What is a UNESCO Chair at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, Ireland? The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a Chair programme that appoints higher education institutes around the world to support them in achieving their global goals. In the case of the UNESCO Chair at IT Tralee, this means creating more inclusive societies by ‘transforming the lives of people with disabilities, their families and communities through physical education, sport, recreation and fitness’. UNESCO Chairs are seen as bridge builders between higher education, civil society, local communities and policy-makers and they help in creating partnerships, new teaching initiatives, generating innovation through research and actions and informing policy decisions, enriching existing education and outreach programmes while promoting cultural diversity. Key Assumptions – the UNESCO Chair:
Figure 1 Sustainable Health Spectrum, 2016, UNESCO Chair, IT Tralee


UNESCO is the United Nations’ lead agency for Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport (PEPAS). Assistance and guidance is provided for governments, NGOs, and experts to debate the evolving challenges of physical education, physical activity and sport. UNESCO assists Member States wishing to elaborate or strengthen their training system in PE and programme development in sport. UNESCO together with the UN developed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) and the International Charter on Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport (Sport Charter, 2015) and IT, Tralee’s UNESCO Chair aims to reflect the articles therein. Many articles in both of these documents relate to ITT’s UNESCO Chair priorities.

UNESCO plays the secretariat role for the Intergovernmental Committee for Physical Education and Sport (CIGEPS). UNESCO convenes ‘MINEPS’, the International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport, together with key stakeholders of the sporting world, to tackle the most pressing challenges in international sport policies and to make action-oriented recommendations. The outcome of the most recent MINEPS VI was the Kazan Action Plan (click here) which is a follow-up framework for action, or roadmap, for policy-makers that bridges the action orientation of the Declaration of Berlin (click here); the common vision as outlined in UNESCO’s Sport Charter (click here); and the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (click here) which also seeks to realize the human rights of all in addition to eradicating poverty and securing the safety of the planet.

The Kazan Action Plan has three main policy areas, two of which are particularly relevant to you in relation to inclusion (1&2):

  1. Developing a Comprehensive Vision of Inclusive Access for All to Sport, Physical Education and Physical Activity
  2. Maximizing the Contributions of Sport to Sustainable Development and Peace
  3. Protecting the Integrity of Sport




The purpose of the Chair is support the aforementioned work of UNESCO, promoting an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation in the fields of inclusive physical education, adapted physical activity, sport, fitness and recreation for social inclusion of people with disabilities, their families and communities. The Chair is working to enhance individuals’ rights for social development and advancement, facilitating collaboration between high-level, internationally recognised leaders, researchers and teaching staff of the Institute and other institutions in Ireland and around the globe.

Figure 2 Thematic Scope of the UNESCO Chair

The full realisation of the goals of this Chair involves broad reaching sector skills and knowledge alliances to ensure impact at an individual, family and community level. For example, the collaborative submission led by the UNESCO Chair to WHO on the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 (click here).



  1. To build the capacity of professionals so they can better work with all people and agencies in the areas of physical education, sport, recreation and fitness through the sharing of programmes and policies developed at the Institute and by partners. For example, UFIT (click here);
  2. To develop a virtual space to provide a vehicle for unified collaboration world-wide;
  3. To engage in multi-sectorial transformational research with a view to mainstreaming diversity;
  4. To mobilize the partnership to disseminate, advocate, operate, research and transform current practice to encourage the implementation of changes in legislation, policy and practice for the inclusion of all people in physical education, sport, fitness and recreation and;
  5. To co-operate with UNESCO on relevant programmes and activities for example, supporting UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education Policy Review process with iPEPAS, a resource in development by the Chair; and responsibility for key actions of the Kazan Action Plan.

The Blueprint for the UNESCO Chair at IT, Tralee is hereby presented using the internationally validated Universal Transformational Management Framework (UTMF). The UTMF represents a conceptual framework which evolved over 21 years at IT Tralee to facilitate Mainstreaming Diversity in practice. It is relevant, and has been adopted, across a range of contexts from organisations, educational programmes, research, sport and activity initiatives and projects. A range of tools support the implementation of the framework, which enable users to devise relevant local solutions to this global issue.

