a number of recommendations for partnering organizations and future research are provided.

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