IMPACT: Interdisciplinary learning platforM for sPort 4 sociAl Change iniTiatives

This Community is led by the research group ‘Sport and Society’ (SASO) at VUB which has a strong track-record in investigating ‘Sport for Development’ (SfD), programmes in various parts of the world. A rapid growing number of initiatives worldwide have been set up to use sport as a medium to not only attract, but also work with a variety of groups that live in a socially deprived situation. While many policymakers have been eager to claim that sport is an effective and cheap way to help solve some of today’s major societal challenges (e.g., in relation to the SDG’s), researchers are more sceptical that merely providing sport as a ‘magical social vaccine’ will not be enough. A special emphasis is on how these programmes work and determine their social impact. These aspects are not only addressed in research but are also integrated into the courses we provide to students.

By means of a ‘Community Engaged Research and Learning’ approach, the community intends to bring students in contact with practitioners and relevant organisations to better understand the challenges they face and to be supportive in helping organisations to be more efficient and effective. These challenges are situated at different levels, such as at micro level when dealing with issues related to adequate mentoring approaches, as well as at meso and macro level regarding organisational and policy related issues.
Learning Community Activities
Past Activities
  • Connected Learning Community in Action: Interdisciplinary Learning Platform 4 Sport for Social Change (IMPACT) (EUTOPIA Week Brussels, June 2022). The leads of the community presented the main concept underpinning their learning unit that forms the spill of this EUTOPIA learning community. Following a brief presentation to all participants of the varying ways in which sports are used for development and theoretical underpinnings, all participants were led outside to experience first-hand three different types of sports activities underpinned by educational objectives (sports+ sports as an experiential learning context). Each activity forced participants to explore various soft skills such as communication, negotiation, rulemaking, conflict resolution, discrimination, equality etc.

Modality: In-person at the VUB (U-Residence and Campus Fields)
Pictures of this activity available on VUB Flicker: page 4

How to get involved?
(Students and educators)
Contact Hebe Schaillée, Teaching Assistant ( or Els Decoster, Local Facilitator (
Learning Community Members
Lead: Marc Theeboom (VUB). Email:

Marc Theeboom works as a full professor at the Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy (LK) and the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (PE) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He teaches various courses on bachelor’s and master’s level in both faculties (among others ‘Sport and development’, ‘Module Sport and Social Issues’, ‘Sport sociology’, ‘Introduction in methodics of training and coaching’, ‘Introduction in sports education’, ‘Introduction in leisure sciences’ and ‘Social inclusion, youth and the city’, ‘Integrated working period in recreational and rehabilitation sports’). Marc has held various positions at university and faculty level (among others, chair of Humanities and Social Sciences Committee (subcommissie OZR-HW); member of the Bureau of the University Research Council (BOZ); member of the University Research Council (OZR); member of the University Board (RvB); member of the College of the University Board (BEC); Faculty vice-dean (LK); chair of the Faculty Research Committee (OZC-LK)). At present, he is a member of the University Council (UR), member of the Faculty Research Committee (OZC-LK), member of the Promotion Committee (EBC) of 2 faculties (LK-PE) and chair of the SASO research group.
His research primarily focuses on policy-related and educational aspects of sport in general and in relation to specific target groups in particular. He has a special interest in the analysis and evaluation of ‘sport-for-development’ programmes in which sport is regarded as a means of personal, social and community development, as well as in martial arts research. His research has been extensively published in international peer-reviewed journals and books and in several languages on these topics. Marc Theeboom has coordinated over 35 policy relevant studies in Flanders with regard to grassroots sport. From 2012 to 2016, he was the promotor-coordinator of the interuniversity Flemish Policy Research Centre for Sports of the Flemish Government. From 2016 to 2019, he was the coordinator of CATCH, a major 4-year project on the impact of community sport and personal development, health and social cohesion among youth at-risk. To date, he has supervised 7 defended PhD’s and is currently promoter of 6 ongoing doctoral studies, mostly investigating the developmental role of sport or the promotion of martial arts. He has more than 15 years of experience in collaboration of international research projects on the contribution of sport on social issues. He has been a guest professor at the Shanghai University of Sport and has acted as a chair, presenter or co-organiser during international meetings, conferences and working groups on the topic of sport and social integration. He has been frequently asked to act as an advisor in steering groups and as a member of scientific committees with regard to the social value of sport and of policy preparation initiatives on different national and international levels. He is currently coordinator of an Erasmus+ sport collaborative partnership on the development of an M&E manual for sport-for-employability programmes that work with NEETs and is a partner in 2 Erasmus+ collaborative partnerships.