Figure 3 The Universal Transformational Management Framework

Baroness Sue Campbell Chair of Youth Sport Trust.
“Access to high quality physical education, competitive sport and a healthy, active lifestyle is the right of every person. These opportunities should not be a matter of chance and this blueprint document provides a clear route map for us all to follow.”

The 3 Vs: Verification, Value Proposition and Vision

These elements relate to services and organisations who may be at the contemplation stage of inclusivizing practice. They involve reflection on the need to be more inclusive. This is a prelude and foundation that leads to inclusive action.

The Value proposition

The broad range of holistic health benefits associated with physical education, sport, recreation and fitness span from the micro to the macro levels of society and are becoming increasingly recognised as a multidimensional approach to creating healthier societies.

People with disabilities have even more to gain for example:

  • increased self-esteem;
  • functional and wellbeing improvements;
  • social integration;
  • a reduction or prevention of secondary conditions including
  1. high blood pressure
  2. high cholesterol
  3. diabetes
  4. depression
  5. fatigue
  6. liver or gallbladder problems
  7. preoccupation with weight
  8. early maturation
  9. pressure sores

(Rimmer et al., 2010; Lakowski and Long, 2011, Hannon et al., 2005).



The need for the Chair is internationally ubiquitous as is evident from the statistics in Figure 4. There remains significant scope for mainstreaming inclusive practice in professional preparation programmes in higher education, vocational training and professional development. Moreover greater awareness across civic society and the many mixed stakeholders who can influence changes in practice is needed to stimulate change towards inclusive societies. People with disabilities in Ireland and elsewhere in the world are not afforded equal societal opportunities in physical education, sport, fitness and recreation. This impacts variously and heavily on individuals’ sense of self, family and community life and societal understanding of disability. The case for global action is clearly articulated in a range of international declarations including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), International Charter on Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport (2015), Berlin Declaration (2013), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Agenda and associated goals and the Kazan Action Plan.

Figure 4 Disability and Physical Activity Statistics


The UNESCO Chair envisions a society that mainstreams diversity:

  • Across public, private, commercial, voluntary and community sectors;
  • Where all people have equality of opportunity in physical education, sporting, fitness and recreational activities;
  • Where the provision for physically active lifestyles and the promotion of wellbeing is accessible to all people;
  • Where professionals and policy makers provide for all of society through their work;
  • Where interdisciplinary research advances further possibilities and opportunity;
  • Where collaboration in a spirit of mutual collegiality leads to better opportunities on a global scale; and
  • Where the voices of all interest groups, including people with disabilities and other marginalised groups inform practice.

Mainstreaming Diversity

Our motto was created to illustrate what we and many others are striving to achieve: a society where diversity is valued, where those living and working therein embrace it with positivity for the betterment of society. Mainstreaming Diversity is our vision. On our path to mainstreaming, and recognising the different and varied journeys stakeholders internationally must take to get there, we have identified the following pathway to achieving diversity.

Figure 5 The Pathway to Diversity

The 8Ps: Philosophy, people, policies, processes, programmes, promotion, places and perception

The 8Ps are the action-oriented elements. These are the components that the practitioner or organisation modify and implement in order to create change and offer a universal service.


The UNESCO Chair envisions a society that mainstreams diversity:

The Chair, growing from its roots in the Health and Leisure Department of the Institute of Technology, Tralee, adopts a strengths based approach to human capacity building and human flourishing. All individuals are different, all individual choices are influenced by the environment and opportunities afforded us, all people have a right to ‘choice’. The Chair aims to take the ‘dis’ out of disability, focusing more relevantly on individuals abilities and strengths. Informed by a range of theories that share a strengths-based approach to full participation in all aspects of community living including cultural aspects acknowledged as a human right. Facilitating this is a moral imperative.

