Sport plays an important social role – it is a form of recreation, it teaches how to cooperate, how to pursue goals, improves wellness. It reaches everyone, regardless of their age or social origins. At the same time the decisions made in connection with local sports and the distribution of money in its cause are unclear to the citizens. SLLGO has received information from its members from all over Poland, who observed the actions of the authorities and local budgets, and came to the conclusion that the issue of sport management raises the largest doubts. That is why the Association decided to organize an all-Poland sport monitoring, during which willing citizens researched their commune’s policy on this subject. Sixty people volunteered to take part in this monitoring – basing on a survey carried out among them and interviews made on the phone, the SLLGO chose 19 residents of Polish commune’s, whose motivations to perform the monitoring, experience in watchdoging activities and the chance of receiving help from the local community seemed highest.
The Citizen-based sports monitoring consisted of studying four main areas of communal authorities activities concerning sport:
- Planning and making decisions concerning sport;
- The commune’s sport resources – sport infrastructure facilities and entities performing actions related to sport;
- Financing sport
- Informing about sport
The monitoring was performed by 19 Local Watchdogs coming from 13 Polish communes. SLLGO devised a methodology of performed actions. It also provided the participants with two three-day trainings, during which the persons performing the sports monitoring got to know each other but also learned what is social control of authorities, what is the situation of sports in Poland, what are the citizen’s rights when confronting the authorities, how is the commune’s budget structured, or how to write a report after a monitoring. During meetings and during the monitoring itself, the Local Watchdogs were supported by experts on sports management, accessing public information and performing watchdog activities. The Association developed an internet tool for collecting data – the information will be published in the Internet at sport.samoswoje.pl, after the monitoring is finished, for any interested person to access. Using this tool the participants could also share their thoughts and issues with others. The tool was created based on the Drupal Content Management System, which has an open source code, and all the data entered into it, and also those included in the reports, are accessible pursuant to the creative commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0 Pl).
The Local Watchdogs performed the monitoring in their communes individually or with the support of the local organizations they represented. However they all worked following one pattern devised by the Association – they analyzed data collected from petitions filed to access public information, interviews with key persons responsible for sports management in the commune and inspections of sports facilities. The motivations behind people engaged in the monitoring included: encouraging the residents of the communes to practice more sports; create a more transparent and rational system of distributing public funds, rising the level of accountability of the actions performed by local self-governances. Certainly all participants were united in their desire to raise their awareness on the subject of sports management in communes and spending public money in this scope, as it is still a subject that requires further studies. It is because of the diverse ways of sports management present on local levels, as has been emphasized by specialist from The University of Physical Education in Warsaw, who talked with the participants of the monitoring.
Why is it so important, that the residents of communes all over Poland wish to be active citizens, perform social control, and feel partly responsible for the life of their local communities? Because they are the best experts on how to manage local matters – how local authorities take care of sports-related activities, health protection or culture protection determines the quality of life of the residents. The residents know their commune, the people living around them, their problems and endeavors. That is why they have the greatest motivation and knowledge to verify how these important issues are handled, and the authorities should take their needs into consideration while making decisions. The citizens are also entitled to perform social control because they invest their money in the government’s operations, and such investments should pay off in the form of satisfying and public services – including sports. This lead to a question which featured in the monitoring: in what degree can commune sport be defined as public sport?
Thanks to participation in activities such as sports monitoring the residents become aware that they can influence the authorities actions on different levels and become partners in debates concerning the commune’s future. It is not always easy – it can happen that the authorities are not interested in hearing out the citizens. In such cases it is important, that the people who perform the monitoring come from different communes, have different problems, but are able to support each other, share experiences and search for mutual solutions. This is why it’s important to encourage people to become engaged in social control – the more people who observe the authorities actions, the more rational and transparent these actions will be, and the more they will respond to the needs of residents, for whose benefit they operate after all.