Lead: Inge Derom (VUB). Email:

Inge Derom is a professor at the department of Movement and Sport Sciences in the Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She earned a Master’s degree in Physical Education (elective sport management) from the KU Leuven in 2007. Following her education in Belgium, Inge moved to Windsor (Canada) to complete an additional Master’s degree in the Faculty of Human Kinetics under the supervision of prof. dr. Marijke Taks. During her program in Windsor from 2007 until 2009, she successfully defended her thesis on the social impact of the 2008 Canadian Transplant Games. In 2009, she started her doctoral program in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia (Canada). Under the supervision of prof. dr. Robert VanWynsberghe, Inge focused her research to uncover the theoretical connections between event leveraging, sport participation and health  promotion through the case of the Tour of Flanders (an international, world-class cycling event). She participated in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games Impact (OGI) Study, focusing on the social impact of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games on (social) public policies at the regional, provincial and national level. In 2019, she conducted a study for the agency Visit Brussels to examine the social impact of the 2019 Tour de France Grand Départ on residents of the Brussels Capital Region. She has a keen interest in understanding the social impact of major sport events for the host community and event participants.
Inge is a member of the education council Movement and Sport Sciences and she is responsible for coordinating the sport policy and sport management elective at the graduate level. Inge is also a member of the internationalization committee in the Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy where she has a keen interest in creating opportunities for student mobility (e.g. group mobility sport management to Canada in 2016 and group mobility movement and sport sciences to South Africa in 2019). Inge teaches various courses in sport management, sport marketing, entrepreneurship and financial management at the undergraduate and graduate level. Inge supervises Master students in topics such as corporate social responsibility in professional football and competencies and careers of sport management alumni.

Assistant: Hebe Schaillée (VUB). Email:

Hebe Schaillée is an Assistant Professor (0.1 ZAP defisc) and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Movement and Sport Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium. She graduated in 2008 at the VUB with a Master’s in Physical Education (Sport Management track). In 2009, she earned a teacher’s certificate while simultaneously working as a researcher at the VUB. In 2016, Hebe was awarded a PhD for her research entitled ‘More than just a game? The potential of sport programmes to foster positive youth development among disadvantaged girls’, in Physical Education and Movement Sciences at the VUB.
Her research contributes to the role of sport in promoting social inclusion of young people in vulnerable positions and advancing gender equality. Her research focus originated with her PhD research and has subsequently been consolidated and expanded through her postdoctoral research (2016-2020) on the SBO project entitled ‘Community sport for AT-risk youth: Innovative strategies for promoting development, health and social CoHesion.
She is currently the project manager of the ASP2030 project entitled ‘BXL Martial Arts Lab’. This multidisciplinary community-engaged research and learning platform aims to establish and build relationships between martial arts clubs in Brussels and different research groups affiliated to the Vrije Universiteit and the Université Libre de Bruxelles. This platform also aims to co-create and disseminate knowledge by collaborating with the UNIVER.CITY project team and the Risk Martial Arts Platform.
Adding to this research and project management experience, she is also involved as an investigator on the ERASMUS+ funded SPPF project (2020-2022), coordinated by the Rode Antraciet (non-governmental organisation). The aim of the SPPF project is to identify areas for advancing active citizenship within the prison system, by offering insights into the good practices an learning areas in five European countries (i.e., Belgium, Croatia, Italy, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom).
Her research has resulted in publications in highly respected international peer reviewed journals. Examples include the Journal of Sport Management, Aggression and Violent Behavior, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, International Review for the Sociology of Sport and Social Inclusion. She has co-edited a special issue of Sport in Society entitled ‘Community sport and social inclusion: International Perspectives’ (2019). She is a co-editor of the a Routledge Book entitled ‘Community Sport and Social Inclusion: Enhancing strategies for promoting personal development, health and social cohesion’ (2021).
Her commitment to international research collaboration is reflected in almost all her research endeavours, including the invited presentations given at (inter)national conferences and the various research exchange activities (e.g., a two-part knowledge transfer exchange event in collaboration with Solent University and Bournemouth University) that she organised in recent years. This passion extends to creating exchange opportunities between researchers, practitioners and end users.

