3.3.1. Thematic Analysis
The open questions led to multiple themes being acknowledged. Three main themes, as seen in Figure 1
below, were identified in relation to where organisations are on their safeguarding journey: stakeholder engagement, environment and safety management systems (SMS). Further to this, some of the sub-themes also highlighted impacts of safeguarding culture and thus, a fourth theme was created to encapsulate this.
Firstly, stakeholder engagement is used to detail the development in understanding and advancement of safeguarding practices in recent years. This was further divided into three sub-themes: awareness, appreciation and support.
Through the implementation of the Safeguards, multiple participating organisations highlighted that there is now increased awareness in multiple areas around safeguarding in sport. Primarily the range of understanding across departments within organisations was noted, for example “stronger awareness and practices at many levels across the organization” (Safeguarding Project Manager) and “children’s rights awareness among every workplace in the institutions” (Safeguarding Coordinator). Moreover, an Outgoing Director noted “more people from our network [are] completing basic safeguarding awareness training”. However, one participant noted that “more awareness about safeguarding to the general public [would] be greatly appreciated” and this might begin to “make it [a] must for all organisation[s] dealing with children” (Country Manager).
Appreciation is used in this context to describe how safeguarding appears to have become more important to organisations. Participants highlighted how increased awareness and engagement has led to “the safeguards [becoming] the very first thing most people engage with when they come to the organisation” (Chairman). Participants also noted how the Safeguards have become more important in cultures where this has not always been the case, for example an Outgoing Director noted that there is “good evidence of coaches in the Caribbean demonstrating awareness of safeguarding and becoming advocates in their organisations”. Furthermore, a Programme’s Manager noted how “sport for development organisations [have] gathered together to discuss the importance of embracing the International Safeguards into their organisations, as well as committing to it”. Furthermore, in terms of the reporting of abuse, one participant noted that the importance of “working with well-informed staff and directly doing specific safeguarding activities with children has led to greater notification and perception of cases needing attention” (Sports Coordinator).
The final sub-theme for stakeholder engagement is support. This explores how backing for the Safeguards has increased within and outside of organisations. In terms of within organisation support, multiple participants noted how this has improved such as “increased cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure safeguarding is in place” (Get into Rugby Manager) and how working in alliance creates a “co-responsibility [approach] over safeguarding” (Coach Responsible for Child Protection). Multiple organisations also noted how parental support for organisations to utilise the Safeguards has intensified. For example, a Get into Rugby Manager noted that “there was an increase in parental support” and a Coach noted how “parents are very satisfied according to interview”. However, the amount of support appears to still vary between cultures, with one participant stating that their country is still “slow to support” (President).
The next key theme identified was environment, relating to how the culture around safeguarding within sport is beginning to shift. This was divided into three further sub-themes: disclosures, change and trust and inclusion.
The sub-theme of disclosures captures how the atmosphere on the reporting of cases and the organisational environment has been affected since the introduction of the Safeguards. For example, organisations expressed how there have been greater responses in regard to the follow up of cases with the guidelines that the Safeguards provide. Participants expressed how a change in attitude has been noted, for example “by working with the children directly on the Safeguards, we have noticed a significant diminution of physical and especially verbal aggression” (Sports Coordinator). One compelling story from a Sport Development Officer noted that “children [who] participate in sport have become more aware and have reported cases of abuse which [has led to] cases being reported to the courts and perpetrators of abuse being sentenced”. Another comes from a President who noted that “the international safeguards and policies adopted by organisations we work with directly have really assisted in preventing any adverse incidents due to the constant reporting and communications required”.
An aspect of change widely expressed by the participants was the ability to use the Safeguards to standardise the sporting sector. For example, a Programme’s Manager noted that using the Safeguards means that they can become a part of the “worldwide safeguarding procedure agenda” and how the Safeguards can be used as a “reference point across the entire sport for development sector, aligning with like-minded organisations” (Global Director of Programmes and Grants). Another organisation noted how they are “being used to model good practice” and how they have through the Safeguards been able to “influence other codes [of practice] in the country on safeguarding children in sport” (Training and Education manager).
Trust and Inclusion
Multiple organisations noted how “building a safe environment” (Safeguarding Coordinator) often led to greater feelings of trust and inclusion from within the organisation. A Country Manager noted that utilising the Safeguards has allowed a “safer program for children to be in and participate”. Likewise, a Chair of the Council, also noted how by utilising the Safeguards can build trust with parents, “children can participate in sport with the parents being assured that the safeguards are in place to ensure student safety”.
Safety Management Systems
The final main theme on the current review of safeguarding is safety management systems. This is used to summarise the standardisation and global nature of the International Safeguards that the participants noted in their responses. This is divided into two sub-themes: safeguarding policy and practice, and informing and coordinating.
Safeguarding Policy and Practice
This theme encompasses the participants’ expression of how the Safeguards are aiding the introduction and regulation of safeguarding within the sector. A Coach Responsible for Child Protection noted how their organisation now approaches “safeguarding as a whole, in its different aspects, and point[s] them out in [their] policy”. A compelling story came from a director who noted:
As evaluators, we consistently find issues where safeguards are not applied by the organisations we are evaluating. The Safeguards provide a framework that we can use to assess where programs are at with regard to safeguarding and to provide those organisations with a framework and tools to meet their obligations. For our own organisation, it provides a framework to ensure that we are on boarding our consultants and staff and ensuring that safeguarding and protection are front and centre of our approaches to all of our work.
Another note of importance was how organisations recognised that they were “following global best practices in safeguarding as a basis for [their] own practices, structures and guide[lines]” (Board Member) and were now “part of a recognised international body working on safeguarding” (General Manager Government and Stakeholder Engagement). This standardisation was also stated as being helpful when relating to behavioural practices of members within the organisations, “having clear guidelines and policies help with our staff, so there is no question of what is ok and what is not ok in terms of our behaviour etc.” (Director). Similarly, a Country Manager noted that “a lot of youth we work with do not know how to interact with children the right way so through this program they know now who to directly handle children safely by protecting themselves as well” (Country Manager).
Informing and Coordinating
Informing and coordinating describes how through the Safeguards organisations are becoming more knowledgeable about what constitutes abuse, how it can be prevented and how organisations are working together to prevent future cases and build a safer system. In terms of informing, participants noted how an understanding around the forms of abuse have aided a reduction in incidence, “children now understand the damage that pejorative nicknames can cause others and are stopping using them” (Sports coordinator). Another noted that they now understand “how a safeguarding policy can contribute to the reduction of violence in daily relations” (Sports coordinator).
A Get into Rugby manager noted how they are supporting the coordination of safeguarding, “having the most experience—I am to represent our NOC soon in the IOC’s safeguarding course in September 2021 so we can train more if not all NGBs [National Governing Bodies] to have and implement Safeguarding Policies”. Participants also expressed how they “share [their] protocol [and] processes” (Coach Responsible for Child Protection) and “have safeguarding in mind whenever [they] develop programs with [their] counterparts” (Chairman).