The core philosophy of the Chair is underpinned by Antonovskys (1979) concept of salutogenesis; the biopsychosocial understanding of disability; and the capability and human development approach to social justice. Salutogenesis takes a positive approach to health and wellbeing, focusing on creating health and wellbeing, rather than focusing entirely on the treatment of disease. The biopsychosocial model of health and disability looks at functioning and participation rather than cause and etiology of disease and disability. It emphasises the complex multifactorial and multi-leveled nature of disability seeing disability as an outcome of the complex relationship between a person’s health condition and contextual factors that include their physical and social environments and personal attributes. Similarly, capability and human development approaches point out that what people are able to do and be is influenced by the individual, their environment, social policies and practices. Thereby social equality is about equality of opportunities to live the life one values. Impactful social change therefore requires understanding of the intersection of human condition and life’s opportunities.

Our philosophy of action follows an appreciative inquiry approach. To inform our practice we combine appreciative inquiry principles with salutogenesis, strengths-based and capabilities’ approaches, respectful of behaviour-change processes.

The context of the Chair’s action takes account of the biological, psychological and social factors contributing to disability at the individual, community and environmental levels. Actions in all these areas are needed to ignite change. In that regard, the importance of open-mindedness, innovation and interdisciplinary practice is recognised.

The UNESCO Chair co-ordinates global action aimed at creating a society that embraces diversity with enthusiasm, positivity and innovation.


People are the most valuable asset in the work of the Chair. People envision the new reality and work to realise it. Together, the Chair partnership will respect the past, stand on the shoulder of giants, and create a new future. Our patron, ambassadors and partners work with us to spread the core messages to all stakeholders.

People in IT, Tralee

The Institute Executive closely regulates and governs the Chair development. Since the establishment of the Chair, and in scoping the necessary requirements for successfully achieving its goals and their wider social impact, IT, Tralee has adopted a pan-Institute implementation approach. The Chair is seen as an entity within the Institute, guided and promoted by its Chairholder and supported and developed by the Institute staff and its wider international partnership.


The Chair partnership is fluid, In-line with our philosophy of approach, this is a necessary means of ensuring the level of innovation the Chair is endeavouring to achieve. Certain projects will draw the Chair closer to certain partners and this cycle changes over time as new projects and synergies develop. The Chair works across sectors as relevant to the goals and objectives of the Chair; public, private, voluntary, community sectors, global multi-nationals, small and medium enterprises, and micro small and medium enterprises.


Our policy is founded on our values and philosophy. Quality practice is inclusive practice. All of our resources are directed at actualising our vision of mainstreaming diversity in physical education, physical activity and sport (PEPAS), thereby contributing to the creation of inclusive societies. We acknowledge the interdependence of our societies and the need for a multidimensional, multi-sectorial, ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approach to actualising our vision. Our policy is to work in partnerships aligned with this vision to transform PEPAS operations into quality, inclusive, needs responsive and flexible practice having a radiant influence in the community and beyond.

It is our policy to be an available contact point for those seeking to improve practice. There is no room for exclusion in a Chair that is advocating for inclusion. We aim to build trust and respectful relationships to promote productive multi-sectorial collaboration at every opportunity. Examining how broader society can contribute and how many stakeholder have a role in informing practice: Nihil de nobis, sine nobis – Nothing about us without us. Engaging with individuals, families and communities is an essential component of the Chair activities.


The Processes of the UNESCO Chair relates to 6 operational areas as identified in our CRAFTE Strategy


Communication is the first element of the CRAFTE strategy, by design. The power of communication to raise awareness and transfer this into meaningful action should not be underestimated. By communicating the need to increase pathways to mainstream diversity across the physical activity sector, the Chair is facilitating attitudinal change that will lead to changed practice.

