Abstract: Evaluation of Ridgeway Community Courts, a Sport-for-Development Initiative for Youth in a Social Housing Community (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Evaluation of Ridgeway Community Courts, a Sport-for-Development Initiative for Youth in a Social Housing Community

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Lin Fang, PhD, Associate professor, University of Toronto, ON, Canada
Maria Al-Raes, Research Assistant, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Angela Wang, Research Assistant, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Gwendolyn Fearing, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

Background and Purpose: Sport-for-development (SFD) initiatives are implemented to improve public health outcomes, community empowerment, and community capacity building. Previous studies demonstrate mixed results regarding the efficacy of sport-based interventions. Ball courts, especially in the urban settings, have also drawn negative attention due to gang violence and drug problems. This study explores the impact of Ridgeway Community Courts (RCC) on youth living in a social housing complex in a large Canadian city. This study aims to (1) examine the impact of RCC on youth’s physical and mental health, and perception of neighbourhood safety; (2) understand the strengths of and issues faced by youth and residents in the community; and (3) identify the available resources and infrastructure in the neighborhood.

Methods: This evaluation study used a mixed-methods approach. Two annual surveys were conducted with youth attend the courts in 2017 (N = 60) and 2018 (N = 57). The research team also conducted individual and focus group interviews with 24 tenants (7 youth and 17 adults), and 14 other stakeholders (community partners, housing authority, funders and donors). Descriptive analysis was used to delineate the survey data. Cross tabs and t-tests were used to identify differences between 2017 and 2018. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded by two research assistants. Thematic analysis was used to analyze qualitative interviews.

Results: Survey results are similar between study years. Over 85% of participants in the survey were self-identified as non-White, with close to 60% were Black. Approximately 80% of youth were second-generation immigrants. In both years, greater than 70% of youth rated their physical activity as very good or excellent. In a given week, youth were physically active for 5 out of 7 days. Over 90% of youth rated their emotional health as good, very good, and excellent. Over 60% feel that they have all kinds of different emotions, such as joy, sadness, anger, and that they do not get out of control. Over 80% of youth felt safe in their neighborhood and approximately 90% felt that they liked their neighborhood, were close to people in this neighobouhood, and felt being part of the neighbouhood. Qualitative findings showed five impacts of the community court: improving the image of the community; opportunities for youth; community engagement; safe community space; and sense of pride, identity, and belonging. Participants identified characteristics of the community court model that may add to the positive impact of the court, including having a supervised facility, a community-driven approach, engaged community leadership, and collaboration with supportive community partners.

Conclusions and Implications: Study findings demonstrate positive impact of RCC on youth and the community. While the impact of sport-based interventions may need to be considered in the specific context of the target community, findings from the study suggest a number of mechanisms that may contribute to the success of the SFD model, including community engagement and cooperation with key stakeholders. Further research should continue to identify the processes that may expand the impact of SFD initiatives on community health and development.