Partner: Alessandra Palermo ​​​​​​(CY). Email:

Alessandra Palermo. Enseignante-Chercheure at ILEPS - CY Cergy Paris Université, Ecole Supérieure des Métiers du Sport et de l'Enseignement.
PhD in Communication, Research and Innovations with a Doctor Europaeus mention, her scientific activities and teaching focus on digital communication and the use of social networks in various fields of sport and esport management. She is currently working on the engagement of Olympic athletes on the main social networks and on the new digital habits in sport. She teaches in the different areas of communication: the use of mass media, planning and administration of communication activities, personal branding and crisis management.

Partner: Carmen Bonaci ​​​​​​(UBB). Email:

Carmen Giorgiana Bonaci holds a PhD from the Babeş-Bolyai University and she is an associate professor within the Accounting and Audit Department of the University. She obtained tenure within the Babeş-Bolyai University after graduating the PhD program with a PhD dissertation on accounting for financial instruments. She is currently a member of the European Accounting Association, Critical Accounting Society and CECCAR Romania (Body of Expert and Licensed Accountants of Romania). Carmen was co-organizer of the AAC 2017 Convention, AAC 2015 Convention, AAC 2011 Convention, AAC 2009 Convention, 3rd Accounting and New Labor Process Symposium (2009) and 3rd AAC 2008 Annual Conference. She published papers in journals such as International Advances in Economic Research, Research in Accounting in Emerging Economies (book series), Transition Studies Review, Journal of International Trade Law and Policy, International Journal of Business Research, Journal of International Finance and Economics, European Financial and Accounting Journal, European Journal of Management and Accounting and Management Information Systems Journal. She is / was member of different research project teams and research project manager for one of them.
As sports is her main hobby, she is also active within a sports NGO (Sports Culture, which approaches sports as an informal educational tool for the community. The interactions she has with people through the activities organized by the NGO contribute greatly to having a broader view on communities, as its activities involve diverse people (in terms of age, background, goals, etc.). She believes that being able to bring that into the class and university is valuable and provides new insights to what she can do both at the university and NGO level. She also acts as a swimming instructor and participates in triathlon competitions, half Ironman and Olympic distances.

Partner: Boro Štrumbelj ​​​​​​(UL). Email:

Assistant Professor at Faculty of Sport, University of Ljubljana
President of Slovenian swimming association

  • Ph.D., Kinesiology, University of Ljubljana, 2005
  • M.A., Kinesiology, University of Ljubljana, 1999
  • B.A, Professor of physical education, Faculty of sport, University of Ljubljana, 1994

Professional experience:

  • Assistant Professor for the subjects: Swimming and water activities, Basics of training process, Diagnostics in sport at Faculty of sport, University of Ljubljana
  • General director for sport at the Ministry of science, education and sport from 2015 to 2018
  • Evaluator of Erasmus+ Sport projects for European Commission (2014, 2015, 2019 and 2021)

Research Skills:
Extensive knowledge of SPSS, Sigma Plot and GFA-Basic.
Diagnostics in swimming: measurments of oxygen uptake during swimming, running and on cycle ergometers, measurments of biomechanical parameters during swimming, measurments of elite Slovenian swimming athlets and elite paralympic athlets.