The diverse international partnership and stakeholder groups make the communication task of the Chair a challenging one. The communication strand is, however, a powerful strand. Ongoing internal and external communication mechanisms that give voice to the diverse stakeholders will be co-ordinated. The communication message will be designed to facilitate, enthuse, motivate, educate and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in multi-sectorial fields of relevance to the Chair. Given the global public online space and its power and reach we commit to transferring academic messages and research outputs into accessible relevant formats to capture the interest of diverse audiences. The UNESCO Chair has made a commitment to publishing and presenting widely about the Chair goals and activities and has done so internationally with view to mainstreaming diversity (click here for UNESCO Chair newsletters)


The UNESCO Chair seeks opportunities to pursue high quality research

pertaining to the goals of the chair. The Chair works to build capacity and engage diverse disciplines in research relating to the chair, advocating for key national and international research outputs to refer to opportunities for people with disabilities.

Transformative research extends beyond academic research to include activities with key national partners to change practice and is spotlighted for others to follow. We also invite partners to showcase their good practice. Encouraging a disruptive innovation approach, where diverse views and actions can merge to facilitate new solutions and actions is respected within the Chairs transformative research approach.


The UNESCO chair and associate partnership engages in wide-scale advocacy activity with ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ approaches. The power of advocacy cannot be underestimated although its impact can be hard to measure. Teaching ‘advocacy’ is a foundational component of our education and training programmes. Advocacy can impact upon initial awareness raising and behaviour change activities and can impact at a policy change level. A core goal of this Chair in terms of advocacy is to focus efforts on those sectors of the Chair remit that have not yet fully considered the importance of all stages of our pathway to diversity from recognising and providing for the rights of all, inclusivising to mainstreaming. The Chair encourages and supports stakeholders for whom the rights of people with disabilities has not been a priority, primarily as a result of lack of awareness,  and to actively promote change and provide mechanisms for initiating change. An example of this is UFIT, a project led by the UNESCO Chair striving to inclusivize the historically exclusive fitness industry. In the USA UFIT is operating in collaboration with IHRSA, the global fitness industry lead; ACE, the American Council for Exercise, with major support from national and international partners.


UNESCO Chairs are not funded by UNESCO. Most UNESCO Chairs internationally are funded philanthropically. Seeking philanthropic support is key at this stage of development. The Institute of Technology, Tralee has invested heavily in the Chair to-date, testament to its commitment to social justice and inclusion.

Given the diversity of the Chair remit across sport, physical education, fitness and recreation, on a global platform from foundation level participation to rehabilitation to elite performance, human and financial resources are key requirements for achieving success.

Funding is sought via competitive calls from a variety of relevant funding sources. In addition, given the social importance of the work of the chair on a global scale, philanthropy and sponsorship will be sought.


The UNESCO Chair is working to increase the opportunity for in-service professionals across a range of PE, sport, fitness, recreation and interrelated professions to develop competency in catering for people with disabilities as part of their lifelong learning opportunities. In keeping with the Chair remit, through the sharing of knowledge and resources, across the partnership and with civic society we will develop and disseminate a range of training options.

As the Chair remit extends to the post-conflict, post-disaster and developing countries, sustainable partnerships will be forged with competent authorities to ensure delivery of long-term impact focused training. For example, P2I – Plan 2 Inclusivize, a sport for development train-the-trainer resource developed  in collaboration with Plan International. Given the broader social justice remit of the Chair training activities will be broadly focused across all sectors that are needed to realise the overall vision. Training will be made available in a variety of modes to suit varied needs and requirements.


The UNESCO Chair is working to increase the opportunity for pre-service professionals across a range of PE, sport, fitness, recreation and interrelated professions to build capacity to provide for people with disabilities as part of their vocational preparation programmes. The Chair’s motto ‘Mainstreaming Diversity’ encapsulates our goal. For example, iPEPAS, a resource in development to bridge the policy-practice gap in support UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education policy revision process. iPEPAS is a blended learning resource that will be freely available to physical education, physical activity and sport (PEPAS) to infuse inclusion within curricula.

iPEPAS include dedicated inclusion modules modules that build professionals with strong self-efficacy regarding their ability to work with all people. In building self-efficacy learners will engage in an experiential learning process in which they gain skills to facilitate inclusive PEPAS activities with local community members.


