Bassel Daher, Ph.D.

Community-level sports fields are public spaces that provide numerous physical, mental, and societal benefits. These fields are often governed, constructed, managed, and used by various interacting groups who have different value systems and preferences that impact their decisions. While sports fields offer an opportunity for community engagement and physical activity to residents of communities, poor field quality or lack of access from misinformed decisions can increase health issues and decrease physical activity participation, especially among youth. That is in addition to decisions made regarding water and energy resources required to maintain these fields. Those who have decision-making authority should consider input from the entire community and other relevant stakeholders; however, there is a lack of convergence and breakdown in communication among stakeholders’ needs and priorities. Additionally, decision-makers often lack effective tools and proper knowledge to select and manage fields to meet demand in a sustainable and just manner. The objective of this white paper is to propose an innovative framework for research that could lead to the development of a common platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue about issues related to improving the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of community-level sports fields. The framework can be implemented by innovatively bringing together physical and social scientists to (1) map and assemble pertinent stakeholders and visualize the stakeholder network, (2) measure leverage points within the stakeholder network that optimize sustainable and inclusive communication and decision-making, (3) identify perspectives surrounding decisions at the community level (through prioritizing different social, economic, and environmental indicators, with particular focus on health outcomes), and (4) develop a decision support tool to evaluate the trade-offs associated with different options. Subsequently, findings should promote and catalyze dialogue between diverse stakeholders to assist with making the complex decisions for these important public spaces.

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