Programmes are the mechanisms that deliver change. The Chair is building on the existing suite of programmes connected with IT, Tralee and all Partner Institutes. In keeping with our appreciative inquiry approach continuous enhancement is a core programme ideal.

Figure 6 Our Current Programmes


Promotion is an essential aspect of awareness raising. Promotion serves to enthuse, motivate and embrace inclusion and diversity with positivity.

The Chair, its goals, partnerships and activities will be widely promoted in a multi-sectorial and multi-dimensional manner to raise awareness across the stakeholder mix the Chair activities need to address. This necessitates an array of promotional activities from academic papers, conference presentations, local and national and international media reporting, dissemination across professional networks, and social media campaigns, videos, etc. For example, the Love Diversity photo shoot campaign that aims to gather a repository of positive inclusive images that celebrate diversity of people participating in physical activity across a range of contexts that will be freely available for use with view to creating inclusion in the minds of those seeing the images (click here).

The Chair maximises use of the internet to share messages from across the partnership, and is developing a repository as a platform for sharing of resources, publications and good practice guides. The Chair will act as a ‘Clearing House’ for the aforementioned activities.


UNESCO Chair Home

The Institute of Technology, Tralee (IT, Tralee), County Kerry, Ireland is home to the UNESCO Chair, but its remit is global. IT, Tralee is a university level institution with a range of programmes from craft to postgraduate level. It has over 3,500 full-time and part-time students and 250 staff. Established in 1977, the Institute has operated autonomously since 1993. It provides education and training, facilitates industrial research and consultancy, and is a major engine of economic and social development in the region. The prioritised research themes at the IT, Tralee build upon the Institute’s established and emerging strengths and directly align with national research priority areas and the Innovation Union flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy for a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. The UNESCO Chair and its role and functions is one of the key priority areas of the Institute.

Kerry Sports Academy

The Institute is building the Kerry Sports Academy which will be will be open in January 2019. The Sports Academy will be home to the UNESCO Chair and its inclusive educational, training and practical activities in addition to the Institute’s Health and Leisure programmes and the CARA APA Centre.

Figure 7 Kerry Sports Academy

Places International

Achieving the Chair goals requires multiple partnerships across the 6 areas of operation for successful change. The International scope is vast as evidenced.


The UNESCO Chair aims to be recognized as:

  • A Transformative Enabler, Mainstreaming Diversity.
  • A Connected Leader informed and guided by the practice of many stakeholder.
  • An Enabler of Excellence with people with disabilities, their families and communities as its core focus.
  • An Equaliser of Opportunity, for participation of all.
  • A Competent Authority recognised by both civic society, federations, the research community, the education sector and policy makers and the broad sport and active recreation sector.
  • The ‘Go-to’ Repository for the fields of responsibility of the Chair.

The 3 ‘I’S: Implementation, Impact and Innovation

These elements safeguard the new actions through the 8Ps with view to inclusivizing operation within a service or organisation, hence they are considered as maintenance practices.


It’s time to take action and put all the enablers in place.

Key implementation tasks:

  • Grow the staffing core of the UNESCO Chair activities;
  • Grow the ‘Campus of Inclusion’ Concept in Tralee and for modelling elsewhere;
  • Consolidate existing partnership;
  • Strategically grow partnership;
  • Launch website;
  • Build website;
  • Establish repository;
  • Grow research centre;
  • Open stakeholder discussions;
  • Deliver CRAFTE Strategy.


A process of continual evaluation is necessary. As a research centre the Chair strives to evaluate all interventions of programmes and processes led by the Chair. Internationally the Chair is working towards addressing Action 2 of the Kazan Action Plan ‘develop common indicators for measuring the contribution of physical education, physical activity and sport to prioritized SDGs and targets’.


In-line with the Appreciative Inquiry approach, the Chair wishes to build innovation into the way of working of the Chair.

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power to imagine that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.” J.K. Rowling

Achieving the goals of the Chair requires innovation on the part of all stakeholders. The philosophy and approach of the Chair engaging with its work should foster innovation. The Chair represents a unique opportunity to steer fresh approaches in social innovation for the betterment of all.